Getting the message right

Northfield prohibits riding bicycles (skateboards and rollerblades) on downtown sidewalks. This ordinance makes sense on Division Street – a busy, pedestrian street with pretty narrow sidewalks populated with street furniture, sidewalk dining, signs, trees, and trash/recycling containers and the people using all of them.

The negative message: Here’s what Northfield stencils on their downtown sidewalks: NO BIKES!

No Bikes!
No Bikes!

Tell or show people what to do:  But really, “No Bikes” is not the message I think we want to convey in Northfield. Rather, bikes welcome, but walk them on the limited sidewalk real estate.  Here’s one way we might improve the messaging to tell people what we want them to do:

Clear and concise
More precise and less negative

And here is another, somewhat broader but equally positive message showing (rather than merely telling) people what to do, rather than what not to do.

Another way (Photo: Transportation Psychologist)
Another way (Photo: Transportation Psychologist)

Show where the bikes go: Then, after showing people what’s desired on the sidewalk, Northfield could also add additional bike-friendly pavement markings like sharrows on Division Street.  Sharrows are no substitute for bike lanes, but on Division Street, with slow-moving traffic as well as angled and parallel parking, sharrows would reinforce the message “Bikes should ride here (and the sharrows could help position cyclists out of the door zone, or far enough from the angled parking to be seen) and not on the sidewalk.

Sharrows
Sharrows to avoid the door zone (Photo: Cornell Local Roads Program)

Extra credit: Reverse the angled parking so drivers can see people on bikes (and pedestrians) better when pulling out of parking spots.

2 Replies to “Getting the message right”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.