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    June 5, 2007 12:03 AM

    Broken: Gas station handicap parking

    Gasstation_2 A reader named Justin writes in:

    This picture was taken at a Phillips 66 gas station in Overland Park, Kansas. 

    The handicap parking sign is in the middle of the grass off to the side of the lot.  There are no parking spots at the curb near the sign.

    The closest painted parking spots are against the building to the left, where the Camaro is parked. 

    What I found broken were the three cars that took advantage of the "handicap parking area" in the grass.

    February 28, 2007 12:03 AM

    Broken: Accessing first aid room

    FirstaidAn anonymous reader writes:

    This is one of at least two first aid rooms with this sign at the corporate headquarters of a major financial services company.

    The sign reads:

    For entry to first aid room
    call security at ext. 58940

    I think that first aid supplies shouldn't be locked up. If you are bleeding, who has time to call security? 

    If that weren't bad enough, there is no phone near either of these rooms. If someone needed access to the first aid room, they would actually have to go to a different floor to find the closest phone!

    February 14, 2007 12:03 AM

    Broken: Hidden "No Parking" sign in San Francisco

    ObscurednoparkingMike Kaufman submits a picture taken in San Francisco, CA:

    "In August 2006, my daughter got a parking ticket in San Francisco for parking on Marina Boulevard on a street cleaning day.  However, as shown by photograph above which I took a few days later (as part of an appeal of the ticket), the relevant "No Parking" sign cannot be seen because a tree has grown around it."

    P.S. Mike wrote in after his original submission to add: "My daughter Tanya's appeal of the parking ticket was successful! However, I'm not sure whether the city has bothered to fix the problem of the hidden sign."

    January 8, 2007 12:03 AM

    Broken: (For fun) Weird store combination

    SmokesandpetsKevin Lecky submits a picture taken in Ontario, Canada:

    I stumbled across this wacky store in the Westwood mall in Malton, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto, by the airport). Imagine how much time people save by buying cat litter and cigars at the same time!

    December 11, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Toilet information location

    Toilet1stairs Alex Protsenko writes in:

    Loaded with nearly 20 kg of luggage, I descended several flights of stairs and followed the arrow to enter this toilet at London's Waterloo train station.

    When I got to the restroom at bottom of the stairs, I discovered a sign informing me that there is a stairless toilet elsewhere.


    It would make a lot more sense to put this sign above at the top of the stairs, along with directions to the "accessible toilet."

    To add to the inconvenience of it all, there was a 20 pence charge to use the bathroom!

    September 20, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Auto body shop name

    PercisionC.D. Tavares submits a picture taken in New Port Richey, Florida:

    I took this picture of a place named  "Percision Auto Body."

    As a general rule, if you give your business a name implying competitive superiority, using words such as "precision," it's often more persuasive if you can avoid misspelling them.

    August 29, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Floor numbers at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay

    MandalayBob Sifniades submits a picture taken in Las Vegas, Nevada:

    When I arrived at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, and was told to go to the 61st floor, I was quite amazed that this building had so many floors, as I hadn't noticed any exceptionally tall buildings on the Vegas Strip.

    But when the elevator took just 1 second to go from floor 38 to floor 60, I was quite un-amazed. It turns out the building only has 43 floors, and they had employed wishful numbering for the top 5 floors.

    August 3, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: "Non-smoking" hotel room

    Terrell Jones writes in:

    I entered the “non smoking” room at a Motel 6 in Sacramento, California, only to find an ashtray.


    So I called the front desk to complain and was told, “Oh, just turn it over, now it's a non-smoking room!”


    July 20, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Broke store

    Brokestore_1Joe Altschule submits a picture taken in Barcelona, Spain:

    This must be the flagship store for all things broken. Not only is the name of this store "Broke," but it was also closed when I saw it and took the picture.

    June 28, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Business juxtaposition

    CloseNot necessarily broken, but Rick Unger points out a strange sight - the organic butcher is right next door to a memorial shop. Could either business find a more appropriate neighbor to locate next to?

    June 9, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: 99 cent+ store

    99cents_1From Jeffrey Veen's Flickr photostream:

    GRAND OPENING - Everything 99 cents or above!

