Self Signed
February 17, 2015 9:26 AM   Subscribe

 
I came into this game for the action, the excitement. Go anywhere, travel light, get in, get out, wherever there's trouble, a man alone.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:36 AM on February 17, 2015 [8 favorites]


I admire the professionalism of the creation of the first one, but there are so, so many ways it could have gone wrong. If he had fallen or dropped anything, he could be dead and also have caused many other deaths. Yeah, now he's semi-famous! Was it worth that risk?

I really don't want a bunch of untrained people altering street signs, especially highway signs. Even if the old ones are clearly "wrong", then hey dude, start going to city planning meetings, writing letters, maybe get some traffic engineers on your side to push for change. It's not as glamorous, you don't get to call it "art" but it's the way you should do it. Maybe you don't understand why a sign is a certain way. Maybe your change would make things more hazardous for other people.
posted by emjaybee at 9:43 AM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


On the other hand, his improved signage may have prevented traffic deaths. Plus, as you point out, it's glamorous, millions of people see his art, and he didn't have to go to any boring meetings. What a great project!
posted by ryanrs at 10:43 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


The second article is right: if you’re a seasoned subway pro, you don’t want the Efficient Passenger Project coming in and divulging your subway hacks because it’ll just make the cars you ride in more crowded.

Better, I think, to put all the same information on a website — tourists likely won't bother to learn the hacks, but residents will come across them sooner or later. (For example, the London Underground Map with Walklines shows pairs of stations between which it's quicker to walk than transfer on a train, and it's been bouncing around the web for a dozen years.) Yet I see that eppnyc.info, the URL on the signs, goes nowhere now.
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:47 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fanfare link.
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:02 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of our utterly confusing one lane bridges was recently rebuilt, and our neighborhood guy actually convinced the Town to add an "Oncoming Traffic Does Not Stop" sign below the stop sign at the intersection on one side of the bridge.

On the other side, he really wanted (and we really need) a "Traffic From Left Does Not Stop" sign - we have regular honks and near-miss incidents - but the Town said no. Hopefully this will be a guerilla sign-maker project in the near future.
posted by RedOrGreen at 11:22 AM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I pick up roadside trash instead of changing signs. Does it still count as art?
posted by underflow at 11:32 AM on February 17, 2015


On the other hand, his improved signage may have prevented traffic deaths.

From what I can tell, it prevents people from missing an exit. You'd need a pretty good study to prove it actually increased safety. It reduced inconvenience. That's great! But again: worth the risk?

I work with traffic engineers, and they have stories about shit that can still go wrong even when you have professionals hanging signs in the approved, tested, regulated fashion. They are serious guys. They have to do a lot of training to do their job. They aren't just trying to harsh our libertarian sign-making groove. They just know that hanging a highway sign, or creating a sign that is hard to read or blocks the line of sight, is inadequately secured, isn't weatherproof, etc. has real risks and consequences.

Driving is dangerous enough, I don't need a lot of amateurs dicking around on the highway doing art projects.
posted by emjaybee at 11:45 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


You're willing to assume non-professional sign installation is a serious risk, but you won't believe confusing highway signage decreases safety unless I show you a study?

Are you sure you aren't just mad at those damn kids for being on your lawn?
posted by ryanrs at 11:55 AM on February 17, 2015 [9 favorites]


I pick up roadside trash instead of changing signs. Does it still count as art?

David Sedaris, is that you?
posted by a halcyon day at 12:31 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, ryanrs, I am more worried about somebody making an "improvement" that increases risks because he or she does not know anything about highway signs or why they are the way they are, or how to make and hang them safely, than I am about people missing an exit, which so far as I know is not fatal. And the artist in question looks to be at least my age or older, so it ain't about those kids on my lawn.

Like I said, I work with actual people who design actual highways, including signage. They went to school and got advanced degrees, then served internships, and they get all the steps quality checked when they build something. Because that's the law, and highways are big, complex structures and if you fuck them up, you have big problems.

