How many signs make too many?
Stop. Pedestrian crossing ahead. Yield here for pedestrians. Pedestrian crossing here. Stop ahead. Stop.
“People coming out of Mass at St. Mary’s were talking to me: ‘What’s going on there?’ It’s sign pollution,” said Selectman Bob Hebert.
On the short block of High Ridge with St. Mary Church on one side and St. Mary School on the other, between Catoonah Street and Barry Avenue, there are — depending on how you count — at least a dozen traffic signs, in addition to crosswalks and arrows painted on the pavement.
A driver northbound on High Ridge would encounter a ‘Stop’ sign, Catoonah Street, a ‘Yield Here to Pedestrians’ sign, a ‘Pedestrians Crossing’ sign, a ‘Stop Sign Ahead’ sign, a ‘Stop’ sign, then the intersection of Barry Avenue.
Southbound on High Ridge, a driver entering the same block encounters: an ‘All Way Stop’ sign, Barry Avenue, a ‘Pedestrian Crossing Ahead’ sign, a driveway with arrows pointing in as well as two ‘Entrance Only’ signs, a ‘Stop Sign Ahead’ sign, a ‘Yield Here to Pedestrians’ sign, a ‘Pedestrian Crossing’ sign, a ‘State Law, Yield to Pedestrians Within Crosswalk’ sign, a ‘Stop’ sign, and then Catoonah Street.
Quite a few signs, really.
“Up by St. Mary’s — Catoonah, the corner by High Ridge: Have you seen the number of signs on that road?” Hebert said at the end of the Sept. 6 selectmen’s meeting.
“There’s a lot of sign pollution,” he said. “It’s almost laughable. It’s looking like a joke. Ninety percent of them are brand new.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi was sympathetic to his colleague’s puzzlement.
“In this budget crisis, why are we spending so much on signs?” he said.
“If they did one for one,” Marconi suggested. “Put one up, take one down.”
The board took no action — it was just one of those things that came up in conversation at the end of the meeting.
But Selectman Hebert did take some time out the next day to give a quick tour of the site and its visual assault of what is often called “signage” these days.
He wondered about the value of signs that warn of another sign coming up ahead — especially when they’re less than a stone’s throw apart.
“You need the big ‘Stop Ahead’ sign to tell you there’s a ‘Stop’ sign there?” he said.
Hebert said a good number of people had spoken to him about the proliferation of signs.
“Over the course of a few days, probably half a dozen people,” he said.
He noted the driveway into the big parking lot in front of St. Mary School. Big white arrows painted on the pavement, pointing in, and also two small signs, one on either side, proclaiming: ‘Entrance Only.’
“These arrows aren’t enough to tell you it’s an entrance only?” he said. “We need not one but two signs?”
What do all those signs say?
“We’ve taken this to a new level of dumbing down America,” Hebert said.
It is a busy spot, with not only a lot of traffic but pedestrians attracted by the school and church, and parking for both, as well as lots of through traffic.
Hebert noted the frequency with which drivers ignore the new, larger ‘Stop’ signs at the intersection.
“All these signs,” he said, “and people still just blow through it.”