    March 31, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Gatwick airport smoking area

    GatwickaiportBen Civiletti points this out from London's Gatwick airport:

    Instead of putting the designated smoking area in a far corner of the building, they put it right in the middle of the checkout area. On top of that, they also put it 20 feet away from the children's play area.

    If you can't see it clearly, the sign says:

    "Children's play area"
    "Ages 2 - 6 only"
    "Parental supervision essential as the play area is not supervised by our staff"
    "No food, drink or chewing gum"
    "Remove shoes but wear socks at all times"
    "No liability accepted for any losses, damage or theft"

    What about the poisonous smoke billowing from the "Smoking area," which is less than 20 feet away?

    March 27, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Hertz "Gold Customer" line

    This customer service line at a Hertz car rental irritated me to no end. Seeing this sign (reading "Hertz #1 Gold Customers" with an arrow pointing to the right), I dutifully stood in line on the right for 15 minutes, only to be told by a surly clerk that the Gold desk was downstairs.

    Yes, the arrow actually meant not to get in line on the right, but to pass through the unmarked door behind and to the right.

    This helpful sign taped to the door as an afterthought, with tiny all-cap letters, described what the sign failed to hint at.

    March 17, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Women's Weight Loss location

    Dsc02822Dsc02824Spotted in suburban Atlanta, Georgia:

    Women's Weight Loss...

    .. next door to Ice Cream and Desserts.

    How appropriate!

    February 21, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: Storefront recruiting

    Moved Mark Wooge writes in:

    Recently, an Albertson's store moved to a new location.

    Note the sign above the door of the now-empty store saying "Now Hiring" and the signs below saying they moved.

    Recruiting for an empty store is definitely broken.

    February 7, 2006 12:03 AM

    Broken: 24 hour check cashing

    24hoursstoreAdam Seifer points out:

    This check cashing store is currently in-business.

    They really should take down their "Open 24 Hours" sign.

    November 14, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: (Not broken) Office

    Bnfoffice1Robert Atkins writes:

    Not necessarily "broken", but customers can walk by the office and see this mess.

    The owner of the desk would ordinarily be looking for another job... but she is the owner.

    October 17, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: Handicapped parking in Shenandoah

    Dcp_0374Jeremy writes:

    In Shenandoah National Park, the Park Service has thoughtfully provided its handicapped visitors the closest parking spot to the lot's sole attraction, a steep trailhead.  Not to sound too insensitive, but if you can't cross the parking lot, I fear for you on the trail.

    [Politically incorrect but provocative... what does everyone think? -mh]

    October 5, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: Hidden walk sign

    Pictures_022Matthew Stoval asks:

    Is it safe to cross? Who knows?

    October 3, 2005 12:05 AM

    Broken: Tropical stop sign

    And_then_whatThe McCorisons see this sign in Hawaii and ask:

    And then what?

    September 14, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: Wall switches

    SwitchesDave Collins writes:

    Light switch panel in a guesthouse bathroom. Multiple examples of brokenness.

    1: Main users: people who have never been here before, have no idea what feature are avaialbe let alone how to operate them, and won't be around long enough to make learning them useful.

    2: No feedback. Some of these switches do subtle things - like turn on the under-floor heater. (At least I think they do.) It might be five minutes before you know the switch has done anything at all.

    3: Fitts' Law violated. The main light switch is the middle panel. It has an on/off as well as a dimmer. The large dimmer has a target surface area of 242mm^2. Even though the on/off will be by far the most used, the surface area to hit with your finger is only 64mm^2 - that's nearly 4x smaller! Additionally, it only sticks out only about 1mm from the panel, which is very difficult to feel. This switch takes more than a second of scrutiny and dexterity to operate.

    Flaw 1 is the fault of the owner, flaw 2 is debatable, but flaw 3 is definitely intrinsic in the manufacture of the device itself.

    September 6, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: Gas station vestibule

    This_is_not_a_door_1Danielle Gobert writes:

    This picture was taken at a gas station in Sardis, Mississippi. Of course, any time you see a sign like "this is not a door", you know something is broken.

