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Signs, signs everywhere are signs
October 6, 2008 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Top Ten Worst Traffic Signs you may disagree, but these are pretty bad and amusing if you don't have to deal with them during your Monday commute. via
posted by agatha_magatha (63 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Am I just smarter than American drivers are is this list ridiculous? Complex sometimes, clear usually- what's the problem?

If there were funny typos here, I could chuckle, but nope. A stop sign before an alleyway and a sign that says "no stopping IN ALLEYWAY" isn't even a little confusing because, see, you stop BEFORE you drive right past the sign. And a sign warning you of an upcoming traffic circle that says "circle" seems pretty well placed too.

I'd find the three streets called "Montreal" funnier if we didn't have the exact same pattern in every new subdivision here in Calgary.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:05 AM on October 6, 2008


See also "Magic Roundabouts" as previously featured on Metafilter.
posted by jedicus at 8:14 AM on October 6, 2008


Hmm, I doubt you're smarter than American drivers, considering the literal meanings of all the signs are written out right underneath, meaning that they are understood.
posted by sondrialiac at 8:15 AM on October 6, 2008


Without looking, I bet the ->exit, <-one way only in Yosemite is on there.
posted by notsnot at 8:17 AM on October 6, 2008


Dammit!
posted by notsnot at 8:19 AM on October 6, 2008


I found those to be pretty clear...not that funny....
posted by HuronBob at 8:21 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


There's one in my town that sends me into a tizz every time I see it. It's a T intersection. One arm and the base of the T have stop signs, the other arm is straight through. (This is already kind of odd, but stick with me.)

Now at the base of the T, you'd obviously like to know if the car in the oncoming, has-no-stop-sign arm is going to turn right (meaning you could also turn) or go straight through (meaning you have to wait). So the town has helpfully put up a sign to remind people to use their turn signals there.

OBVIOUSLY what this sign SHOULD mean is "If you are turning right, indicate that so that the base of the T knows they can pull out." Instead, what people actually do is, if they are going STRAIGHT they indicate a LEFT TURN.

No. I would rather live in a universe where I just have to wait for all the cars whether turning or not that indicate a left turn to mean I'm going straight.
posted by DU at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2008


This isn't a single sign, but then, that's the whole point.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think people are missing the point of these signs. It isn't that they are beyond the ken of human understanding. The problem is you are traveling at (in some of these cases anyway) a high rate of speed with a dozen other things to worry about. You can't call a symposium on the Probably Unofficial Meaning Of That Sign We Just Passed. It has to be instantly understandable (whether by being inherently clear or by being a learned standard).

This isn't a single sign...

This is an example of one that is only unclear to someone not driving there. If you are looking for a particular road number, it will leap out at you from the mass and you just follow your single arrow.
posted by DU at 8:30 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


You guys saying these signs are fine are sitting at your computer, looking at a web site, and your attention is entirely focused on reading the image. That's how the engineers that came up with these pieces of junk designed them. That's why they suck.

Try operating a car in an unfamiliar environment, at 20-30 miles an hour, trying to find your destination, looking out for cars coming from the left, maybe bikes and pedestrians coming from your right, are you in the correct lane? The guy behind you is on your ass, maybe honking, and you have to *go*, but what the heck is that sign saying? What sign?

The fact that these signs have excessive text, some in unusual fonts (is that advertising or a road sign?), and some have fine line weights...your eye/mind can skip over the chaos, leaving you in the dark. Text is a sure fire way to identify a sign that is a failure.

Unorthodox use of symbols is a failure. When my eyes saw the "yield to bike" sign, for a millisecond my mind saw the "no" symbol, not a "yield" sign. Why add "yield to bikes" anyway? In every state that I am aware of, bikes are legitimate traffic, and are under the same right of way rules that cars are. Just put the standard bike crossing sign in, to let people know bikes are common at this location.

And that multiple lane sign with the 4 lane left turns? Yeah, while you are staring at it trying to figure out which lane you are supposed to be in, you plow into the guy in front of you.

Do this at speed, just glancing at the sign, trying to avoid hitting other cars is much more difficult than it looks.
posted by Xoebe at 8:40 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


*shakes magic 8-ball*
Signs point to...pretty weak post.
posted by m0nm0n at 8:42 AM on October 6, 2008


A friends of mine once came upon a three way intersection where all exits from the interchange were marked DO NOT ENTER.

