Thursday, May 26, 2016

Caution - Road Sign Ahead

Following up on yesterday's minirant in favor of small government, here's another installment illustrating to what extent we are subject to its often-hard-to-fathom whims.

Government Reverses Its Course on Highway Fonts
Highway signs will soon get a new look—or an old one, depending on your perspective. According to CityLab, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently announced they will change fonts from Clearview—a typeface designed to improve legibility for drivers—to Highway Gothic, a font that was developed in the 1940s and used on road signs until 2004.

... Highway Gothic was problematic for aging drivers with poor eyes, since its letters turned into a bright blur from the reflection of headlights at night. In contrast, Clearview was less tightly spaced, and mixed lowercase and uppercase styles. Designers thought this would help people see sign lettering better in the dark and from long distances.
So far, so good. Who could argue with making road signs easier to read, especially for old farts with failing vision, like yours truly.
Initial studies suggested that Clearview was easier for drivers to read, and in 2004 around 30 states chose the font for their own signs when the FHWA gave them the option to switch.
Ah, but the plot thickens...
Now, according to CityLab, the FHWA says that research shows that Clearview actually makes it harder to read signs ... the reason Clearview might have seemed easier to read was simply because the new font meant that older, worn-down signs were being replaced with fresh ones.
Ten years and who knows how many taxpayer dollars to figure out that new signs are easier to read than old, faded ones.

Sigh...
The FHWA stopped approving Clearview at least two years ago. In the meantime, signs with Clearview lettering won’t be taken down, but as they age they will be replaced with Highway Gothic signs.
Here's the difference.

Click to embiggen.

Only a government agency could spend a decade, along with tons of cash, on something as trivial as this.


7 comments:

Randy H said...

I remember when we switched to clearview. At first we were skeptical. Then as more and more signs were installed, we could definitely see the difference. We had never before received comments about the font on our signs, until clearview came along. For once it seemed the Feds got it right.

As for signs being replaced as they age, that was a regular occurrence anyway. Even going so far as to have multimillion $ projects just to replace and upgrade signs.

Sounds like a new generation is now in charge and they want to leave 'their' mark, discarding years of institutional knowledge. It happens every few decades it seems in that line of work.

Old NFO said...

Those last two... THOSE!!! Sigh...

CenTexTim said...

Randy - interesting perspective. It does seem like Clearview is more readable, but I wish they had done a side-by-side comparison of new signs, instead of comparing old Highway Gothic and new Clearview. That just doesn't make sense.

NFO - Those were just the two most egregious examples. There were many, many more to chose from...

Toejam said...

The article forgot to mention the "new" signs will be "bi-lingual" :"Arabic & Mandarin".

CenTexTim said...

Toejam - don't forget "Transgendered."

Toejam said...

Transgender language?

That's just "lip service"!

CenTexTim said...

Booo...

Zip your lip... :-)