    There is a little vestibule in front, but only one of the three sides (the front) of the vestibule actually has a door. I cracked up picturing customer after customer walking smack into the glass having expected an automatic door to open.

    August 18, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: Radisson hotel bathroom, Wichita, KS

    Dsc00324_resizedBranden Gunn writes:

    Spent a week in Wichita for work, and was continually annoyed by the obvious lack of usability designed into the toilet paper holders. I'm flexible, but this was just beyond my normal range of motion. I kept putting one roll on the sink so I could reach it. Of course, the cleaning crew always put it back where it belonged. This picture was taken on my last day at the Radisson Broadview, in Wichita, Kansas.

    July 26, 2005 01:52 PM

    Broken: New York potholes

    My friend Andrew Rasiej, who's running for Public Advocate in NYC, has started a "This Is Broken"-like site - WeFixNYC - where New York residents can send in pictures of potholes, and the location - and they'll be posted on the site with Google Maps providing location data.

    July 22, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: Restroom design in fancy NYC restaurants

    Kris Arnold points us to this NYTimes article from a few months back:

    I couldn't figure out how to trigger the electronic-eye sensors above the commodes, motion-detecting flushing mechanisms with enough of a delay that you were sometimes asked simply to trust in a cleansing aftermath to your departure. I've encountered religions with less daunting leaps of faith.
    I couldn't figure out how to tell whether commodes were occupied. Neither, apparently, could anyone else, because whenever I was using one, someone in the communal area would rattle the door, not to mention my composure.... And I couldn't figure out why, in restaurant after restaurant, the attempt to relieve oneself turned out to be anything but a relief.

    Link to full story

    (Also see megnut's response)

    July 19, 2005 12:59 PM

    Broken: Bad parking in Yahoo lot

    Photos of bad parking jobs in the Yahoo parking lot.

    (Thanks, BoingBoing)

    June 25, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: Street planning

    Nagpur2Tushar Sonak writes:

    Watch out! There is a tree in that lane!

    This picture was taken in Nagpur, India.  When the city decided to widen the roads, the horticulture department did not allow them to cut trees...

    June 16, 2005 05:36 PM

    Broken: Signs at Coney Island

    Coney4_1Alice S. points us to Brian Sack's comments as self-appointed grammar cop. Brilliant. At left: a "crime spree" of misspellings and typos on the famed Coney Island boardwalk.

    May 11, 2005 12:03 AM

    Broken: Cafe toilet

    13Ji Kim writes:

    These are from the bathroom at the Muddy Waters cafe in San Francisco. It took a while to figure how I could flush the toilet..... :)

    May 9, 2005 12:02 AM

    Broken: Braille room number

    DisneybrailleJeff Pierce writes:

    While staying at the Contemporary Resort in Disney World last year, we spotted this. While walking down the hall on our way from our  room to the main lobby, my nine year old - who had just learned to read Braille - pointed to the room sign and said, "See, that's Braille. The first symbol tells you it's a number and... wait a minute. IT'S WRONG!" he  shouted. For readers of Braille, there are two rooms numbered 7304 at the Contemporary.

    [Sure enough... check here. -mh]

    April 28, 2005 12:01 AM

    Broken: Elevator... upstairs

    John Marsh sent in a picture of a sign at the Continental Plaza Hotel in Seattle. The sign read "Elevator Upstairs", which was strange because it was located in a stairwell. There was even an arrow helpfully pointing up the stairs - the direction to the elevator.

    John wrote, "It was strange, and I really noticed it because I had a very heavy suitcase."

    Why the picture is missing: I originally uploaded the wrong picture, as 43 commenters pointed out to me, and then headed off to run my annual Gel conference (which went quite well, by the way). The error came at a bad time, because I had no chance to fix the error until after the conference - oh well. Thanks to all the people who pointed out that "This Is Broken is broken" - it's not the first time someone has come up with that quip (about the millionth, I'd say), but an A for effort.

    April 27, 2005 12:01 AM

    Broken: Elevator call button

    Img_1332Joe Staffel writes:

    This is an elevator call button in an office building in Pittsburgh.  Notice the up call button is located in the spot typically used for down.  Very amusing to both the tenants and visitors...