*sigh* Boston.
posted by mkb at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


That one in DC isn't even that bad! I've seen worse ones. (Like at NH ave where it changes to Hawaii Ave for about 10 feet. With no sign. On a sweeping left turn.)
posted by sperose at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2008


Okay, I did laugh at the "corner of Montreal and Montreal" streetsigns, but only because I used to live near the intersection of Gordon Drummond Boulevard and Gordon Drummond Boulevard.

This intersection, incidentally, was not far from an information kiosk which was marked on the highway by a sign reading:

?
1 km

posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:50 AM on October 6, 2008


You guys saying these signs are fine are sitting at your computer, looking at a web site, and your attention is entirely focused on reading the image.

Unofficial Understanding of Signs to Us: we drive every day, see signs like those every day in our neighborhoods and understand them pretty well, actually.
posted by katillathehun at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2008


Th eonly one that's really bad is #2, because they borked am and pm.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2008


There was, for a while at least, a 4-way intersection near Christiansburg, VA where all four directions were US 460.
posted by Wolfdog at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2008


Seattle recently repaved one of its large north-south avenue and added bus lanes. There are signs that say "Buses Only 3-6pm" (the times are different depending on which direction you're going.

However, despite what any reasonable person would think, the city did not mean to indicate that cars can drive in this lane (unless making a right turn), only that they can park in the lane, but not between the specified hours.

There is absolutely no mention of parking on the sign and I don't know how they saw those signs as adequate for communicating their intent.
posted by camcgee at 8:58 AM on October 6, 2008


This is one of my favorites near my house a few years ago during bridge re-construction.
posted by octothorpe at 9:04 AM on October 6, 2008


And that multiple lane sign with the 4 lane left turns? Yeah, while you are staring at it trying to figure out which lane you are supposed to be in, you plow into the guy in front of you.

The fun thing is when your GPS sends you into an intersection like that, and you try to figure out what exactly "turn left" means.
posted by smackfu at 9:14 AM on October 6, 2008


The problem is you are traveling at (in some of these cases anyway) a high rate of speed with a dozen other things to worry about.

Exactly, trying to read, much less have to decipher, a road sign in an unfamiliar area at night while traveling ~60 mph doesn't make for a pleasant driving experience. You should be able to glance at a sign and get it's meaning.

And a sign warning you of an upcoming traffic circle that says "circle" seems pretty well placed too.

Traffic circles are not at all common in the States. The first reaction of most people would probably be "Circle...what?" I don't think Americans are up to something like this. I know I'm not.
posted by MikeMc at 9:30 AM on October 6, 2008


Circle's used to be more common in the east coast of the US but most have been torn out and replaced by traffic light controlled intersections.
posted by octothorpe at 9:42 AM on October 6, 2008


To all the nay sayers: how could that multiple left turn sign be made simpler. It seems like the best solution given the apparently crazy reality of road alignment.

I am concerneddismayed that people on an auto enthusiastic site would be confused by the stop sign no stopping combo.
posted by Mitheral at 9:49 AM on October 6, 2008


True story: I'm surprised this little gem was not included on this site. I was going to a concert in PA when my Bro and I saw what had to be the center of the universe. There were 4 signs that pointed in different directions and all said West. Also there were 2 eat n parks on both sides of the road. My brain hurt.... and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat for no reason at all.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:52 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


#2 got a chuckle for the the line "The far left lane is lava" and #1 is pretty absurd since they could have just used a standard "No U-Turn" sign with the weight modifier on the bottom; the bizarre truck-sky-hook image is just useless and confusing.

I think I could have figured out the rest while driving.

(Have people not encountered the same Street-Name Ln, Ct, Pl, Ave, Dr, etc crossing one of its variants before? I see that all the time.)
posted by quin at 9:53 AM on October 6, 2008


Ladies and gentlemen, from my home town, Confusion Corner.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:58 AM on October 6, 2008


A recently spotted example in my neighborhood -- when my street was being repaved, the day before each block's turn for repaving someone put up a copious number of temporary "no parking" signs up and down the block. They posted them by placing the sign against a tree and then wrapping a huge strip of duct tape around the entire circumference of the tree, catching the sign underneath.

And in doing so, they covered over the word "parking" on the "no parking" warnings on each and ever single one of those signs.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:00 AM on October 6, 2008


the bizarre truck-sky-hook image is just useless and confusing.

