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Needless. Mindless. Useless Embarrassing.

The public realm is being increasingly degraded and disfigured by pointless signs. They’ve got to go

John Dales
27 April 2012
Exhibit A says it’s important, but it’s not even remotely so. It’s large and sits in the middle of an often crowded overbridge at York station. There aren’t any usable handrails on the overbridge in any case, and passengers are perfectly capable using their own judgement for such decisions.
Exhibit A says it’s important, but it’s not even remotely so. It’s large and sits in the middle of an often crowded overbridge at York station. There aren’t any usable handrails on the overbridge in any case, and passengers are perfectly capable using their own judgement for such decisions.
Exhibit B is one of several on the modern footbridges within the Merchant Square development in Paddington Basin. In so far as these signs need to be there at all, what they should really say is, ‘Sorry: we designed this bridge badly.’
Exhibit B is one of several on the modern footbridges within the Merchant Square development in Paddington Basin. In so far as these signs need to be there at all, what they should really say is, ‘Sorry: we designed this bridge badly.’
Exhibit C gives a far from welcoming welcome to Maidenhead and is again disingenuous in saying that station authorities are ‘Serious about YOUR safety’. What they’re serious about is claim-avoidance. ‘You can’t say we didn’t tell you’ would be a more honest coda.
Exhibit C gives a far from welcoming welcome to Maidenhead and is again disingenuous in saying that station authorities are ‘Serious about YOUR safety’. What they’re serious about is claim-avoidance. ‘You can’t say we didn’t tell you’ would be a more honest coda.
Exhibit D is a simply ridiculous collection of signs. ‘Road Closed’ would be quite enough on its own, with pedestrians and cyclists being perfectly capable of responding to the temporary circumstances without this ‘help’. Of course, cyclists do not dismount, nor do they need to.
Exhibit D is a simply ridiculous collection of signs. ‘Road Closed’ would be quite enough on its own, with pedestrians and cyclists being perfectly capable of responding to the temporary circumstances without this ‘help’. Of course, cyclists do not dismount, nor do they need to.
Exhibit E is within the British Library precinct and principally announces that the fancy materials they decided to use for their public realm were poorly specified. In such a high profile location, this combination of ugliness, obstruction and dishonesty is especially embarrassing.
Exhibit E is within the British Library precinct and principally announces that the fancy materials they decided to use for their public realm were poorly specified. In such a high profile location, this combination of ugliness, obstruction and dishonesty is especially embarrassing.
Exhibit F shows a total of six signs (three for each direction of approach) deployed to give instructions about how to negotiate a single rising/falling bollard.
Exhibit F shows a total of six signs (three for each direction of approach) deployed to give instructions about how to negotiate a single rising/falling bollard.
 

You may think I often use this page to ‘go off on one’, but this month I’m in need of a full-on cathartic rant. The issue that’s got me close to seething point is the proliferation of stupid signs in the streets and spaces used by thousands of people every day. Although these signs ostensibly warn us about things we should be aware of or avoid, their chief purpose is to cover the backside of pusillanimous individuals who seem to fear, above all, that they may get blamed...

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John Dales

John Dales

John Dales MSC BSC MCIHT CMILT Director, Urban Mov

John is a traffic engineer, transport planner and urban designer with 29 years’ professional experience that spans from strategic transport planning to concept design. Well known as a champion of better town and city streets, he was Director being responsible for Urban Initiatives’ Movement + Streets portfolio before founding Urban Movement. John is an urban realm design advisor to several UK local authorities, including the City of Edinburgh, the London Borough of Ealing and Southend Borough Council, as well as a Design Review Panellist for Transport for London and Urban Design London.

He is a Trustee of Living Streets, was a contributing author to Manual for Streets 2, and is a former Board member of the Transport Planning Society. He’s an experienced trainer of other transport practitioners, a regular conference speaker and chair, and has been author of a monthly article in Local Transport Today on ‘Transport in Urban Design’ since 2005.

 

j.dales@urbanmovement.co.uk
+44 (0)7768 377 150
www.johndales.com

 

 
 
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