    Everyone cracks up when they see this in person for the first time; it's so dumb! The upper button does nothing.  The photo was taken within the street level lobby--there is no lower floor, so there is no down.

    March 16, 2005 12:01 AM

    Broken: Kennedy Airport, Terminal 3

    Kennedy1Kennedy2My friend Andrew Zolli writes:

    At Kennedy Airport's Terminal 3, the terminal is separated from the car parking lot by an elevated walkway which straddles a lane of fast moving traffic. The walkway much be accessed at both ends by an elevator. For reasons that make absolutely no sense, the sign in the elevator closest to the terminal uses two different floor numbering systems. (See picture at left.) "Level 1" is on 1; "Level 2" is on 3 and "Level 3" is on 4. This sign would be particularly awful for a blind person.

    Even worse, the floor numbering sysem on the other side of the walkway uses a completely different system (see other picture) of lettering the floor levels - A,B,C and D.


    January 20, 2005 02:30 PM

    Broken: Seattle Public Library signage

    2642695_1e4e29f6d8From a few weeks ago - Matt Haughey points us to the temporary signage (read full description) in the sparkling, brand new Seattle Public Library. Seems that the architects were too full of grand visions to think of the visitors' basic bodily functions.

    January 4, 2005 12:01 AM

    Broken: Airport laptop terminal

    LaguardialaptopPhilip J. Hollenback writes:

    Attached is a picture of a laptop data port at LaGuardia Airport, NYC. Picture was taken in the Northwest terminal.  Someone decided to replace one of the pay phones with some sort of laptop data port.  However, they didn't install any sort of desk or ledge.  In the hour I was waiting at the airport, I observed three people forced to sit on the floor while using this data port.

    January 3, 2005 12:01 AM

    Broken: Utility pole

    Polecomp1Bob Sifniades wrote awhile back:

    This utility pole, at the intersection of Routes 206 and 518 in Skillman, New Jersey, has been broken for about a month. For the first couple of weeks, it was still holding all the wires that are now carried by the new pole to the left. That was pretty scary, seeing a nearly-severed, lashed-up pole with all that gear on top, at a major intersection. But even in its current state, that old broken pole is a little worrisome.

    December 17, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Elevator call button

    ElevatorbuttonDavid Lewis writes:

    This is the elevator call button on the ground floor of the Xerox building in downtown Halifax, Canada.

    I rarely use this elevator, but every time I do I have to stop and think for a second which button to press to call the elevator. There is also always this subtle sense of something bad happening if I press the wrong button due to presence of the word "EMERGENCY" in the bright red all caps.

    The call button is the round white one. If you press the "Emergency" button by the way, absolutely nothing happens... as far as I can tell.

    December 8, 2004 12:24 AM

    Broken: Parking meter

    ParkingmeterChris Clark writes from Western Australia:

    This parking meter (and its brethren) charge 60 cents per hour. That's pretty reasonable, but the fine print: "60 cents per hour or part thereof" is something you won't find on the machine itself, nor will you notice until you drop a 50-cent coin in the slot only to be told you've bought precisely zero minutes worth of parking.

    Across the street you can get parking at the same rate, but without the catch. Ten cents will buy you ten minutes, just the way you'd expect it to. Senseless.

    November 29, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Rockefeller Center map

    RockcenterRockefeller Center is a major tourist destination here in New York City. But click "Directions" on the website and you'll see two problems:

    1. The map is light-grey-on-white-background. You can hardly see it, like they don't want to show you the map!

    2. The map is oriented with north pointing to the right, which makes absolutely no sense...

    November 22, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Pedestrian mall benches

    Oxford2Ed Pejack writes:

    Visiting in Oxford, England lately, I strolled down a street that was converted to a pedestrian mall. Here is a picture of the benches. A bench usually consists of a flat area for your you-know-what while you sit and relax. What were they thinking of here, a sliding board? A local resident shook his head and offered no explanation. The other side of the row of benches are more tradional.