I thought it signified the start of a "No Ejection Seat" zone.
posted by MikeMc at 10:15 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


"the bizarre truck-sky-hook image is just useless and confusing."

I thought it signified the start of a "No Ejection Seat" zone.


It looks more like an electrical plug to me, but "don't plug your extension cord directly into the pavement" wasn't making any sense.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:17 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


That "backwards wheelie into traffic" thing really makes me giggle. It must have been so hard to rotate the image of the bike...
posted by lauranesson at 10:23 AM on October 6, 2008


I'm confused about what's confusing about the bike lane one.
posted by Artw at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2008


It must have been so hard to rotate the image of the bike...

Ah... right. But that's how the bike painted on the bike lane would be orientated.
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on October 6, 2008


(and the truck is clearly a giant padlock)
posted by Artw at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2008


I thought it signified the start of a 'No Ejection Seat' zone.

James Bond is bummin'.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:54 AM on October 6, 2008


I recognized the multiple one with 4 left turns from San Francisco. I've actually followed it several times. It's not as bad as it looks. I think it's here. A sharp almost U-turn onto a busy road is possible only from the left two lanes; most lanes take a gentle left; rightmost lanes can go straight or turn right. Maybe the first time you see it it's a bit surprising but after that it's fine; really I don't see what more they could have done.
posted by PercussivePaul at 11:01 AM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I live at the intersection of Orchard Park Drive and Orchard Park Circle. But my official address is #2 Baggin's End, though Baggin's End isn't an actual street, but rather the collective name of the set of structures.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:03 AM on October 6, 2008


4.) Take A Right At Montreal

Hey, that's just a few blocks from my house!
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:47 AM on October 6, 2008


My favorite traffic sign which I stumbled across in the City of London several years ago.

I found out later that it is a common sign in London but given that I was visiting from the states and I had just proposed to my wife, the sign seemed very unusual indeed.
posted by cjets at 11:54 AM on October 6, 2008


The glory of driving in New England is that signs this complex are required, but you just get a single yield sign that was knocked into the bushes and a stop sign that may or may not be angled your way... at a seven way intersection. Not a nice "t" shaped intersection with a curious number of lanes, oh no. Seven ways in, seven ways out, all at odd angles to each other. If you're lucky, there'll be a local you can tailgate.

If you want to have some real fun, hit Rt. 95 - In Rhode Island, there's a chicane =and= a decreasing radius curve on an incline, and a string of three exits right in the middle of the onramp from I-195. To get to Sicilia's Pizza on Atwells, you need to fight through two lanes of traffic, changing lanes to the right while a solid stream of the Worst Drivers in America are trying to change lanes in the opposite direction, all tailgating each other. You do it anyway, because Sicilia's is worth risking firey death on the highway. Oh! And if you miss your exit, you're on rt146 halfway to Worcester before you realize what happened. Then a pot-hole eats your car.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:05 PM on October 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


(Have people not encountered the same Street-Name Ln, Ct, Pl, Ave, Dr, etc crossing one of its variants before? I see that all the time.)

We have the brilliance of South Main crossing East Main.
posted by smackfu at 12:18 PM on October 6, 2008


kaibutsu: Hobbiton always did have the most confusing roadways in all the Shire!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:20 PM on October 6, 2008


Dead Slow Children
posted by patricio at 12:32 PM on October 6, 2008


I'm HOME! (Northeastern US)
posted by not_on_display at 12:33 PM on October 6, 2008


There are two intersections within three blocks of each other in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh that are the corners of Bigelow Blvd and Bigelow Blvd. So if you want to stay on the Boulevard, you have to turn right and then turn left; if you stay straight at either intersection, you'll end up on another street.
posted by octothorpe at 12:51 PM on October 6, 2008


(Have people not encountered the same Street-Name Ln, Ct, Pl, Ave, Dr, etc crossing one of its variants before? I see that all the time.)

That just seems like lazy planning to me. Why does every other street in Atlanta have to be Peachtree "X" ? According to Wikipedia there are 71 streets in Atlanta with a variant of "Peachtree" in their name. Were there no other names or even numbers available?
posted by MikeMc at 1:12 PM on October 6, 2008


Even having lived in the Midwest all my life, I've never encountered a Michigan Left. That site says they seem to reduce collisions, but they sure seem at first glance like they'd gum things up.

