Signs Of The Times

Imagine traveling down a street or road that is completely void of signs. Difficult, isn’t it?

It's time to re-evaluate your signs.

Take a look at old photographs and postcards of cities and towns from the turn of the 20th century and you will be amazed by the lack of signs. Compare that to traveling today where signs are like wallpaper, thanks to the automobile and greater mobility.

As park and recreation professionals, we can give customers a break from being bombarded with signs at every turn.

In thinking ahead to next year’s budget, now might be a good time to evaluate signage throughout the parks.

Is the sign readable? Is it effective? What is the sign’s condition? Is it really necessary?

Whether you have an in-house sign production shop or you have to out-source signs, and regardless of whether signs are wood, aluminum, composite, or recycled plastic, the costs continue to escalate at an unpredictable rate.

Combine these factors with issues such as budget cuts and upcoming changes in the requirement for sign retroreflectvity, and the need for effective signage is even more important.

Functional Roadway Signs

First, let’s examine the basic types of signs and the functions they serve. Roadway signs are covered in the federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. Most–if not all–individual state manuals follow the federal manual closely.

There are three basic types of signs:

1. Regulatory–Notice of traffic laws or regulations (e.g., “Stop,” “Do Not Enter,” and speed-limit signs).

2. Warning–Notice of a situation that might not be readily apparent. These are typically yellow, diamond-shaped signs, such as “Curve in Road,” “Pedestrian Crossing,” and “Stop Ahead.”

3. Guide–Route designations, destinations, directions, distances, services, points of interest, and other geographical, recreational, or cultural information.

Examining Retroreflectivity

As of January 22, 2012, agencies will be required to develop and implement an assessment or management method designed to maintain sign-retroreflectivity at or above minimum levels. By January 22, 2015, agencies must replace all regulatory, warning, and guide signs that fail to meet the established minimum levels.

Lastly, all street-name signs that fail to meet the minimum levels must be replaced by January 22, 2018.

Are your signs in good repair?

Although these requirements are mandatory for traffic signs only, it is important that park signs remain uniform with all other signs because they help users recognize and understand the signs easily.

Retroreflectivity is the ability of a sign to show the same shape and similar color by both day and night. In sign material, it is achieved with the use of microscopic glass beads or micro-prisms. A thorough explanation of the measurement of light and how reflective sheeting is graded would require a considerable amount of time and space.

Suffice it to say that replacement signs should be made of a minimum of high-intensity, ASTM Type III material. If this sounds confusing, you are not alone. Fortunately, your state department of transportation–as well as numerous sign suppliers–can help steer you in the right direction.

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