    November 17, 2004 12:13 AM

    Broken: Sign for employee ideas

    TrashyourideasRichard Bland writes:

    The hospital where I work is not known for its progressive ideas and acceptance of change.  This attitude became even more clear after lunch in the cafeteria.  A new sign had appeared to instruct those of us that might continue to offer new insightful changes - exactly where to place our suggestions.

    November 10, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: No pedestrian sign

    Nopedestriantraffic01_2John Butkus writes:

    In the town of Malta, New York, we are not permitted to use this sidewalk if we are walking. Perhaps is OK to drive.

    October 31, 2004 02:04 AM

    Broken: (Rerun) Playground design

     Mark Foley writes from London:

    These photographs were taken on a walk in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe in London.

    This is one of those things were you figure at least, say, five people must have been involved in the decision, and no-one at any point seemed to think it was a bad idea.

    Perhaps it's deliberate - so that parents can say, "If you don't place nice, now, you know what's going to happen..."

    [From our October 2003 archives, one of our most popular posts ever.. I thought it would be fun to post it again on Halloween. -mh]

    October 20, 2004 12:33 AM

    Broken: Paris-Vegas display

    Img_3340viGreg Osborn points us to this photo from his trip to Las Vegas in August 2001.

    He writes, "Now appearing at the Paris: Windows error message! At least their fountain can't 'crash'.  :) "

    August 30, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Backward elevator buttons

    BACKWARDDan Hennes writes:

    This is the elevator keypad from a luxury Manhattan apartment. Can you see what's wrong? The numbers are listed right to left, instead of left to right.

    August 2, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: McDonald's "maximum height" pole

    06-27-04_1815Gene Cowan writes from Arlington, Virginia:

    This McDonald's near my house has a "maximum height" pole designed to keep trucks from damaging the drive-thru overhang. Unfortunately, they installed it 90 degrees in the wrong direction, so that the pole extends over the sidewalk and landscaping, not the drive-thru lane.

    July 26, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Golf course dress code sign

    notanksnotanks2Laurel Bowman writes:

    Signs like this can be seen at municipal golf courses all over the country.

    But usually never at the fourth hole.

    This sign resides at the tee box of the fourth hole of the lovely Cape Anne Golf Course in Essex, MA, USA.

    (No word as to whether they'll be providing changing rooms or complimentary collared shirts for duffers who have made it through half the course tanked, yet undetected.)

    July 20, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Bike lane death trap

    eyesore_200404Jim Kunstler writes in his April 2004 Eyesore of the Month:

    Note all the design intelligence that went into this urban bike trail in Santa Monica, California. The striping delivers you to a bicycle death trap at the intersection with a three-way change in surface. Take your pick: cement, loose gravel in a ditch, or sewer grid.

    (Jim Kunstler, by the way, spoke at the Gel conference in 2003 - see the recap page for a transcript of his talk. This year's Gel conference was on on April 30 in New York City ('04 recap); next year's Gel is April 28-29, 2005.)

    June 28, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Fire Exit... in the ceiling

    Charlotte Gonella writes:

    I took this pic when on a duty trip to one of our offices in Zagreb, Croatia. The fire exit is about 8 feet above floor level, and there are no access instructions. Not sure how this would help in the event of a fire, and gladly I didn't have to find out!

    June 14, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Virgin train cabinets

    David Hawdale writes:

    Travelling down from Manchester UK to London on the new Virgin trains, I saw this strange sight: a refreshments bag being used to hold together the two doors of the cooler compartments.

    These fast Pendelino trains are designed to tilt as they take curves to allow increases in speed unachievable by straight upright trains. But when they tilt, the cooler doors spring open, banging into unsuspecting travellers waiting in line for their chocolate chip cookies.

    June 10, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Handicapped parking in Rhode Island

     Elliot Ciora sends two photos of obstructed handicapped parking spots in Rhode Island.

    The first is located in the parking lot of a Brooks Drugs in Pawtucket. The handicapped parking sign has been moved so far into the parking space that nobody can park there.

    The second is at The East Side Market Place in Providence. Straight ahead and to the right is Epoch Assisted living, whose residents use the handicapped parking spaces, when they haven't been plowed over with snow.

