Nov 112014

Montgomery County is putting considerable effort into signing new bike routes in the county.  They’ve signed four continuous road routes so far: Tuckerman-Plyers Mill-Dennis AveBethesda/Fernwood RdGeorgia Ave Corridor, and Rt 29 Corridor.  More are yet to come!

Question:  Which of the following four destination formats do you like best for county signs?  The county has used all of these formats lately.  They vary in the number of destinations per panel, total width, text flow and use of the word “miles”.  Overlook the fact that one is a hiker-biker trail sign and one lacks a big arrow.  Image scale is adjusted so you can compare sizes.

Four destination formats (images are scaled to allow size comparison)

To start off with, the county defines a base sign configuration consisting of two panels indicating route type and route direction respectively.  The route direction is shown by a big arrow (a double-headed arrow if you’re coming upon the route):

No destinations given

Destination Format 1

Below is what I call “destination format 1”, which puts all the destinations on one panel.  It’s fairly compact.  These are used on the older Tuckerman/Plyers Mill/Dennis Ave route.  For example:

Format 1 with three destinations

The following example adds a mile marker, making it clear that we’re on a defined route, not just a bike-friendly road.

Format 1 with two destinations and mile marker

The “format 1” sign assembly consists of a

  • Bike Route panel
  • “Big arrow” panel with an arrow pointing in one or two directions
  • Single destination panel, with an arrow and mileage for each destination
  • Optionally a mile marker (sometimes on the big arrow panel, sometimes on a separate panel).
  • Optional panels that may say “Start”, “End” “Use sidewalk”, etc.

There’s some room for creativity with this format.  The contractor can adjust the text flow to widen or narrow the panels or combine panels to make things more compact.

But format 1 was deemed to be wasteful. For example, why waste space with the word “miles”?

Destination Format 2

So a new destination format that I call “format 2” was adopted for newer bike routes.  The main difference is that each destination is on its own panel.  The destination panels are wider and matched in width.  Because the panels are matched in width, some will be wider than necessary and the more panels there are the wider the panels will tend to get.  It’s nice that destinations can easily be added or removed if errors are found or the route is extended.

Format 2 with two destinations

With four destinations, format 2 gets really big

I’m not sure I’d want this in my front yard

This post has 10 panels! It starts very low to the ground.

What we didn’t anticipate was that the newer sign assemblies would be so much bigger.   They’re so big that I’ve started recommending fewer destinations on each sign.  If the county adds mile marker numbers or someday route numbers they’ll get even bigger.

I also find format 2 to be, well, ugly.  The signs look “sterile” to me, like they’re cells in a spreadsheet.  I wouldn’t want to see them on a rustic road.

Destination Format 3

It is possible to have smaller destination panels that are still modular, which is how format 3 does it.  It’s sort of hybrid between formats 1 and 2.  Text can be wrapped to optimize panel width and keep them all the same width (though I don’t see why they’d have to be the same width). Including the word “miles” seems to make it a little easier to flow the text as desired (you can have “7 miles” on a line by itself but not “7”).

Format 3 has small yet modular destination panels

Destination Format 4

Finally, format 4 is a hybrid format where the destination panel is broken into multiple sections rather than panels.  This sign was used near Battery Lane in Bethesda:

Format 4 has multiple destinations sectioned off on one panel

What do you think? I’d like new signs to use the older format (format 1) or maybe one of the hybrid formats (3 or 4).  I’d also like the consultant drafting the signs to be flexible with text flow to minimize panel size.

  3 Responses to “Bike route signs: how do you list destinations?”

  1. I prefer format 1. It is compact and attractive (as far as a sign can be attractive). The word “miles” can be shortened to “mi”. The other formats have wasted space. However, if the county wants more flexibility (not having to make special signs for each location), formats 3 or 4 may be less costly.

  2. As much as you dislike format 2 – I much prefer it.
    It’s not only useful to cyclists but to motorists as well – I’m interested in getting to most of those same places and knowing how far they are is very helpful.
    The absurdity of putting multiple directional panels on one pole is profound. If that was needed then put up 3 wooden stakes in an L shape and mount the signs at the same height in both directions. That will allow all users to be able to view the signage not just those approaching on tricycles or recumbents.

    I don’t need the word “miles” spelled out on any sign. Or even ‘mi.’ – until the metric system comes along I believe that this is the inferred standard. If something is x00 feet – then feet/yard or alternate measure could be used.

    Formats 1, 3 and 4 suffer from the same issue – compactness is nice but makes it harder to read at 15-20mph.

    Biggest issue – making sure destinations are reasonable. Every local field and park is typically not a bike route user destination. Other interconnecting trails would be. North/South East/West locations would be – Rockville, Bethesda, Silver Spring, Olney, Germantown, etc. Metro would be. But local libraries, rec centers, etc are probably not. Keep the destinations crisp and concise. Most of the destinations on the above images are very good – except the bike route that says “on sidewalk’ which is placed poorly and should be above the arrow, not below as if it were a destination itself. (and a bike route on a sidewalk….don’t get me started)

  3. Personally, I prefer a single sign panel split into sections with mileages included. This is similar to how Minneapolis, MN (my hometown) does it. In terms of how you presented it here, basically a melding of #2 and #4….i.e. #2 on a single panel, or #4 with destination mileages.

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