Caution!!! This is a Sign!!!

The Parks Branch of the City of Edmonton is currently running a signage pilot program on a section of multi-use trail in the river valley.

I think this is a great idea, because the trail system is not as user friendly as it could or should be. I have a typical cycling loop that is about 45km - all within the city and fairly central - and on that route I think I pass maybe 3 or 4 trail maps. For anyone who is not familiar with the river valley, the chance of them stumbling across informative signage is basically zero. So I'm glad that the city is working to improve this, and I hope that these new wayfinding tools might encourage a few tourists (or locals) to explore that trail system.

Here is one of the new signs:

First, the bad:

They're not well thought out.
They're not very helpful.
They're sort of ugly.

The giant Caution at the top of the sign makes no sense. These are multi-use trails and not a freeway. You're not traveling at 80km/h, and you don't need to be warned that there's an intersection ahead because you can see it right in front of you. And anyway, the print on the sign is so small that in order to read it you have to be standing in the intersection, looking at a sign telling you that you're at an intersection. It's ridiculous.

There is also a real risk with sticking Caution signs everywhere because it devalues locations where they might actually be important. If what they want is a yield sign for safety then they should put a yield sign - a Caution sign on a stick doesn't mean anything to anyone. Traveling through an area that has many of these signs it is natural to assume that they are just marking something like an underground utility, and that they are unimportant. Training trail-users to ignore Caution signs is the last thing that the Parks Branch should want.

The signs are also lacking a key piece of information - distances. "The High Level Bridge is up ahead somewhere" is not helpful. What's even less helpful is that if you follow this sign the Groat Bridge (which isn't listed) is less that 1km away, but the High Level Bridge is another 2km beyond that. There is plenty of room to add distances, but it is also important that the information that is listed is consistent. All nearby river crossings should be identified because they are fairly rare, and because if you cross the river once then you need to make sure you can get back. Intersections, major parks and trailheads should be prioritized as well.

Finally, the signs are unnecessarily ugly. I like to think that improved signage and wayfinding markers could help to make the river valley more friendly and welcoming, but unfortunately these signs just make it look like a crimescene. Information for trail-users should be a helpful resource and not something to be scared of.

So that is what I don't like about the signs. What do I like?

More signage is definitely needed on the multi-use trail system.
The city is going for a look that is consistent and visible and that says "This is important" rather than "This is a sign that is brown" like most of the existing signage.
The new signs appear inexpensive and should be mostly vandalism-proof, so they could be installed throughout the trail system at low cost.

How would I improve them?


As far as I'm concerned, labeling these signs as Caution completely misses the point. What they are providing is Information, and that is how they should be identified. This is a really simple change, but I think it's a huge improvement.

Better 2

Taking things one step further, something like this contains the information that I would like to see. The text is still small enough that you need to stop to be able to read it, but it is basically an info booth - if you are lost then stopping isn't a problem. Ideally a small map of the nearby trails could also be added on the back (similar to what is done on some bus-stops), but I don't think that would fit on the signs the city has chosen. Even without that though, placing these wayfinding markers frequently and then installing eye-catching maps of the full trail system at every river crossing, major park and trailhead would make the parks system much more inviting.

The city is looking for input on this pilot project at

The EPS Strikes Again

Not much to say of late, but the Edmonton Police Service has brought me out of semi-retirement. It's nearly fall and school is back in session, so that means it's time for their annual ineffectual anti-jaywalking crackdown and hullabaloo.

Two years ago they conveniently misrepresented statistics to blame pedestrians for silly things like cars that backed over them; cars that left the road; and cars that ran stopsigns. Sadly the links to any related articles are long dead, but I saved a quote from the September 28, 2009 Edmonton Journal article Pedestrians at fault in 59 per cent of injury accidents: EPS

41 per cent of drivers in injury accidents involving pedestrians were found to have failed to yield the right of way. That means in the other 59 per cent, the pedestrians were at fault...According to EPS statistics, 404 pedestrians were struck in the city in 2008. In 18 per cent of cases, pedestrians were crossing without right of way.

59% of pedestrians were at fault, but only 18% were crossing without the right of way? How was that supposed to work? Only the EPS knew, but it sure made a great headline. It was a real shining moment for the EPS' basic numeracy and logic skills. (for the record 18% was the correct number)

This year they're back with some graphic emotional blackmail:

From inews880


Acting Sergeant Jerrid Maze explains that decals depicting a jaywalker who had been hit are supposed to act as a warning. "It's supposed to look like a fourteen-to-fifteen-year-old girl," Maze explains. "She's dressed in blue jeans and a pink top, and she has a backpack on. It's supposed to look like she's been struck by a vehicle, so her eyes are closed and she'll be laying on the sidewalk."

These will be on sidewalks around the city for the next year, and the first location just happens to be at my long ago elementary school.

So what do the latest statistics say?

In Edmonton in 2010 pedestrians crossing without the right of way accounted for a whopping 14% of injuries or fatalities.

In Alberta in 2010 only 31% of drivers in pedestrian collisions were driving properly.

Those pesky pedestrians always being run over in marked crosswalks by law-breaking drivers. What's wrong with them?

Thinking about it though, emotionally manipulative decals are a great idea. The EPS is just using them wrong. Looking at the numbers, this is the issue we should be addressing:

Jaywalk maim
(slogan borrowed from

Jaywalk fault

Jaywalk brains

Jaywalk complicated

Jaywalk txt

Jaywalk toaster

Photoshopping is fun, and anyone can play!
Jaywalk blank

Updated to add: the EPS campaign got a mention on