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:
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:
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?
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.”