Park, Trail, & Bike Route Signage in Austin
by Charlie McCabe
During one of my work trips in April, I side tripped to spend the weekend in Austin. I lived here for 18 years, working in both the private sector and later in the parks/public/nonprofit sector. Its been over ten years since I moved to the northeast, but my wife and I still have many friends that live there and it was great to connect with many members of my old team from my Apple days (at long last) as most of them still live in the Austin area.
I also biked and walked around neighborhoods to trails and parks (as you would expect), I was staying with friends north of downtown, trying to be helpful as they prepped for their annual crayfish boil. Austin continues to work at improving both bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and routes, but what I wanted to share is their way finding and route information, which I think is top-notch.
To be fair, I also have included directional and map signage from some of the parks, as well as some of the great interpretive signage focusing on water quality and native plant restoration efforts.
The first sign was headed south on Shoal Creek Blvd, headed to downtown Austin, just south of RM 2222. This sign was a great "at a glance" sign.
I stopped and studied the map and liked that the whole route was shown, with an indicator of where you are, as well as connections, as shown below. It also displayed an alternate route for a portion of the journey through the parks along Shoal Creek. (I stuck to the urban trail, which was a combination of bike lane, wide sidewalk or separated trail)
When you arrived at a key point or possible alternative, this combination sign was shown. In this case, it gave you the option of continuing on the urban trail or taking the park trail instead.
The trail route through the park boasts a different color sign, which is a nice touch.
On the return journey, heading north, I checked out the "other" sides of the signage, here's a good example.
I also stopped by several park projects that I was involved with long ago, chiefly around efforts to restore meadow and grasslands in the flood plains along Shoal Creek, here's a few examples of signage installed.
As I walking through another portion of the area, including this great little park let on the shores of Shoal Creek, I saw a sad old sign from the by-gone days of the parks and recreation department.
Signage continues to evolve across Austin, I know that the Trail Conservancy, which works with the parks department to program, maintain and improve the well-known Butler Trail that encircles portions of Lady Bird Lake, put together a cool set of icon-based signs about 4-5 years ago, they look like this:
I also liked their reworking of the overall map, which is a larger format sign placed here and there:
More and more rain gardens have been established in parks and especially along Lady Bird Lake to slow the flows of rain runoff into the waterbodies. Here's an artistic variation:
"Texas is a state of drought punctuated by periods of flood" is a saying that a park planner that I worked with for years used to say when we were looking at challenging situations in parks and greenbelts alongside creeks. This sign, at Pease Park, is a great reminder that flooding can occur quickly and without warning.
Finally, a photo of those pink primrose is bloom in April in Austin.
It's always great to visit Austin and see the continuing progress in parks, trails and bike routes. I used these through the years that I lived there and despite (or maybe because) of the tremendous growth that Austin and the surrounding area continue to see, I'm pleased to see continued progress in helping people navigate from place to place.