What the hell is happening to SF’s iconic street signs?

Looks weird, right? That’s because it’s supposed to be in ALL CAPS but it’s not. Our pal TK of 40 Going On 28 did some digging and came upon a horrible truth:

“In 2009, the city adopted something called the Federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which says street signs are harder to read in all capital letters.”

[...]

DO YOU REALIZE WHAT THIS MEANS? We will slowly convert citywide to boring, lowercase signs. In fact, we may be the last generation of San Franciscans to enjoy ALL CAPS street signs. I wonder how long before there aren’t any left.

Sad beans! Read on for more pics and analysis.

(Although, I used to write all the captions to my photos on Tumblr in all caps and then my friend Tag made fun of me for it so I stopped, and I think my Tumblr got better because of it somehow. Maybe San Francisco will get better too?)

[Photo by rickinsf]

54 Responses to “What the hell is happening to SF’s iconic street signs?”

  1. David says:

    Jesus calm down. This looks way better.

  2. doo doo brown says:

    ya’ll really aint got anything better to think (complain) about? nostalgia for something seriously undeserving of nostalgia.

  3. m.j.z. says:

    i just noticed this this weekend at chenery & miguel. the all caps are easier to read from distance because the letters are larger.

    • Erik says:

      Actually the height of the letters makes relatively little difference. The shapes of lower-case letters are easier to distinguish from each other than the shapes of upper-case letters which is why they changed the rules.

      • Erik says:

        Put differently, being able to see slightly larger letters from a little further away doesn’t make much difference in overall safety, the ability for old people to be able to actually read the signs from a moderate or short distance is a much bigger improvement in safety.

      • m.j.z. says:

        how so? when i look at this sign i can see the f being confused with a t, but could not imagine F being confused with T. Same with i for l but not I for L.

        • Erik says:

          In lower case there is more variety in the shapes from letter to letter in a given word. All-caps tends to have lots of vertical lines and right angles. They also use a different font specifically designed to make similar-looking letters easier to distinguish.

          These changes are the result of an pretty ridiculous amount of study to come up with ways of making signs easier to read without making them bigger (and thus more expensive). At highway speeds you can actually read this font a second or two sooner than the old one.

          • Jason says:

            HOW MUCH STUDY??? RIDICULOUS IS A NOT A QUANTIFIABLE NUMBER YOU PUSHOVER. I LOVE HOW 400 PEOPLE ARE SURVEYED IN VIRGINIA AND THEN WE GET ANOTHER ‘FEDERAL GUIDELINE’ TO FUCK USS IN THE ASS SANS ASTROGLIDE. ME ‘N HERR DOKTOR ARE OUT FOR BLOOD…

  4. MrEricSir says:

    HOW ARE DEAF PEOPLE GOING TO GET AROUND IF WE STOP SHOUTING?

  5. tk says:

    I concede it’s possible that I sometimes exaggerate the importance of things.

  6. Nick Pal says:

    The Lapidge sign freaks the fuck out of me

  7. Julius says:

    Descenders though.

  8. moocow says:

    It’s the same upper/lower case crap in NYC.
    Everything’s just the worst.

  9. peep says:

    Does the Interstate HWY follow this theory?

  10. sure says:

    weird – that blog normally only really covers crappy tv shows and product advert type endorsements doesn’t it?

  11. moderniste says:

    As someone who came to SF just about every other weekend as a kid, the all-caps signs are burned into my memory what made SF so glamorous and different than the Sacramento of my childhood. The vertical hills, summer fog, overhead MUNI wires, bay windows on Victorian houses and those all-caps signs all signified that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.

  12. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

    yeah, I started noticing this a few weeks back, but I didn’t know what the reason was.

    It’s weird, definitely looks terrible compared to the all-caps.

  13. Erik says:

    Guess we should be careful not to point out that it is actually a different font as well.

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      That is mentioned in the original post. That doesn’t make it any less stupid or the signs any less ugly, however.

      • Julio says:

        It’s true. Making signs easier to read is so stupid.

        • Jason says:

          EASIER TO READ SAYS WHO?? I WANT MY SF STREET SIGNS IN ALL CAPS, IT MAKES ME FEEL WARM AND FUZZY JUST LIKE MY TELENOVELAS MAGAZINES. I THINK IF ANYTHING SHOULD BE DIFFERENT, THEY SHOULD HAVE DUAL EXCLAMATION POINTS AROUND THEM LIKES THIS:

          ¡DIVISADERO!
          ¡TURK!
          ¡OAKDALE!
          ¡BURGERS!

          NOW THAT’S SOMETHING WORTH MAKING IT RAIN WITH TAX DOLLARS

          • stevenj says:

            All caps have worked here for 100 years. The combination of the large green freeway type signs that went up mid block on many streets in the mid 90′s and the new upper/lower case signs are insuring that SF looks like everywhere else.

  14. wizzer says:

    oh, lord. it’s a damn street sign. Got anything more important to bitch about?

  15. floydLaw says:

    How can we get the ones they’re pulling down?!

  16. Change! Scary! says:

    The lettering isn’t as bad as the seven fake bolts they’ve drawn in.

  17. namida21 says:

    there’s a sign shop around Potrero and 20th that I’d hit up to see if the old ones will be for sale there. Also, I think the real problem is not having enough street signs in sf, and not legibility. Wish they’d spend Poon putting more out while following the mandate.

    • maharba says:

      Agreed. The one-per-intersection in some places isn’t very helpful when your on a bus in the sunset trying to peer through the fog to find your stop. It doesn’t matter what the signs look like if you can’t see them.

  18. ALWAYS HIGH says:

    NOT TYPING IN CAPS IS LIKE SAYING TO THE WORLD THAT YOUR MESSAGE IS INFERIOR

  19. Duh says:

    Easier to read, yeah, but Kelly Kate will still piss all over it.

  20. TommyWillB says:

    1) seriously, in this economic downturn we are wasting tax money replacing perfectly good signs?

    Could someone please research how much money San Francisco is spending, and if the Feds are reimbursing us?!?!

    2) where are all the old signs going? Can we get them?

  21. Jay Wright says:

    Hi there,
    Also, I am dissatisfied with the newly written “STOP” signs after a city crew has completed paving a roadway. Take the reimprovement project near Deharo and 17th streets for example.
    Those gorgeous curvy STOP signs painted on the street level are being replaced by some ugly painted zigzagged-morphed text. They look absolutely hideous. Who approved that nonsense and what can we do about it?

  22. Jan L. says:

    I agree! SAN FRANCISCO (don’t call it “Frisco”) is worth SHOUTING ABOUT!! (Also, we are assuming A LOT when we presume that our drivers can read AT ALL.)

  23. Eyesore says:

    Ridiculous. My eyesight is getting worse as I creep up in my 40s, and the lowercase signs are much harder for me to read because a) lowercase letters look much more similar to one another and b) they’re 1/2 to 1/3 the size (uppercase letters fit in a single grid vs three for lowercase letters, which require descenders and ascenders, with some letters only occupying the middle grid). Beyond the obvious things like i/l there are scads of lowercase letters that are barely distinguished from “o” (just by a descender or ascender, or unclosed circle), w/v/u, etc.

    Thanks for making it harder to figure out where I am in the city, federal government.

  24. STEVE-O says:

    ANARCHY BURGER!, hold the GOVERNMENT, Please.

  25. elizabeth says:

    ok, it sucks but let’s keep it all in perspective.

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