31 October 2009

Destination, distance? Not on these signs

Should the signposts on London's forthcoming 'cycle superhighways' show distances? Well, of course, you'd think.

But not if you work for TfL, which believes that distances only "confuse people" (their words) and so you're better leaving them off.

So what about giving the destination? Won't that confuse people as well? Perhaps, to ensure complete downward-dumbed compatibility, TfL should leave off from their signs all mention of where the routes are coming from or going to. Maybe they could restrict things to two signs, just saying 'This way' and 'That way'.

After all, it's a principle already being embraced by local councils signing Sustrans routes - as this sign in Wales, snapped last Sunday, demonstrates. Where are we heading? How far away is it? No idea, but at least we know we have the choice of a scenic or a fast route. We may be lost, but we're making good time.

(In fact it's somewhere just north of Newport, perhaps Pontnewydd, en route to Blaenavon, or possibly somewhere else. I think. It was raining so much there was nobody around to ask.)

Still, good to see that this useless information is given in two languages, even if it does mean twice as much space is needed to tell you. It may be pidgin-like, unphonetic, hard to pronounce, and full of strange consonants, but that's English for you.


  1. I think it would be good if the London signs included welsh too, especially on the routes which head west.

  2. Keeps the satnav people in business I guess.

  3. I think distances on cycle signs tend to discourage people. If you don't ride a bike, then seeing a sign that says somewhere is six miles away, you'd probably just opt for the car. But if the sign says 25 minutes, you might be tempted to ride it.

    Always assuming that it wasn't along a route shared by 4 lanes of motorised traffic of course . . .

  4. @Karl - thanks for that (and thanks for your blog) - but it's not a view I can share. Maybe some people are discouraged by signs with information on, but we shouldn't try to second-guess what people's reaction might be and let that affect what we put on them. Signs are about communicating useful facts for a journey, not well-spun invitations to try and encourage the to do something we think worthy. Otherwise you won't even put the destination on, for fear some people would be put off by the proximity of say Peckham, or Scotland.

    Nope: I'm afraid I'm totally for distances, in miles, on signs. If that discourages some halfwits then that's their problem.

    They have distances on signs in the Netherlands, and I don't think they're especially cleverer than us at computing time/speed equations. They might be taller though, so you'd have to put our signs a bit lower I suppose.

  5. Sometimes these signs are so hard to follow. In the countryside, mud and green algea nearly cover the signs and you can barely read them. Why aren't these being cleared by the council???