Parking signs are tricky

New street signs in Manhattan have revealed a whole lot about what the average parker needs in terms of the language and design of a parking sign, as well as attitudes toward current signage, however paranoid they may be:

City Councilman Dan Garodnick began agitating for simpler signs in 2011 because his constituents (quite reasonably) had been grousing about them. We asked Garodnick if any of these angry drivers felt the city was intentionally trying to trick them, to which he replied: “Yes yes yes yes yes! That was part of the sadness of all of it – that people actually think that the city is deliberately trying to confuse them in order to give tickets. And that perception alone is a problem.”

Read more here.

“Jargon” is a word that defines 1. the language, especially the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group; 2. unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing; gibberish; 3. any talk or writing that one does not understand; 4. pidgin; or5. language that is characterized by uncommon or pretentious vocabulary and convoluted syntax and is often vague in meaning.

Except for “pidgin,” all of these definitions describe what people think of street signs. Of course, the signs make sense to parking professionals, but they can be gibberish to the rest of us. And because we are fined for not understanding this gibberish, we begin to think the situation is unfair, or even malicious.

Parking professional who create signage know exactly what they are saying, I’m sure, but don’t always convey what they mean. If they do convey what they mean, they sometimes do it in a way that confuses everyone else. The worst mistake you can make with regards to any communication, is to assume that it has occurred. And I’d like to say I made that up, but it was one of my college professors.

I once saw a sign outside an auto mechanic’s garage. It said:

“No parking, trespassers will be violated.”

Maybe they meant it, and maybe they didn’t, but I think the writer should stick to fixing cars. There may never be a perfect parking ordinance sign and there certainly will always be people too dumb to understand even the simplest directions, but there’s still room for improvement.



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