    Update June 10: Elliot Ciora writes in to say: "Brooks has moved the signs so that the spaces are now open for use, allowing for the use of those spaces!"

    May 18, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Parking garage exit

     Jack Kelly sends in two pictures of the dangerous parking garage at his office. The left picture shows the exit only ramp. What's broken is that it's not labelled at all: someone could easily drive down the ramp as someone else drives out the exit. There is an "Exit Only" sign (see right), but it's only on the inside.

    April 29, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Pedestrian walk signal

    Brian Everton writes:

    I walk by this intersection in Manitoba, Canada, often. It is right next to the neighbourhood elementary school. The pedestrian "Walk/Don't Walk" signal is blocked by the utility pole.

    April 27, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Petco Park seating

    Ward Andrews writes:

    My father and I visited San Diego's new Petco Park this weekend. We were looking for our seats, in section 111, and were surprised to find they were no where near the sign pictured (pointing to sections 110 and 112). It turns out that the odd numbered sections were on the other side of the park, so we had to walk from the first base side to the third base side. Why not number the sections in order?

    April 21, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Weird cycle lanes of Brighton

    Jeremy Nicholson writes:

    Here is a link to the Weird Cycle Lanes of Brighton website. This site catalogs the weird cycle lanes you can find in Brighton, U.K. There are bike lanes only 4-5 feet long, bike lanes that go through poles, and bike lanes which head straight into oncoming traffic. This site is pure gold!

    April 13, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: The Gap's placement of jeans

    Deborah Bancroft writes:

    Jeans at The Gap are generally folded neatly in wooden shelf units, arranged by size, so that customers can easily find what they are looking for. However, time after time, I have had to ask for help to get the size 4 jeans down from a shelf two feet above my head. Why don't they put the jeans for people they know are shorter where we can reach them? The Gap has turned an efficient serve-yourself process into a time-intensive customer support issue. Bizarre arrangement! And so easy to fix.

    April 7, 2004 12:01 AM

    Broken: Elevator up button

    Matthew Haughey writes:

    This is a blurry shot of the first elevator control panel you'll find in the lobby of the new Hilton, next to the Austin Convention Center in Texas. This is on the first floor of a 28 floor hotel.

    If you hit the top button, you'll set off the fire alarm and call the local fire department. The bottom button is used to go up to your hotel room. I wonder how many times people instinctively hit the top button, thinking it is the "up" button. They should get this very public and key component right.

    April 2, 2004 12:12 AM

    Broken: Union Station entrance

    Jason Finneyfrock writes:

    These signs were posted at the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C. A sign was posted outside which read, "Due to inclement weather please use revolving doors." However, a sign was posted on the revolving door which read, "Do not use revolving doors." A garbage can was also placed in the revolving door to stop people from using it.

    March 30, 2004 12:12 AM

    Broken: Epcot Center exit sign

    Kevin Frye writes:

    Here is a picture of a confusing exit sign that I saw while on vacation in Orlando, Florida.

    The sign is in the Epcot Center "Journey into the Imagination" gift shop. The sign seems ambiguous if you are not handicapped and just want to leave the building. The door to the right of the sign is simply an exit that is adjacent to the entrance for another attraction. Most of the people who I observed reading the sign were temporarily confused about which way to go.

    March 29, 2004 12:12 AM

    Broken: Detroit airport keycard instructions

    Ryan writes:

    I took this photo at Detroit Metro Airport. Odds are pretty good that a non-English speaking person or two are going to be in direct contact with this usability disaster.
    [Even this native English speaker has trouble understanding it. -mh]

    March 26, 2004 12:12 AM

    Broken: Stockholm subway buttons

    Sarah Jensen writes:

    These images are from the subway, or "tunnelbana" system, in Stockholm, Sweden. Two types of trains are in use these days: the old ones and the new ones. Both trains come equipped with "Open" buttons outside the trains' doors. Here's how the buttons work:

    On the old trains:
    During the winter the doors are kept closed, to keep the heat in, until the user presses the open button. During the summer the doors open automatically.

