Saturday, March 4, 2017

How Did the Lawyer Cross the Road?

Waiting to cross a four-lane stroad* the other day, I fell into a reverie after I pushed the beg button* and waited for the light to change.

The long light (much too long, from the point of view of a pedestrian on a cold day) did give me time to take this photo of the sign that accompanies the beg button:

I have no helpful thoughts right now on how this sign could be better designed, but can we all agree that this is an unacceptable piece of public information? It would take at least a minute to fully process everything it says. A couple of minor points that make it worse:

  • The use of initial capital letters on every word, which impairs readability.
  • The long arrow pointing left between the words PUSH BUTTON and TO CROSS... which a reasonable reader might think was pointing to the button in question, but is actually pointing to the crossing direction. The button is down below.
One thing is for sure: lawyers had a hand in this design.


* Stroad: A street/road hybrid that mixes high speeds with pedestrians, bikers, and turning traffic. Usually four or more lanes wide. Also expensive to build and maintain.

* Beg button: Remember how traffic lights used to turn green and that meant you could walk? Then the engineers added a white humanoid shape to go with the green light, and a red hand to go with the red light. Then someone decided it was safer to make pedestrians push a button to get the white humanoid shape to show up; no button pushing, no walk sign. While the buttons are probably meant to give pedestrians a longer amount of time to cross than a regular green light, they imply that car drivers are the real people while pedestrians are something less than secondary.

No comments: