Backbone Bikeway Network : Wayfinding and Signage
One great benefit of using a bicycle for transportation in Los Angeles is that you become highly aware of the topography and composition of the city. With unencumbered perception atop two wheels it becomes increasingly easy to navigate from one way point to the next. Listen, or follow a more experienced cyclist and you can learn even more tricks to plot your way or notice more landmarks to visit. Human infrastructure like this is priceless — especially when it results in increased safety and knowledge of all cyclists in general.
Unfortunately we’ve come to a time where this human infrastructure is just not enough to guarantee safety out there. We have to admit that the streets are mostly designed to exclude the bicycle and that there isn’t enough actual infrastructure right now to make a difference for cyclists, pedestrians or motorists. By focusing so much of our resources on the needs and wants of the car the people of Los Angeles have suffered a great loss when it comes to the quality of life. The Backbone Bikeway Network is dedicated to improving the streets and communities across the city: opening the streets to where people need to go and where they already commonly travel. While various forms of streetworks like bike lanes, sharrows and bike boxes will provide a safe environment for everyone to travel it would be worthless without a system of signage and wayfinding to navigate the Backbone.
Once the Backbone is in place it is essential for people to be able to use it in a very practical and almost effortless way. Signs informing cyclists of Backbone Bikeway Network direction changes and to confirm distance, direction, and destination allows cyclists and pedestrians (and even motorists) to know their location if they are not already familiar with the area. Wayfinding signage would encourage more people to use the Backbone and make bicycling integral to our daily life. It would bring together the neighborhoods that are left so disconnected today.
Q: I need to get from NELA to the beach.
A: Take the Fig Backbone and follow the directional signs.
Q: How far it is from the Harbor to the Valley?
Find and read the Backbone sign that indicates the distance.
Q: I’m on vacation and trying to find Hollywood.
A: Follow the Backbone signs pointing to the Hollywood Neighborhood Network.
Q: I’m in Hollywood and need to go to Venice.
A: Just follow the Backbone signs to the Venice Neighborhood Network.
Many cities have a strong wayfinding and signage program.
[ref. image : City of Oakland, CA]
Providing a Backbone Bikeway Network complete with wayfinding signage would benefit the City of Los Angeles in many more ways than just safety and ease of access. It would provide an alternate choice for people that have trouble with traffic congestion, inconsiderate drivers, and parking limitations. More people would find it easier to travel within and outside their immediate communities without the troubled use of a car. There are many people who are willing to use a bike in place of a car; yet, they have a valid excuse that it is “scary to ride” and there is “no clear space for bicycles”. The difficulty of choosing a route without knowing the streets would be solved by having a few well marked Backbone Bikeways to choose from. The danger of “trial and error” bike commuting would be eliminated for all but the most hardcore cyclist.
Many cities around the country have existing wayfinding and signage programs in place with their bicycling infrastructure: Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, and DC for example. The signage in these cities make them so much easier to experience than my own hometown of LA. Five years ago, when I was living Downtown, Los Angeles introduced a small wayfinding and signage program to assist navigation in the most dense and busy area of the city. Councilwoman Jan Perry spoke about the program that brought together the Downtown districts,
“This icon driven system will have the effect of transforming Downtown into a user-friendly series of neighborhoods. This will help both visitors and residents fully enjoy all that Downtown has to offer. The program’s success is the direct result of incredible teamwork from many different government and business organizations. Together, we are crystallizing the position that Downtown LA holds as the major business, tourist and residential destination in the U.S.”
The Backbone Bikeway Network and it’s supporting signage will be trans-formative to the whole city and reflect that all the neighborhoods are an important part of Los Angeles as a major international destination. It would give priority back to the people. It would finally make streets that work.