I have been complaining about new street signs in the Cleartype font, many of them in upper and lower case, that have been appearing on NYC streets in compliance with an apparently now-rescinded federal mandate, since they’re apparently easier to read if you’re in a car in motion. I have no idea if this is true or not. Sounds like pork to me.

What’s true is that there must be thousands of NYC street signs, installed in the 1980s, that the sun has bleached into invisibility.

Those are the signs that need replacing, but the Department of Transportation seemingly doesn’t figure this into what signs are replaced and which aren’t.


Categorized in: One Shots Signs Tagged with:


  1. clark says:

    Have noted a lack of uniformity of the ones in my town for many years. An issue that most people don’t care about, sadly. I’d like to see all of them all the same, instead of what exists — a lot of inconsistency and mistakes. Sometimes the directional designation is included, sometimes it is omitted (W. 5th Ave., 5th Ave.); improper road type (Minnesota Dr. vs. Minnesota Rd.); sometimes the house numbers are shown but most of the time not; misspellings are pretty common; sometimes it’s upper and lower case but typically not. Wild variation on size… some almost too small; others as much as 5 ft wide with 6″ high lettering! I think the upper and lower case letters works better because certain words are tricky in all caps. Does DeBarr Rd. become DEBARR, or DE BARR?

    • Bob Sklar says:

      I lived in LA many years ago. With the city itself sprawling all over, especially towards the San Pedro area in the harbor area, and the huge number of large and small suburbs, the only way you could tell what city you were in was by the shape, color and font of the street signs. In some small cities, the city name was also included in smaller letters.

      • Kevin Walsh says:

        You used to be able to tell what borough you were in by the street sign color. The feds ended all that.

        I remember the one and only Queens white Fulton Street sign at Eldert Lane.

  2. Velvethead says:

    Thank you for informing us that the fed mandate for upper/lower case signage has been rescinded. The way those signed bleached out over the years is laughable.

  3. David says:

    Agreed on which get replaced first.

    Clearview Hwy font makes a lot of sense on the highway, which is what it was designed for. Unclear what the benefits are in an urban context, but on the whole the increased legibility is undeniable.

    This website is interesting in explaining the 10 years of testing that went into creating the font:

  4. Etta says:

    True to form. DOT does what doesn’t need to be done and does not do what needs to be done.

    • Allan Rosen says:

      Exactly. A few years ago they repaved a street in my neighborhood that only needed a few minor patches while other streets were literally falling apart. I remember driving on a street in Williamsburg that looked like te surface of the moon. As soon as the street in my neighborhood was repaved, speeding and accidents increased.

      • april says:

        Yes! I will never forget how godawful Oceania Street was heading north from the L.I.E. One could fall clear through to Australia! By now, the exit has either been renamed or the road is part of another continent!! (Yeah, I’ve been away waayyy too long.)

        • Ryan says:

          Nah, you should see Essex Street on the Lower East Side. It probably has more craters than the Moon does.

  5. W.B. says:

    That those signs were later 1980’s is evidenced by the 30″ long Menahan St. Not until the 1980’s set of sign replacements with white type on a(n initially) green background would 30″ be used; when color-coding by borough was first instituted by the then-Department of Traffic in 1964 under Commissioner Henry Barnes, the signs at first were all 24″ long (with some signs extremely hard to read from long distances, given how some had long street names), with the first 36″ signs showing up a year later. Those were the only sizes used at all in the “color-coded” era, which apparently have mostly retained their colors unlike here.

    Oh, and Clearview Hwy is indeed being used on all new signs around the city even today (2014 – the 50th anniversary of the start of the color-coded sign era). One example of this upper- and lower-case font being used was the recently dedicated Stan Brooks Way (honoring the late 1010 WINS reporter) on the northeast corner of Tenth Avenue and West 43rd Street.

  6. W.B. says:

    Another point: I’ve seen, over the last month while at the San Gennaro festival, white-on-green signs in the Little Italy section, installed between 1984 and 1985 (namely, at Prince and Mott Streets, and with no borders on top or bottom) whose colors have held up and look like they could have been installed just last week, unlike this set. The set photographed would have likely been originally installed about 1987, with the style of typesetting (i.e. ‘MENAHAN’ in 6″ high Highway Gothic B, ‘ST’ in 3″ high Highway Gothic D; plus 2″ high Highway Gothic D for the “AVENUE” designation on intersections such as Knickerbocker) that replicated the layout and type style used on the 1969-71 set of color-coded signage. Some signs in Manhattan that were installed at that same time (i.e. 1987) also have such fading, not necessarily to the extent here, but it was of this same group – which also had the thankfully short-lived layout for Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) in Manhattan where “AVE OF THE” was in large (4″ high) type and “AMERICAS” in small (2″ high) type, all Highway Gothic D.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.