Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Bad Designs: Street Names

Bad Designs: Street Names
[人因工程 ]

Bad Designs. Street Names

This picture shows the street sign at the intersection of Hillrise and Hillrise in Las Cruces, New Mexico. One Hillrise is Hillrise "Circle" and the other is Hillrise "Drive". I don't know why they do this. When I moved here, I found it confusing.

On my way home, I turn onto Hillrise Drive. At first, when I got to this intersection, I found myself wanting to turn onto Hillrise Circle. One time at night, I actually did turn onto Hillrise Circle and had to turn around and go back.

I think I made this mistake because after just turning onto Hillrise Drive I have the goal "turn onto Hillrise" still fresh in my mind. Then when I see the sign for "Hillrise", I get the urge to turn, to satisfy my goal, especially at night when other landmarks are not visible.

Design Recommendations:

Things that are different shouldn't be given names that are too similar or people will confuse them.

I don't make this mistake anymore. I guess one lesson is that people will learn to overcome problems. But this problem never had to happen in the first place and wouldn't have happened if the streets had been given different names.

Editor's Comments:

Those responsible for this obvious street-naming blunder have no real excuse. Perfectly workable street-naming systems have been around for at least a century. New York City for example has an excellent, straightforward naming system. All the North-South routes on Manhattan Island are referred to as "Avenues," while all the East-West routes are referred to as "Streets". As soon as one is told the name of the route, one immediately knows whether the route runs North-South or East-West. As a Frommers.com webpage informs us:

"Avenues run north-south (uptown and downtown). Most are numbered... First Avenue is all the way east and Twelfth Avenue is all the way west... Broadway is the exception to the rule -- it's the only major avenue that doesn't run uptown-downtown. It cuts a diagonal path across the island, from the northwest tip down to the southeast corner. As it crosses most major avenues, it creates squares (Times Sq., Herald Sq., Madison Sq., and Union Sq., for example)."

"Streets run east-west (crosstown) and are numbered consecutively as they proceed uptown.

"If you're looking for a particular address, remember that even-numbered street addresses are on the south side of streets and odd-numbered addresses are on the north."

Admittedly the traffic engineers' system is not perfect -- the unavoidable consequence of an historical legacy.

"Unfortunately, the rules don't apply to neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan, south of 14th Street -- like Wall Street, Chinatown, SoHo, TriBeCa, the Village -- since they sprang up before engineers devised this brilliant grid scheme."

This however does not excuse those responsible for naming newly laid-out streets in newly developed communities. What is someone who resides next to this crossroads going to tell visitors? "I live at the intersection of Hillrise and Hillrise"? Blunders such as this merely serve to point out how so much of what we refer to as "good design" is nothing more than plain common sense.


-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Bad Designs. Street Names
Illustration(s): Street Names
Author: Michael J. Darnell
Affiliation: Bad Designs
Source: http://www.baddesigns.com/streetsn.html
Publication Date: 1996-1999
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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