    On the new trains:
    The doors always open automatically, making the button completely irrelevant. In addition, there's a strange, circa 5 second pause (an eternity in the AM rush hour!) before the door opens, and I have often seen hopeful passengers pressing the "open" buttons to no avail. Since these buttons don't work I have no idea why they are on the trains at all!

    March 19, 2004 12:02 AM

    Broken: Copenhagen metro railings

    Morten Just writes:

    In the recently opened Copenhagen Metro Station the railings are flat. Flat enough to place a battery on (as in the images), and flat enough so that the battery can stand alone. That has several major, highly critical, risks. Among them are plaicing bottles on the railings; they then need only need one small push to fall 11 metres (36 feet) and hit somebody in the head.

    Tragically, the flat railings have also inspired at least two young men to walk on them. Both died from falling down to the underground platform 11 metres below them. After the second death, which occurred Sept. 2003, the Metro company decided to take action and change the railings. After one year of operation, they promised in a press release that they will have all railings changed to more secure ones by spring 2004.

    March 16, 2004 12:12 AM

    Broken: Elevator buttons

    This comes from Scott Heiferman, co-founder of and, and a speaker at the Gel conference on April 30.

    The buttons on this elevator are wired just like they're hand-labeled: the lower button calls the elevator to go up, and the upper button calls it to go down.

    March 11, 2004 12:11 AM

    Broken: Store entrance sign

    Pat Malecek writes:

    Here's an example of bad labeling and/or building codes gone awry. If it's not an entrance, don't put the "IN" arrow on it. Or if it's for employees only, mark it as such.

    March 4, 2004 09:01 AM

    Broken: Microsoft campus sign

    Neil Brewitt sends in this apparently contradictory sign from the Microsoft campus (which way do you turn for Building 40?), and writes:

    I took this photo about four years ago. Has Microsoft harnessed wormhole space travel?
    Neil also confirms, if you were wondering, that "there really is no Building 7."

    John writes:

    There is apparently a reason for the missing building 7 - from Dylan Greene's blog:

    "Even Microsoft employees sometimes forget which building is where. They weren't built in order, and some numbers are missing. The way the numbering works is that each time Microsoft plans a building, it gets a number. When projects are canceled or delayed, the buildings end up being built out of order or numbers go missing. A favorite prank is to send an intern to a meeting at building that doesn't exist.

    In the distance you can see the recruiting building. ~Dylan Greene"

    Grant writes:

    I work on the MS campus. While the sign looks amusing from that angle, but it's actually not broken at all. The sign is on a corner, so its two sides are being presented to people coming from roads 90 degrees apart. If you're coming from the road on the left, buildings 40-44 are behind you -- but the sign can't exactly tell you to go off in reverse. Thus, the arrow points off to the right, taking you around the block to the buildings. On the other hand, if you're coming from the road on the right, you can just go left and drive straight to those buildings.

    March 1, 2004 01:09 AM

    Broken: Fire door

    Mark Miletich writes, "I have walked past this door every day for 16 years."

    The door says "Fire door; keep locked." If you click to see the zoomed-out version, you'll see that it's a door without a handle. It can't be opened without a key. This is safe during a fire?

    February 26, 2004 12:47 AM

    Broken: Gym entrance

    Matt Wilkie sends in this picture forwarded to him by a friend. (We're not sure who took the picture or if it's legitimate - if you have details, please write in: broken at goodexperience dot com.)

    Update 2/26: Alice Matsumoto points us to this page (scroll all the way down), suggesting that the picture is legit.

    Update 3/9: Micah Dickerson writes, "I can corroborate the legitimacy of the photo. I've actually worked out at that location while visiting a friend."

    February 6, 2004 02:57 AM

    Broken: Modernist architecture

    Architectural critic James Howard Kunstler lets fly some blunt words against modernist (and other) architecture in his Eyesore of the Month. Be sure to click Previous Month at the bottom of each page.

    Pictured at right is Simmons Hall, MIT's newest dorm. Some MIT students call it the "Space Waffle," and apparently the architecture is so precious that students aren't allowed to move furniture around - furniture is actually bolted to the floor. Who's being served here?

