Highway sign fonts and other fixes for American roads

The use of Clearview font on highway signs is ending:

In a notice posted in the Federal Register on Monday, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration announced a small change that has huge implications for the nation. The agency terminated an order it had issued back in 2004 approving the use of a new font in highway signs. Now those signs are going to change. Again…

Clearview was made to improve upon its predecessor, a 1940s font called Highway Gothic, at a time when an aging Baby Boomer generation meant lots of older drivers on the road. Certain letters appeared to pose visibility problems, especially those with tight interstices (or internal spacing)—namely lowercase e, a, and s. At night, any of these reflective letters might appear to be a lowercase o in the glare of headlights…

Officials in Canada and Indonesia have promoted Clearview as a standard. Transport, which was designed for U.K. roads by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, is the most famous example of a systemic transportation font standard. Clearview evolved as an outside recommendation, a best-practices approach from the private sphere, not as a regulatory shift. In the U.S., Meeker says, institutional interest in better standardization is tepid.“Traffic design is the greatest public manifestation of government on any given day,” Meeker says, “and yet it’s the most dreadful, tired, unresearched, undesigned part of the public interface with government.”

For a country that emphasizes driving, Americans can be oddly disinterested in best practices for road design. Perhaps that love of the freedom that driving offers carries over to thinking about roads: every driver for themselves. Beyond this story about moving away from an easier-to-read font, here are some other ways American roads could be improved:

Road diets – limiting or taking away lanes – would actually help limit traffic and can improve safety.

-Encouraging mass transit use (though often difficult) can help reduce congestion.

Zipper merges are more efficient for drivers.

-Paying for road maintenance now may not be thrilling or seem as pressing as other concerns but it can pay off down the road.

Synchronizing traffic signals can reduce congestion and save time.

-Certain road signs, such as those asking drivers to slow down for children, do not necessarily help. In fact, they may be ignored or even distract.

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