Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

First look: New city border signs to feature bikes

Posted by on March 30th, 2006 at 8:22 am

Portland has recently been named the best city in America for both walking and biking and the City wants to spread the word. They’re going to put up 22 new signs touting this great news that will be placed right below existing “Welcome to Portland” signs on all major highways leading into the city. For the first time ever, city traffic engineers are asking for our input on the design of these signs.

They have sent me four mock-ups so we can provide them with feedback before they make the final decision. Try and keep your feedback within the creative bounds of the mock-ups below, they’re mostly looking for a vote on which one you like, and new suggestions on the copy. I have numbered each one to help organize your feedback:

My two cents: I like #4 the best. I think the sign needs to let people know that we’re the top city in the country, not just Oregon. I would say put “Best in the USA” across the top and “We Share the Road” along the bottom. I would also like to see them put “We Share the Road” in quotes to make it more personal. So what do you think? The City of Portland is listening and the sign designers are standing by….

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Alan March 30, 2006 at 8:48 am

    I vote for #2

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  • Dan Johnson March 30, 2006 at 8:57 am

    I concur with Mr. Maus. I vote for the “Altered #4.”

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  • Alex March 30, 2006 at 9:06 am

    #1 is the clearest!

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  • Anonymous March 30, 2006 at 9:10 am

    i agree with you jonathan. best in the US along top. icons in the middle. and along the bottom in smaller text with quotes: “we share the road”

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  • Andy March 30, 2006 at 9:27 am

    Good point about the best in the US. Maybe “Best City in America” on top and “We share the road” on bottom, with the icons in the middle, as #1 or #2?

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  • elljay March 30, 2006 at 9:48 am

    #4 with reservations…I like the idea of WSTR in quotes at the bottom…But…

    Green signs are typically guidance signs, not celebration message signs (e.g. Tree City USA, All-American City, “Welcome to XXX, Home of Olympic Gold Medalist XXX,” etc). I really don’t like the idea of turning a celebratory message into something that looks like an “official” road sign.

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  • Evan Manvel March 30, 2006 at 9:50 am

    I’m skeptical that people will grok that pictures of a cyclist and a pedestrian mean that we’re #1 for cycling and walking.

    I’d probably just say “America’s best city for bicycling and walking” — I have this preference for saying “America” instead of “USA.”

    Maybe add in a “we share the road” — maybe not.

    And I hate it when people put things in quotations unnecessarily. 🙂

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  • Greg Raisman March 30, 2006 at 9:52 am

    Thanks for posting this info, Jonathan. Just so people are aware, one more iteration has come into consideration.

    The last sign that reads “Best in USA” could have a second sign under it that says — We Share the Road. It’s conceivable that the bottom We Share sign could be blue instead of green.

    Thanks again for posting this info. We’re excited to hear feedback.


    Greg Raisman
    Community and School Traffic Safety Partnership
    Portland Office of Transportation
    (503) 823-1052

    Any thoughts?

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  • Anonymous March 30, 2006 at 9:55 am

    I like #2 and #4.

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  • Greg Raisman March 30, 2006 at 10:00 am


    The City Traffic Engineer is, indeed, looking at these in the Guide Sign category. He is interested in the sign directly below the Entering Portland sign being green.

    So you know, we use green, brown, and blue as primary gruide sign colors in the city.

    For those interested in a high level of engineering detail, our signs are catagorized into: Regulatory, School, Warning, Construction, Parking, and Guide. All have distinct colors that are made standard in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices as we are mandated to use by state law.


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  • etta-tron March 30, 2006 at 10:19 am

    My vote goes to #4 with the blue “We Share the Road” sign underneath.

    Are they going to make extras to sell to all us bike nerds who want to hang the sigsn in our living room? I see the signs being great Limited Edition Auction Items for fundraisers…

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  • Jasun Wurster March 30, 2006 at 10:27 am

    I am with #4 as it is with a separate sigh below with:

    “We Share the Road”

    Some how the quotes are quaint and qute: Oh, the things I will so for alliteration!

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  • patrick March 30, 2006 at 10:28 am

    I like the #4 option with the blue We Share The Road underneath. I don’t see the need for quotes…I think the statement is clear enough.

    Yeah, I want one too when they are done. “Sign” me up, ha ha.

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  • Jason March 30, 2006 at 10:30 am

    I like #4 because of its simplicity.

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  • vj March 30, 2006 at 11:08 am

    #4 with the WSTR. Nice!

    They should consider selling some as fundraisers…

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  • Russell March 30, 2006 at 11:18 am

    I’d like to say I really like one or all of them, but I can’t say I do. Part of it is a dislike of combining words and pictures to form a sentence, which is probably not a big issue to most; it just seems busy and cheesy to me. It also might be difficult to decode at 55 (ok, really 75mph) to anyone not familiar with the “Platinum Push”.