    Jim Kunstler, by the way, spoke at last year's Gel conference - see the recap page for a transcript of his talk. (This year's Gel conference is coming up soon, on April 30 in New York City.)

    October 31, 2003 12:01 AM

    Broken: Playground design

     Mark Foley writes from London:

    These photographs were taken on a walk in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe in London.

    This is one of those things were you figure at least, say, five people must have been involved in the decision, and no-one at any point seemed to think it was a bad idea.

    Perhaps it's deliberate - so that parents can say, "If you don't place nice, now, you know what's going to happen..."

    October 24, 2003 08:32 AM

    Broken: Museum display

    Scott Wilkinson writes:

    The National Constitution Center, a high-tech history museum that sits across the street from Independence Hall (in background) and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA, cost over $150 million to build and just opened this past July 4th.

    Well, it didn't take long for browser problems to render useless these information kiosk screens at the museum's entrance! I'm glad the founding fathers didn't use HTML to write the Constitution!

    October 1, 2003 10:41 AM

    Broken: Harvard library dropbox

     Charles Henebry writes:

    These two pictures show the dropbox for Lamont Library, Harvard's undergraduate library in Harvard Yard. A new sign was put up recently to clarify when the dropbox should be used; unfortunately (as is clear from the close-up photo I've attached) the directions don't make sense.

    September 9, 2003 11:32 PM

    Broken: Macy's outdoor display

     Fred McCann writes:

    I almost walked right past this on the way to work. This is the big Macy's sign on the corner of 34th and 7th in Manhattan. [Picture taken August 4, 2003]

    Dsc00046Update Aug. 25, 2005: The original two pictures are down, but Billy Scott supplies us with this more recent example from summer '05.

    September 3, 2003 11:37 PM

    Broken: Bike path signage

     The bike path on the west side of Manhattan is a local favorite. Don't get me wrong - we love the bike path.

    The only problem is that the signage can be confusing. In the first picture, two stop signs compete with two green lights. Should the cyclist stop or go? Also notice that it's hard to tell that the trail isn't for walkers. Painted on the pavement just above the cyclist icon is the rollerblader icon, which looks an awful lot like a person walking.

    The second picture shows the markings on the pavement - triangles and perpendicular stripes - that (I assume) tell cyclists to slow down, stop if necessary, and allow pedestrians to cross at the crosswalk. But that's just a guess.

    Thanks to Peter Frishauf for the photos. He points us to "They are actually taking
    legal action over the stop signs.....apparently they are a violation of state law."

    August 7, 2003 06:00 AM

    Broken: Neon sign

    Micah Boswell sent in this photo of the Danals grocery store in Dallas, Texas. Unfortunately, the neon sign wasn't cooperating that evening.

    August 5, 2003 06:00 AM

    Broken: Parking meter installation

    Tym Lawrence writes from Vancouver:

    I took this photo on Saturday 12th July 2003 in Vancouver. There is a newly installed street sign and parking meter placed smack in the middle of a driveway to a parking lot. No one is going to be using that entrance again.

    July 23, 2003 06:00 AM

    Broken: Post office doors

     Matt Youell writes:

    These are two shots taken at the post office in Carmichael, CA. (For clarity, these are a pair of one-way doors at the front of the building.)
    I'd like to think that the problem is obvious. Just in case, I'll point out that the Do-Not-Enter/Do-Not-Exit doors both have pull-handles for your convenience. But hey, at least they're consistent.

    July 8, 2003 06:00 AM

    Broken: Shoe-sale racks

    Kathy Setzer from Frog Design writes: Retailers almost always rack their sale shoes from smallest size (at the top) to largest size (at the bottom). The problem? Those of us women with small feet tend to have the short legs to match! So we stand on tip toes and crane our necks to see the bargains in our sizes while presumably taller women bend farther down to retrieve their sale shoes from the rack.

    July 2, 2003 06:00 AM

    Broken: Dangerous intersections

    Found on the State Farm site: the 10 most dangerous intersections in the U.S. Photos aren't as damning as you might expect, but I'd guess their list is accurate, since they have data on where the most crashes occur.
    (Click the image to zoom in.)

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