And as I said, re the missing an exit problem; there are ways to get signs changed that do not involve making and hanging them yourself. They just involve boring things like civic engagement and research and activism that don't allow for as much posturing and self-congratulation.
posted by emjaybee at 12:39 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


there are ways to get signs changed that do not involve making and hanging them yourself. They just involve boring things like civic engagement and research and activism that don't allow for as much posturing and self-congratulation.

Some people have the temperament for that kind of thing and some people don't. Sometimes the professionals need a kick in the pants, and I am glad that there are people willing to just go solve the problem already, instead of submitting every last public act to the will of the almighty Process.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:58 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


I knew some folks who painted crosswalks wherever they thought there should be crosswalks.

Of course standard consumer-grade paint looks nothing like the official thermally-bonded stuff, so it didn't really work. Maybe they could have used sticky plastic or something.

I wonder what the legal proceedings would be like were someone to get hit.
posted by miyabo at 2:23 PM on February 17, 2015


I knew some folks who painted crosswalks wherever they thought there should be crosswalks.

This was once a thing in Tacoma, WA. Funnily enough, it costs as much to install a sanctioned crosswalk as it does to bring in a crew to remove an "illegal" one. Instead of just leaving the crosswalk or just putting an approved one in, the officials kept spending money to remove them. But drivers have the right of way, as always, even if it ultimately costs more and is less safe.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:50 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've been threatening to paint the a couple of medians where the paint has worn off and the city hasn't repainting them. They're so hard to see now, I'm waiting to see a car driven up on one. To save paint, I'm thinking of just painting the sides, maybe in fluorescent like the original so everyone would think the city had done it or geometric designs or flowers (It's definitely a spring project) if I'm feeling artistic.
posted by stray thoughts at 4:36 PM on February 17, 2015


Do be sure to use real retroreflective paint (has glass beads, not just bright pigment) if you're going to do this, and also employ all appropriate safety measures during work, like high-visibility clothing, warning signs to let people know there are workers around, cones to discourage people from driving on the wet paint, and flaggers to at least try to keep drivers from hitting you.

Also, if you haven't actually notified the city about the problem, do that first. They usually paint/pave/repair the squeaky wheel first, with priority going to the projects that are most immediately dangerous, fast to finish, and inexpensive. Photos to accompany your request can help. (And if you're not sure which jurisdiction's responsible for that road, just notify everyone who might be: city, county, state, whatever.)

If you're not getting the results you want using the usual ways of contacting your jurisdiction about these problems, it could be time to visit a public meeting. There's likely to be a public comment period, and you will probably have good results if you keep your comment well within the time limit and name a specific problem that's fixable by the people in front of you or people they supervise.

That said, I am sort of considering adding a "this means you, jackass" postscript to our "yield to pedestrians in crosswalk" signs at an intersection that actually did get re-signed and re-painted after public comment. And I never fail to laugh at stop signs that add "Hammertime," "collaborate and listen," or "in the name of love." That will never get old.
posted by asperity at 5:25 PM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


When I was in college we did the reverse of this one time, stealing a number of interstate signs to use in an art project. In retrospect I am a bit embarrassed about it and very happy we didn't get caught (and surprised -- we did it in plain sight with no backup plan if someone phoned the police); some poor guy in the campus maintenance department had to drive over and return the signs to the DOT a few days later. I'm sure the entire episode cost the taxpayers thousands for sign replacement, all for a quick and stupid art project that no one except myself probably remembers.

So I'm with the people saying that the time would be a lot better spent (and more safely) agitating for better signage standards than it is in ad hoc sign changes. I like the little projects where people go and correct bad sign punctuation, but this seems less charming and potentially quite bad if something doesn't go exactly right.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:36 PM on February 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


And as I said, re the missing an exit problem; there are ways to get signs changed that do not involve making and hanging them yourself. They just involve boring things like civic engagement and research and activism that don't allow for as much posturing and self-congratulation.

