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September 21, 2004 12:41 AM

Broken: Exit sign

a_streetAlan Voorhees writes:

Perhaps it's not broken, but here's an exit sign from I-880 in Hayward, CA:

    A Street Downtown

Maybe "A" Street/Downtown would have been better.


haha, I drove by that sign for three years. never thought about it in that way before.

Posted by: christine at September 21, 2004 11:07 AM

Broken? This has been my favorite road sign since I moved to the S.F. Bay Area 20 years ago! I think of it as the perfect post-modern, post-existential comment on urban living.

Posted by: Mark Lentczner at September 21, 2004 03:33 PM

Weren't we just talking about unneeded quotation marks being broken last week? Although terribly funny, this sign isn't broken. Changing one sign from the standard would be more confusing then leaving it as it is. Perhaps the concept of naming streets as letters is broken?

Posted by: T. Bradley Dean at September 21, 2004 04:51 PM

how's that mark?

Posted by: bob at September 21, 2004 06:24 PM

Nah, Mark, the S.F. Bay Area sign that's the perfect post-existential post-modern comment on urban living is the one on highway 101 South, just outside of Mountain View, that says "Los Angeles 404".

Posted by: Brooks Moses at September 21, 2004 10:01 PM

brooks moses: i get the 404, but can you explain how your relating that to post existenail and post modern?

Posted by: bob again at September 22, 2004 02:59 PM

There's an even better one in Oregon, but I have no picture of it. The cities of Boring and Oregon City lie on either side of this freeway, so the sign says Boring Oregon City.

Posted by: Dave Trowbridge at September 22, 2004 07:05 PM

Probably lots of silly signs in every city. There's a street in Toronto called Avenue Road.

Posted by: mr.mark at September 23, 2004 10:06 AM

This sign is the result of a broken standard. The US standard for highway signage ( specifies that a single sign may name both a destination and a street or route. But as far as I can tell, it does not require that these two very different kinds of wayfinding information be distinguished typographically.

Interestingly, the standard has long placed much more emphasis on including the names of "destinations" on signs, over including cardinal directions. Around here, it sometimes results in signs naming possibly-unfamiliar towns hundreds of miles away. A sign will give me a choice between Limon and Grand Junction, but all I want to do is travel West.

Posted by: Paul Goble at September 23, 2004 12:01 PM

I agree with Mark. I've always loved that sign. Like you could exit there and the road would take you somewhere near downtown. For those who don't need to be so precise. Broken? Nah. Just a nice mental diversion on a horrible stretch of road.

Posted by: Jim at September 23, 2004 05:45 PM

yea theirs a road here in NC called

"Street avenue court Rd"

i wonder if the contractor ran out of names

Posted by: Matt Tremper at September 23, 2004 08:03 PM

Makes me think of my favorite highway sign. On Highway 81 right over the border in Pennsylvania (coming from New York State): "Endless Mountains Next 6 Exits"

It always makes me laugh.

Posted by: Sarah at September 24, 2004 04:50 PM

The sign, lovable as it may be, is broken.

Rules and regulations be damned. Human communication principles over-ride the rules.

For a sign to say A Street Downtown is ridiculous.

It means The Street Named "A" Downtown, so it should read "A" Street Downtown.

Now here in Peoria we have a broken everything in a highway sign that says:

Shea Stadium

and then stuff like "this exit" or whatever.

"Shea Stadium"? Stupid. yes it's a stadium, but no, it's not the world famous Shea Stadium of NYC. Where the Yankees play. (I know not much about sports).

That's like having a tower and calling it "The Leaning Tower of Pisa" when it's not in Pisa, though it may be a tower and it may be leaning.


Posted by: Steven Streight aka Vaspers the Grate at September 28, 2004 05:31 PM

Looks to me to say that if you exit, then you will end up on "A" Street, and in "Downtown".

Posted by: brandon at September 28, 2004 06:10 PM

There are streets all over England called Avenue Road. This is pointed out somewhere (I forget where)... the basic problem being that North Americans don't generally count the "street", "road", "park" part as part of the name but (I guess) just a little serif. Here in Cambridge, UK we have Park Street, Park Road, Park Drive, Park Avenue, Parkside and Park Court with no real confusion except to my Canadian wife.

The archetypical English graffito on a road-sign for "Avenue Road" is "what's wrong with the old one?"

Posted by: Simon Trew at October 2, 2004 11:43 AM

Perhaps I should have mentioned, what you probably all know, that "avenue" originally referred to a tree-lined street, and so was not a tautology.

Posted by: Simon Trew at October 2, 2004 11:44 AM

OK one more thing... "this exit" I can deal with but "next exit" is broken. I never did discover whether that was meant to mean the one coming up, or the one after that. Since the exits (on the freeway) are numbered, "exit 949" would have been unambiguous.

(Yes there are sometimes arrows, but not always. This is a geniune thing I had trouble with, not just a petty "broken" post. I missed dinner...)

Posted by: Simon Trew at October 2, 2004 11:48 AM

This reminded me of a sign on Interstate 287 in White Plains, New York. Exit 8 says "No White Plains" As in "There are no white plains." Obviously, it really means "North White Plains"...

Posted by: gthang at November 5, 2004 07:58 PM

What the heck does Post-existential mean anyway, everything I hear it used with seems pretty existential. And Post-modern seems just silly. If you post a reply please use small words, I'm thick as a post and If I don't take my post-meal nap post haste I'm going to go postal.

Posted by: billc at December 14, 2004 08:25 PM

In Tallahassee, we have a small part of town where every road is called Fred Goerge. It is not just Fred Goerge road and Fred Goerge lane and Ferd Goerge avenue. Although those exist, You really can drive up fred goerge rd and take a left onto fred goerge rd and then take a right on to fred goerge rd which crossed the first fred goerge rd.

Posted by: matt at January 5, 2005 11:15 AM

Paul, if you think road signs in the US are annoying in that they *sometimes* don't give cardinal directions, but only destinations, you've never been to the UK where roadsigns almost never have directions and instead you have a sign that says M43 (just an example; I don't remember the actual road) to Cambrige and M43 to London, instead of M43 N and M43 S.

Posted by: Brian at January 14, 2005 08:57 PM

hahahaha 'ave a new road!

Posted by: Bob at March 23, 2005 11:13 PM

Kind of in response to Simon trew above, I recall the train station in Croydon (Surrey) some 20 years ago when i worked at the IBM facility next door, hearing the announcement for a certain train headed south that, among the other stops, were these goodies: North Worthing, East Worthing, Worthing Main, Worthing, Worthing Central, (and finally) Worthing West. Sheesh, sound like a town the size of London!

Here in No. Calif you'll see the conventional "Airport" sign as a silhouette of an airplane, indicating a nearby airport or airfield. Every so often you'll see a silhouette of 747 (very distinctive bump toward the front, four engines) where the only airport for miles is a municipal field that most likely doesn't even have a controal tower let alone runways long enough for a 747.

Finally, in Central Calif near Stockton years ago was a common sign: Cross Road (no, not crossroad) under which some local wag tacked a sign that implored drivers: "Better humor it."

Posted by: Tod Wicks at November 20, 2005 01:57 AM

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