I got an invitation to attend a webinar at OCTA. The subject interested me — pedestrian wayfinding signs and the cities that have undertaken big projects to make visitors more comfortable as they navigate tourist sites.
Maybe 2 years ago I organized a webinar for Angel Capital Association, so I was familiar with the format. Unless someone, like I did, insists on something other than the typical format — show a slide and read the bullets to the audience — these webinar gatherings can be deadly. This was.
I fidgeted and played with my phone. One speaker referenced the work of Kevin Lynch, a planner and prolific author, but he wrote in the 1950’s, so I imagined his perspectives have probably been incorporated into more modern theories by now. I passed on buying his book.
The concept of creating a system of wayfinding maps and ‘heads-up’ signs across the city makes a lot of sense. Newport Beach is loaded with tourists and as we attract more of them by bike, it’s easy to imagine they will appreciate wayfinding signs.
As I prepared to depart, before the final speaker presented, there was something I wanted to take with me. There was a beautiful rendering, must have been a handout at a prior meeting in the room, of a highway expansion, the 91 Fwy at the 241. Some traffic engineer wizard had found a way to squeeze another lane into the roadway; I’m sure he was charged with improving traffic flow through this bottleneck. The 11×17 print was framable, in my opinion, so I slid it into the pile of webinar handouts and took it with me. I may indeed frame it because besides the beautiful rendering, it’s a sign of the times. We’re living through the tail end of an era where traffic engineers everywhere are trying to squeeze more cars by adding one or two more lanes.
Do they think about what comes next? What’s the encore to this act? Will we be double-decking the 405 someday soon?
When will these planners and traffic engineers wake up? It’s apparent to me and many of my bicycle advocate pals — none of this effort is sustainable. The federal transportation budget is a fiscal nightmare; there’s little money to maintain the infrastructure we already have. It’s not a secret; too many legislators know this yet they spite active transportation projects like Safe Routes to Schools by cutting funding.
Seems like priorities are backward. Potential solutions are pushed further into the future where they’re bound to hurt more and cost a whole lot more. Seems like someone should be trying to start a dialog, to take a new look at transportation choices. But as it stands right now in Orange County, we are totally dependent on the single-family car.
Wayfinding signs to assist out of town visitors — I’m all for it, but we have many more pressing transportation challenges. We need to find our way out of this mess.