What public meeting does one attend for this, since we're on the topic?
posted by salvia at 10:24 PM on February 17, 2015


Depends on what jurisdiction's responsible for the road, but if you can't find out or aren't getting a response, showing up to whoever's closest (city council? county commissioners?) often gets an answer or a promise to take it up with the correct entity. YMMV, literally and figuratively.
posted by asperity at 10:41 PM on February 17, 2015


I like the little projects where people go and correct bad sign punctuation

If the I-70 exit for Lookout Mountain ever gets a gratuitous comma and exclamation mark added, it totally wasn't me.
posted by asperity at 10:42 PM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


showing up to whoever's closest (city council? county commissioners?) often gets an answer or a promise to take it up with the correct entity

I dunno, I'm not big on speaking on an unagendized topic (even during the portion of the hearing designed for such).

Since this guy did follow all the specs in the manual and was just out there correcting a mistake, I think what he did was pretty awesome. Not something everyone should do, but given that it passed the official inspection, I'll applaud him doing it.

But some people here are strongly critical of him for not following the official process, so I'd love to know what it actually is. Does CalTrans hold "sign error" hearings?
posted by salvia at 8:36 AM on February 18, 2015


Don't know about CalTrans, but my city council and others I've watched routinely deal with sign/line paint/traffic concerns during the public comment portion of their meetings. It's probably easier to just email them or the public works department about it outside of meetings, but it's the most frequent topic for public comments, and the council tries to give preliminary answers in the meeting itself (the public works department head attends as well and can assist in answering.) The answer is frequently that the problem is partly or entirely in the next jurisdiction over, but in that case they promise to work with that jurisdiction to come up with a solution and will follow up with results either in the next meeting or in correspondence with the person commenting.

I don't have any particular problem with DIY when it's done to MUTCD spec, but it's really hard for one person to follow the same safety precautions that a trained group can, and I'd rather nobody get injured.
posted by asperity at 10:11 AM on February 18, 2015


Asperity, I guess my sense of humor doesn't come across online but I was making a bit of a frustrated joke since the median problem had come up just a few days before when it was dark and rainy out.

To take your points seriously though, retroreflective paint would be nice but any visible paint would be an improvement over weathered gray semi-invisible concrete. Also if you're planning on doing something that is less than strictly legal, it tends to be at 3AM or 4AM in the morning when there's little to no traffic so you don't need flashers, flaggers and other things that attract police and if a car gets paint on it from the side of 3" curb of a median, the driver shouldn't be on the road because they've probably been drinking.

The spot I was talking about is in Indianapolis where they're running very tight on road repair money. A couple miles away, I've seen a car stuck on stuck on a median after turning out of a strip mall on two different occasions in three years. The median still hasn't been painted so the odds of median repainting seem, in my opinion, slim.

Your suggestions work for small or medium towns, cities or county roads but it can be a lot of work. I've done it in the past and contacted a county road commissioner about a drainage ditch that was flooding over the road and causing black ice after being in an accident. It did get fixed about a week later but I was the 7th person to have an accident in that spot that night and there was an 8th after me. Two of the accidents sent people to the hospital. It still took several of us calling, complaining and explaining how dangerous it was to get it fixed. This was over the county line from Indy so it's easier to find out who to get hold of.

It makes me cringe to think of how much effort and time it would take to track down the right department or person and the amount of pestering it would take to get a median painted that's only a non-life threatening problem on dark rainy nights.
posted by stray thoughts at 10:21 PM on February 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


That part of my reply wasn't entirely serious either, so no foul! I just think about how common it is for people getting paid to do road work to be injured, and can't think going stealth would help matters much there. Also, flaggers and warning signs for DIY work is funny, right?

And yeah, y'all have a lousy situation in Indianapolis. The roads there are worse than anywhere else in the state I've driven. Gotta love having all the nice new stores and their tax revenues out of city limits and a state that's too dysfunctional to pick up the slack.
posted by asperity at 10:54 PM on February 18, 2015


Oh hey! CalTrans: "report a missing or damaged sign."
posted by salvia at 9:31 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


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