    The question is how long would someone who doesn’t think about walking or biking as a “transportation option” need to decode what you are trying to say?

    If I were to choose, I’d take #4 with “Best in the USA” instead of “Best in USA” with “We share the road” on another smaller sign below it.

    If I were to make my own, I’d go with something like the mock-up I hope will transfer onto the board. I’ll give it a shot, and hopefully it gets posted up right below this.

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  • patrick March 30, 2006 at 11:38 am

    Russell, I like your iteration a lot…but I think that the “best in the nation” status needs to be more clearly conveyed…i mean, we got it, may as well flaunt it.

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  • Russell March 30, 2006 at 11:51 am

    My sign is just a five-minute mock-up. The top could say “Best in the Nation” or “We Really Kick Ass” or “Named Best in the United States”.

    That being said, I do realize that “option #5” really isn’t an option: I just didn’t like any of them enough not to cut them all up and start over. I couldn’t help myself.

    I’m with the majority on #4 with some modifications since there isn’t going to be any major changes.

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  • SD March 30, 2006 at 11:55 am

    #1 would make the most sense to non bikers in need of education.

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  • Garlynn March 30, 2006 at 12:12 pm

    I like #2, except I think the top line should say:

    “#1 CITY IN USA FOR”

    I don’t think quotes are necessary on the sign. We’re not quoting anybody. It’s just a fact.

    I think that text will fit on the sign in the #2 design.

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  • Garlynn March 30, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    ..or perhaps it should be #2 with the top line reading:


    “#1 U.S. CITY FOR”



    I think both of those will also fit.

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  • Aaron March 30, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    I second Garlynn’s comment

    it should say best U.S. city or #1 american city

    should definately have “share the road below

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  • Patrick March 30, 2006 at 12:40 pm

    I like # 1. I like the “share the road” message.

    How about:

    Best in the USA


    We Share the road.

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  • elljay March 30, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    I also like Russell’s mock up, with “Best American City for..” or similar national reference. It’s straightforward clear and concise.

    BTW, I worked in traffic engineering for a few years, and used to have nasty dreams about the MUTCD.

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  • Greg Raisman March 30, 2006 at 1:02 pm


    Thanks for the feedback. Here are a couple of thoughts based on what’s been said so far from feedback I’ve gotten from elsewhere as well here:

    1) We’re shying away from the term America because in the past it has raised questions about “which” America…. North America, USA, Central America, etc (maybe very PC, but part of our reality)….

    2) Using the #1 has definitely gotten mixed reviews. So far, the feedback, overall is leaning against using the actual numeral 1.

    3) Roger Geller sent me a really nice symbol for the bicycle that looks a lot more like a person riding a bike. I’ll send it to Jonathan to see if he can post it for you to look at.

    4) The two rider sign solution seems to have the most interest. In addition, we are working on adding a child icon to the walker.

    5) THANKS FOR THE MOCK-UP, Russell. People are definitely reacting positively to the “Named Best City” line.

    Keep the comments coming. Thanks for all the great feedback.


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  • Signster March 30, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Unfortunately I don’t think any of those look very good. It looks like there was a template handed down from the transportation authority where there were certain cells into which info could be pasted and that’s what you had to work with.

    Can’t these be DESIGNED?

    russell’s is good.

    Thanks for sending through us for coment, though!

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  • Jonathan Maus March 30, 2006 at 1:44 pm

    Here’s the bike rider symbol Greg referenced:

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  • good luck guy March 30, 2006 at 2:41 pm

    Jon summed up my thoughts exactly.

    People entering the city need to know that “we share the road” and that Portland is the #1 city in the USA, not just Oregon.


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  • John March 30, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    I agree with Evan and Russell, but would modify their ideas to just say:
    Named Best City in USA for Walking and Bicycling

    Without the pics of cyclist/walker, it remains very simple and clear.

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  • Chakra Lu March 30, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    I like the “We Kick Ass”…just for laughs sake…
    I like the #4 with “Nation” or “America” for better reference and the blue sign under with WSTR posted…
    If you wanna get REAL politically correct, you can put “North America” since there are technically 3 Americas…Dominatrix (a female brazilian punk band) points out so nicely…
    Cheers to the signage!

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  • Bill March 30, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    I like Russell’s version with Greg’s new bike rider symbol. I agree that quotation marks are not needed but how about…. We Share The Road!

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  • Erik March 30, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Having symbols and words together is a bit confusing for the eye.
    Quoting the We Share the Road statement indicates that it’s someone’s opinion. Without quotes, it’s more believable.

