Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Misplaced creativity on the Southwest Bike Path

Brain Teaser on Madison's Southwest Bike Path
It's certainly an interesting abstract pattern -- but if you're biking along Madison's Southwest Bike Path at a decent clip, heading south near Brittingham Bay, you may be across the railroad tracks before you ever figure out what, exactly, the sign means. If you can figure it out, you probably don't need it. And if you do need it, you probably can't figure it out.

This may be a stupid question, but why don't they use one of the universally recognizable symbols for a railroad crossing used on roads and highways? Aren't creativity and originality rather counterproductive in a warning sign? Just wondering.


Sean said...

The X shaped signs and lights are used when the track is directly in front of the oncoming traffic. In this situation, the track is close enough to the intersection that traffic turning left might not see the more traditional warnings before encountering the track. Also, traffic could turn right and not cross the track at all. The symbols on this sign are the same as for cars on state highways, such as you'll find on highway 14 west of Madison as the highway parallels the track.

Madison Guy said...

Thanks for explaining, Sean -- although the idea of this sign being used on highways is sort of spooky. I understand the intent of the sign, but still think it's hard to figure out at speed if you're not already familiar with it -- especially at highway speed. In the case of a road that makes a quick little jog across a railroad track, maybe they should think about springing for a flashing red warning light, and words instead of just a confusing graphic. Part of the problem is that "T" shape. That's what catches the eye, then the railroad track -- and by the time you figure it out, you're already on the track.