Walking Routes in Downtown Cincinnati

Walking Routes in Downtown Cincinnati

Have you noticed these directional signs in downtown Cincinnati? I’ve been seeing them for the last few months. At first, I thought this was some sort of prank: the signs are almost too official-looking with their Modern pedestrian icons, arrows and distances. So, basically these are instructions for how to use the sidewalk, right?

I couldn’t tell if the sign signified that the walking route lasts for 3 miles or begins in 3 miles. So strange… Then I saw this pair of signs at the corner of 8th and Race:

Walking Routes in Downtown Cincinnati

What the what? Which way do I go?

Next to Fountain Square, I finally found an answer of sorts, in the form of a larger map showing three walking routes:

Walking Routes in Downtown Cincinnati

So, let me get this straight. People should be getting more exercise, and walking is an easy way to do it. I certainly can’t argue with that. But three distinct walking routes? Through a small downtown business district? Which features a straightforward grid and East and West numbered streets? Is this for real?

Walking Routes in Downtown Cincinnati

As a graphic designer, I love to think about how important, pervasive and persuasive my field is, but this scheme is basically a Rube Goldberg machine rendered in gratuitous signage. Am I wrong?

What kind of urban environment encourages walking? For starters, you need maintained sidewalks, appropriate lighting, interesting architecture, storefront businesses, places to stop [sidewalk benches and parks] and places to get out of the elements [arcades and awnings]. You need things to walk to and also things to walk past. You also need a perception of safety, and seeing other pedestrians helps in that regard. Understanding your physical surroundings is an issue but, as I mentioned, downtown Cincinnati is easy to understand.

As someone who walks through downtown all the time, I can attest to the fact that it’s walkable regardless of this signage. It can be unpleasant, though, and these signs don’t fix that. It’s pretty obvious that Cincinnati is not a pedestrian-friendly town, even downtown. NYC is famous for its aggressive drivers, but Cincinnati’s drivers are aggressive and clueless.

I’m reminded of the “love tap” I received from an SUV backing out of a parking lot at full speed, and also of the gentleman who called me a “fucking whore” because he almost hit me while running a red light. I’ve seen drivers go half a block in the wrong direction on a one-way street as a shortcut to a parking lot. It seems like everybody runs red lights — not just regular schmucks, but school buses, cop cars, mail trucks, and Metro buses.

If I were in charge of an initiative to encourage walking, I would just send all the drivers in for a refresher course, to unlearn that a yellow light means “speed up” and a red light means “gun it.”


10 thoughts on “Walking Routes in Downtown Cincinnati

  1. ha! i love it. especially the last bit. as a non-native to cincinnati, i had to quickly learn in order to survive that it is allowable for at least one car/bus/horse drawn carriage to run a red light. especially if it’s to make a left turn. this should really be included in the bmv pamphlets.

  2. Do any of these incorporate the skywalks in some interesting way? I just don’t get it, and what’s sad is that the city probably paid some consulting firm mega bucks for this and spent years on it. It’s probably some new trend called “Urban Trail Markings.” They threw around the idea of colored Xes spray painted on poles, but then thought better of it and made the signs.

    None of these even go down to the freaking river. WTF?

  3. Maybe the motorist cussed you out because you weren’t on a designated walking route?
    There used to be signs up touting “Queen City Tour”. There weren’t any tours – just signs here & there.

  4. WTF is right. The Queen City Tour signs are still there, along with the system of Skywalk signs, the 1980s-style green/brown/mesh signs directing drivers toward landmarks, and the various other levels of signage. It’s a freaking informational cacophony.

  5. Queen City Tour – too funny! My parents’ native Cincinnati friends used to organize Saturday night “Queen City Tours” with a group of friends – it was their name for going somewhere fun for dinner, then being taken to some out of the way spot like CityView as part of the “tour” in the ’80s.

    Also in the ’80s, we thought it was really cool that we could get from the Westin to Shillito’s via skywalk.

    Come to think of it, I’ve never heard people use the word “native” to describe themselves more than in Cincy.

  6. What is or was the Queen City Tour? A driving tour of the city’s sights?

    One of these days I should put together photos of all the various sign systems I see downtown and in OTR. Seriously, there are too many cooks in the signage kitchen…

  7. “It’s a freaking informational cacophony.”

    Hahaha, this cracked me up. I have not seen this word in awhile and this is by far my favorite use of it! Oh and I worked with a firm that did public signage for the local government and it was such a pain in the ass. Becky is right, lots of time is spent on it and thus lots of money is spent too. The channels those people go to get approval to make minute changes is a ridiculous.

  8. Pingback: make cincinnati weird » Blog Archive » Walking Routes in Downtown Cincinnati

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