    Best idea in a while. Not just the signs but seeking feedback. Kudos, PDOT.

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  • heather andrews March 30, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    My vote is for a slightly modified Option 1. I think Option 1 reads the most clearly, although I would like to see “Best City in the US for” as the top line. This option gets the point across in one sign, opposed to using two separate signs for the #1 distinction, and the “we share the road” slogan.

    As for using universal icons instead of words, I think those images are more likely to read more quickly at a glance on the highways, particularly when many people don’t read signs to begin with (Stop, Right Lane Ends, Speed 55, etc…). The other silhouette posted is rather intricate for a highway sign, and I don’t think it would read as quickly to someone driving by.

    On a nitpicky note, I prefer “US” to “USA.” “USA” and “America” have a jingoistic association for me, and it seems that everyone knows the shorter “US” acronym just as well. Plus, it saves a letter of space on each sign!

    Regardless of the end result, this is great news!

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  • holt March 30, 2006 at 10:12 pm

    Here’s an idea: why not have an actual designer design the sign instead of this week’s Policy Intern at ODOT? It’s a road sign, I get it, but type comes in more than one size…it’s called Heirachy of Information.

    :: Representing for the Typographers of Oregon :::

    That said, if it can’t read the abovementioned “We Kick Ass,” then the text included in Russell’s mockup is the bestest by far (props to Russell for whippin’ out the photoshop, btw).

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  • Aaron March 30, 2006 at 11:11 pm

    I couldn’t figure out how to load pictures into this site. But here

    is a more fun version of the sign.

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  • JCW March 31, 2006 at 9:46 am

    #4 – Russells is also great

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  • Evan Manvel March 31, 2006 at 10:17 am

    I used to worry about the whole America/USA thing, and decided that 98% of people will know we meant the USA, especially when you say “America’s best city” instead of “Americas’ Best City”, therefore clearly not referring to North and South America, and the average person would say “North America’s best city” if she meant that.

    Common usage is that America=USA. The USA Today is “America’s most-read newspaper,” we’re “proud to be an American,” and so forth. I prefer America to USA, and if people have a problem with it, refer them to Randy Leonard. (ok, joke).

    But if you want to use USA, use USA. I like the idea that we would push some people’s patriotism button, and the idea that we’d tap into pride in being the best.

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  • good luck guy March 31, 2006 at 10:32 am


    the umbrella is a nice touch. 😉

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  • Ian March 31, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Um, why don’t you make this a *real* poll. Y’know, like the “what lock type do you use” poll in the right sidebar?

    We have the technology!

    Alternatively, open up a poll in the forums.


    P.S. I vote for #4 in the meantime.

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  • randy March 31, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    i like russell’s mock up

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  • bruce March 31, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    I also vote for #4 with Jonathan’s addtions.

    It might be nice to put in fine print: but we don’t adequately fund our public schools. Just so visitors don’t think we’re perfect.

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  • Ethan April 1, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    I like both Russell’s and Jonathan’s

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  • Kim April 3, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Altered # 4 is definitly the way to go. Too many words is visually confusing while having the biker/walker pictures “read” as words is equally distracting.

    “Best in the Country”
    (Pictures of kick-ass commuters)
    We Share the Road

    -Adam, Kim and Erin

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  • Jonathan Maus April 5, 2006 at 10:12 am

    Here is more feedback that has come in via email:
    I vote on #4 with your changes. Cool.
    #1, with these comments:
    Top Line: BEST USA CITY
    Middle: Biker Logo (no ampersand, no conjunction) Walker Logo

    Bottom Line: WE SHARE THE ROAD
    Top Line: Awarded
    Middle: Best US City
    Bottom: biker logo walker logo
    Separate Sign: We Share the Road

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  • Randy April 7, 2006 at 12:54 pm

    I like #1 but think the walker should have an umbrella and the biker should have fenders on their bike. The points about using better technology design for the signs is a good point.

    Also do we really need the “Best City” portion of the text. We know we are the best and don’t need to shout it, that is what is great about Portland.

    Definitely keep the “We share the road”. How about as the top line just have River City or Rose City.

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  • Anne April 7, 2006 at 1:39 pm

    I agree with Jonathon– emphasize the best in USA but keep the “We share the road” message for encouragement to all drivers, and riders!

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  • Cathy Zegar April 10, 2006 at 8:20 am

    I vote for #4 with your options, also. However, I would not put the quotes around “We Share . . . ” I always wonder who said that when I see such things.

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  • julie cash April 13, 2006 at 9:46 am

    I like #2 and #4. Wouldn’t another color (other than green) stand out more?

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  • Chris Streight July 28, 2006 at 12:53 pm

    I like combining the attributes of #1 and #4 as you suggested.

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