It’s always interesting to hear someone’s first impressions of something that has become an everyday part of your life. Brandon Dalton, a transportation planner and advocate from Salt Lake City, wrote about his recent experience biking on Seattle’s Burke-Gilman Trail, and some of his favorite aspects of the trail were ones I often overlook.
Like the wayfinding on the trail and around the city, which Dalton said allowed him to get around without needing a map:
I was surprised at how many pictures I took of marking signs and wayfinders. It seemed to me that the Burke-Gilman Trail was extremely navigable by theses signs, perhaps even easier than using a map in some cases. I also noticed this in the greater parts of Seattle where I bicycled to.
In fact, Dalton found the bicycle wayfinding in the city better than signage for people on foot:
As a pedestrian in most parts of Seattle I felt easily disoriented and lost, without having to check the map app on my phone, but this is in some part due to me being a visitor and unfamiliar with most of the places I went to.
This is a great review of SDOT’s ongoing signage work and a sign that the many miles of new signs each year is paying off. A big impediment to more people biking is the fear of getting lost. If people could hop on a bike and trust that the city’s signs will lead them where they need to go, we would see a whole lot more people biking (and more people choosing safer routes, too).
Portland’s neighborhood greenway planners Greg Raisman and Mark Lear described wayfinding signage as part of the city’s 1/1 scale map. I like that way of looking at it.
Beyond signage, Dalton noted the trail-side businesses and commented on the way the trail crosses intersections with streets and driveways (hey, we just wrote about that!). Unfortunately, it sounds like he actually witnessed a collision at Fred Meyer when a person driving out of the parking lot stopped right in the middle of the trail crossing, causing someone on a bike to crash into the side of the car. Luckily, nobody was hurt. But this reinforces the idea that the trail’s crossings remain the biggest shortfall of an otherwise world-class facility.