I think I'd be pretty baffled if I saw this I-96 sign. Also, the other pic on that page is the same as the one in the Jalopnik article, so apparently that's just the normal sign they use in the UP.

How strange. This could be an FPP in itself.
posted by substars at 1:43 PM on October 6, 2008


To all the nay sayers: how could that multiple left turn sign be made simpler.

There's a road like this in the twin cities that has a huge sign over each lane, with arrows showing which way each lane is allowed to turn. It's way easier to understand because you don't have to figure out in your head which lane on the sign corresponds to which lane on the road ("OK, so I want to be three lanes from the left, which is one more to my right..."). You can see it if you google map "8072 France Ave S. Minneapolis" and spin the street view guy around to face south.
posted by vytae at 1:53 PM on October 6, 2008


There's a point in western Virginia going through a pass where you're going north on I-77, south on I-81, west on something else, and maybe even east on a fourth road all at the same time.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:14 PM on October 6, 2008


Putting on my roadgeek hat, I have to laugh. As examples of graphic design, most of these are pretty bad (especially the yield-to-bikes one) and many may violate federal standards, in that common symbols are misused or modified in unexpected ways. Best to just rely on English in those cases.

But they also indicate, at least in some cases, poorly thought-through traffic design. The SF one is absolutely a classic need for a roundabout. We're getting our first ones in my city, and the local grumps are furious, even though they aren't in high-traffic areas. It's clear they reduce collisions and even save lives, as well as time spent behind the stoplight. But they're seen as newfangled for the sake of being new.

Anyway, I'm a big fan of passive traffic control -- using the roadway itself to encourage behaviors rather than rely on increasingly ignored signs. I think these signs would not be needed in many cases with better road design.
posted by dhartung at 2:51 PM on October 6, 2008


This where you mean, ROU_X?
posted by hippugeek at 4:52 PM on October 6, 2008


Yeah, that must be it. Ta much.

Real purty area too, if you can get past the pervasive poverty.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:26 PM on October 6, 2008


I was going to a concert in PA when my Bro and I saw what had to be the center of the universe.

Do ironic signs count? My town is not so well centered; going north along an arterial street, just before you reach the city limits, one of the last roads you cross is named "Town Center Boulevard"....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 6:42 PM on October 6, 2008


swanksigns has a whole bunch of these – If you only have half a dog, you'd better stay within the blue lines Warning: Fire-demons WILL latch on to your car and devour your family.
posted by tellurian at 6:52 PM on October 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


smackfu writes "We have the brilliance of South Main crossing East Main."

I stopped for gas once in some little town in Texas or Oklahoma and snapped a picture of the street sign at the corner of Main, East Main and West Main. I'd like to think there is some deep seated fued that resulted in that situation rather than extreme unimaginativeness.
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 PM on October 6, 2008


People confused by these signs shouldn't be driving.
posted by pompomtom at 9:19 PM on October 6, 2008


Great examples of very poor information design. Thanks, made me laugh.
posted by pitseleh at 9:46 PM on October 6, 2008


Oh, I forgot about street view! Bingo, I had the right intersection in San Francisco. I only remembered it because the freeway offramp dumps you there.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:25 PM on October 6, 2008


I thought it funny when I was motoring in England a few years back and encountered signs for both zebra crossings and pelican crossings in Reading.

The first time I encountered one, my brain did a momentary side-slip and the incredulous thought flashed through my mind "Surely, not in this climate and geography..."
posted by darkstar at 12:50 AM on October 7, 2008


ethnomethodologist, my favourite extension of this is the fact that Hidden Valley Drive intersects Hidden Valley Drive.

Map
posted by sauril at 7:24 AM on October 7, 2008


Travelling South on I-93, North on I-95, and South on US-1, all at the same time. I always miss my exit here.
posted by not_on_display at 12:28 PM on October 7, 2008


Many of those signs seem like someone trying to contend with poor civil engineering.
I've been at that confusing intersection in San Francisco and, well, that's just how the roads are set up. It being San Francisco, I just figured someone stole all the left turns from everywhere else in the city and dumped them all at one intersection.
posted by Durhey at 12:54 PM on October 7, 2008


In Dallas you can go south on E. Northwest Highway. I always thought that was a fun one.
posted by internet!Hannah at 2:16 PM on October 7, 2008


not_on_display, I can see why:


Suggestions:

- Make sure all words are spelled correctly.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:45 PM on October 8, 2008


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