When “No Outlet”, “Dead End” and “Closed” aren’t really true: How do you sign for bicyclists and pedestrians?

The Washington, DC region is a great region to explore by bicycle. I biked about 400 miles in July and have talked with several people living in the region that also do not own a car. I met many of these people while biking on the wonderful trail systems and Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park. While we found the trail systems and know that Beach Drive is closed only to motor traffic on the weekends and holidays, the signage to reach the trail systems and the closed portions of Beach Drive do not help to inform more people about the trail systems and the closed portions of Beach Drive. Compared to most transportation projects, fixing the signage is cheap and easy. The impact of this easy fix could be tremendous in reducing congestion on area roads and helping to direct people to where they can improve their health. While I would love to take credit for coming up with the title of this post, Eli Glazier, an intern that sits next to me at Toole Design Group, posted the following to Twitter.

No Outlet Sign on Toole Design Group's Twitter

No Outlet Sign on Toole Design Group’s Twitter

Even though there is no outlet for motorists in the above photo, there is an outlet for bicyclists and pedestrians so they can reach Rock Creek Trail, which is 14 miles long. This shows how much people think about motorists and don’t consider bicyclists and pedestrians. I haven’t actually biked on Rock Creek Trail, but the following description, which I found on this site, informs me that the above signage is not the only signage issue with this trail.

“The trail also suffers from an extreme lack of directional signs. In a number of places, it is very difficult to determine the “main” trail route. Expect to take a couple of accidental side trail detours when you first ride this trail.”

I like to approach every issue I see with options for how to resolve the issue so I have researched options for how to resolve the above issue. An “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” sign can be placed below the “No Outlet” sign. The below photo, which I found here, shows an example of how this could look.

Do Not Enter Except Bikes Sign

Except Bikes Sign

The above sign could be used with the below “Dead End Except Bikes” sign to provide even more clarity.

Dead End Except Bikes Sign

Dead End Except Bikes Sign

My coworker’s Twitter post helped me to look for the signage issue in other locations. Unfortunately, I found several other locations where the signage is only for motorists and does not consider bicyclists and pedestrians. The following photo shows a “No Outlet” sign along the access road to the Sligo Creek Trail, which is 10.6 miles long. The reason why I have been including the length of the trails is because I want to inform people how long these trail networks are. They truly are long trails and a missed opportunity if someone cannot find the trail because of poor signage. As the below photo shows, the Sligo Creek Trail is near Arcola Elementary School. While I can hope the people who attend and work at this school use the Sligo Creek Trail to travel to and from school, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them drive an automobile to and from school. If this is the case, I would start a Safe Routes to School program at this school to encourage usage of the Sligo Creek Trail to travel to and from school. I noticed several homes located along the Sligo Creek Trail so there has to be some people who can participate in the Safe Routes to School program at this school.

“No Outlet” sign along access road to Sligo Creek Trail

Since every road that ends at the Sligo Creek Trail in this area has “No Outlet” signs, I would not have known which road to proceed down to access the Sligo Creek Trail if I didn’t have a smart phone with Google Maps to direct me to the correct road. Even though most people today have smart phones, what if I didn’t have a smart phone? Would I still have been bale to find the correct road to access the Sligo Creek Trail? Without good signage, people without smart phones can easy get lost trying to find the entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail.

While the below signage isn’t as big of an issue, I don’t understand why the signage seems to assume that bicyclists and pedestrians know they are allowed to use the Sligo Creek Trail. Since I have found some trails that prohibit bicyclists, I would enjoy seeing signage informing me that I can use the Sligo Creek Trail. Signage needs to be used in both cases and not just when a certain mode of transportation cannot use the trail. The top sign clearly states that “No Motor Vehicles” are allowed on the Sligo Creek Trail. I don’t see any signage to indicate that the Sligo Creek Trail is open to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail

Entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail

The following “No Outlet” signs are located on Willow Lane in Chevy Chase, MD. While there is no outlet for motorists, there is a nice path for bicyclists and pedestrians at the end of Willow Lane that connects Willow Lane to Oakridge Avenue and Leland Street.

Dead End Signs

Dead End Signs

I have used the below path several times as I bike from downtown DC to Silver Spring, MD. This path provides a nice connection between where the Capital Crescent Trail ends in Bethesda, MD and where I connect to Beach Drive in Chevy Chase, MD. Since this path is shown on Google Maps as a bike path, Google Maps directed me to use this path. What if I didn’t have a smart phone to direct me to use this path? More cyclists and pedestrians may use this path if the above “No Outlet” signs and below “Dead End” sign were corrected with “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” signs.

Dead End Sign at Entrance to Path

Dead End Sign at Entrance to Path

Several sections of Beach Drive are closed to motor vehicles within Rock Creek Park on the weekends and holidays. As the below photo shows, it appears these sections of Beach Drive are closed to all modes of transportation. This isn’t true. Since cyclists and pedestrians can use the closed sections of Beach Drive, an “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” sign should be installed to resolve this confusion. By installing this sign, more cyclists and pedestrians should use the closed sections of Beach Drive. I have been riding on the closed sections of Beach Drive every weekend and it is one of the highlights of my weekend.

Beach Drive

Beach Drive “Closed” at DC Line

The below photo shows the opening in one of the closed sections along Beach Drive so bicyclists and pedestrians can access Beach Drive when it is closed to motorists.

Opening in

Opening in “closed” section of Beach Drive

The below photo shows the white sign better so you should be able to read it. wpid-wp-1407126679805.jpeg

Have you seen “No Outlet”, “Dead End” or “Closed” signs where you live? Does the road end at the entrance to a trail or path that bicyclists or pedestrians can use? If so, do the “No Outlet”, “Dead End” or “Closed” signs include “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” signs?

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