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Choosing the Right Signs: Silhouettes of Hikers and Bicycles

November 20, 2009

There’s loads of possibilities for trail signage but what will be the best fit for the Upper Valley Loop Trail.  

The Upper Valley Loop Trail Steering Committee will be looking at several sign ideas later this month to identify both regulatory requirements and aesthetic appeal of the options.

There is a document that was prepared by the Federal Highway Administration regarding sign standards. Both New Hampshire and Vermont have adopted these standards so any sections of road side trail options will need to follow the MUTCD document (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices). Proposed Amendments may provide a few other possiblities that we have incorporated into some of these Upper Valley Loop Trail signs.  When trails are located away from these highways, often the “skies the limit” for sign design. However, it’s always best to use some standards to provide consistent communications for the trail user. What are your thoughts? Which of these nine signs do you like? (For numbering purposes, consider Top-left as 1, and Bottom right as 9).

Initially using existing infrastructure the Loop Trail will provide on-road and off-road opportunities for bicyclists and pedestrians for recreation and transportation. Over time, more off road trails will be connected to create a wonderful network of trails – some for walkers and hikers, some for bicycles, and some as multi-use paths. Trails Connect!

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenyon Karl permalink
    November 21, 2009 1:30 am

    I like Sign #3 the best. It emphasises that both bicycles and hikers are welcome (and thus must respect each other), while the rectangular shape should be more economical to produce and provide more flexibility in sign layout and content. Note that I assume that some trails are not suitable for bicycling and will be indicated by the absence of the bicycle symbol.

    In addition to the MUTCD document (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices), the National Park Service has a comparable sign manual that uses the same graphic sysmbols and many more. Note also that both the MUTCD and the NPS manual specify a background color of brown. Thus you ought to consider using the brown background for Sign #2 instead of green!

    I also think that the same symbols should also be used on your websites and printed trail descriptions and maps to highlight what activities are encouraged and what facilities are available on or adjacent to each trail.

    Another point, hiking only trails should provide a facility for securing bicycles such as a bike rack or even a couple lengths of study wooden rail fence, located so that bicycle tourists will feel secure in leaving their expensive bikes behind at the trailhead.

    Last but not least, in areas where public transit is available, I think that it is very important that trail signs and blazes be extended to/from the nearest bus stop. Web and printed trail information should likewise provide transit directions to/from all such trails.

    Note also that where transit is available at multiple points along a lengthy trail, that should be clearly pointed out so that trail users that suffer a minor injury, bicycle failure, inclement weather, etc. can ‘rescue themselves’ by merely walking out to the nearest bus stop!

    Note that I created and maintained a web site on Rail Trails in New England and another one on Public Transit in New England.

  2. Richard Balagur permalink
    November 21, 2009 6:51 pm

    I like either 3 or 9, the only signs with both bikers and hikers. I actually like 9 (the oval sign) better as it seems less road traffic-like.

  3. Heather Toulmin permalink
    November 21, 2009 8:57 pm

    I like the signs that include multi-uses, and wonder about designs for winter users like x-c skiers and also summer in-line skaters. I like road versus park sign colors for the loop trail, as I hope it has a commuter appeal more than a wilderness feel. The hub of a larger network for eliminating autos….what a dream! Ready for ruby slippers to click, skis to kick and glide, and miles to go before we rest, miles to go… Great progress UVTA!

  4. Dave Celone permalink
    November 22, 2009 7:23 am

    Would love to see XC skiers represented too.

  5. uvtrails permalink*
    November 23, 2009 6:48 pm

    Thanks to Kenyon, Richard, Heather, and Dave for sharing your ideas for the Loop Trail signage.
    Here’s a few ideas for other icons for the various trail uses that you and other bloggers have suggested for Loop Trail signage.

    Visit East Coast Greenway and look near the top of their home page.

    The NH Seacoast Greenway website also shows a similar roadside trail alignment that uses the proposed revisions for MUTCD manual of signs. (scroll down on their news page to see sign)

    Seems most commenters like the oval shaped sign, the standard actually uses a rectangular stock but an oval shape is imprinted onto them. Of course there will be a need for more than one type of sign. This Loop Trail system won’t be limited to just one simple loop. Trails Connect!

    Thought you might be interested in these sign and Loop Trail comments I received by e-mail.


    Judy Pond said, “The sign should DEFINITELY portray hikers as well as bikers. I like the oval shape, but the tall rectangle (top right, #3) seems best because the bike is not a lot bigger than the hikers”.
    Another Upper Valley resident stated, “I like # 9 best, because it shows bikes and hikers close together, and the oval shape makes it look more like a loop”.
    Doug McIroy stated…..Since I am ever hopeful that “Loop Trail” will expand to
    “Trail Connect”, I would hope for a name that sounds less
    fully formed. A loop. after all, is an entity closed upon
    itself. A name that more accurately captures my image of
    its being a down payment on a larger vision would be
    “inner bike loop”. Maybe somebody can find a jazzier
    way to say that.
    As for silhouettes, I’m glad that your proposals show
    silhouettes of bikes, not bikers or hikers. The standard
    image of a biker is a racer bent double over the handle
    bars so he can’t see the environment. The
    standard signage for a hiker appears to have a hunched
    back and a dislocated shoulder.
    Paul Coats stated…..Loving the work you are doing. My vote is for #9, the one displayed.

    John Taylor
    Trail Programs Director

  6. Jon Bouton permalink
    November 25, 2009 10:39 am


    I like #9 best. It seems more friendly.

    I do have one question for you all to consider. Does anyone know of a symbol for pedestrians that does not include backpack (although small) and walking staff? I believe the image of the light hikers give the impression that one needs to be more prepared than necessary for a stroll on the pathway or a walk to errands or work.

    — Jon Bouton

  7. November 27, 2009 1:13 am

    I am often looking for brandnew infos in the WWW about this matter. Thanx.

  8. Ken Warren permalink
    December 2, 2009 7:46 pm

    I think that #3 or #9 would be appropriate;however I think this trail …loop …will be mainly used by bikers. Hikers probably do not want to walk on asphalt and see cars coming at them! This would not be something I would use for hiking especially with all the other sites available in the upper vally.

  9. Nicole Cormen permalink
    December 4, 2009 1:21 am

    #9 for all the reasons stated above.

    Tx for asking!

  10. whichway permalink
    December 4, 2009 12:34 pm

    I like #2 the best, but #s 3 and 9 are acceptable as well.

  11. John Everett permalink
    December 4, 2009 3:05 pm

    I prefer #4, but #5 and #6 are acceptable to me. I really like the identification in those signs of the organization name, Upper Valley Trails, and then the designation below characterization of either the bicycle or hikers or both of a Loop Trail. I prefer #4 because the organization name is distinguished from the trail function by the color changes in background and printing. Such signage would allow UVTA both to identify itself as the organization which supervises the trail and to designate trails for either or both bicycles or hikers/walkers/runners. It would also permit identification of trails a Loop Trail or as an Out-and-Back Trail with two trailheads.

  12. December 4, 2009 5:02 pm

    we have 2 votes for sign #3… best layout, both bikes and hikers welcome.. plain and simple

  13. George E. Smith Jr. permalink
    December 4, 2009 5:20 pm

    I like #3 & 9 because it identifies both hikers and bikers . I also like #4because it credits UVTrails but it only shows the bike. If you could put Upper Valley Trails Loop on #9 that would be great.

  14. uvtrails permalink*
    December 21, 2009 3:17 pm

    Thought I’d share a brief summary of comments to date.

    There is strong interest expressed by most of the 18 BLOG (or e-mailed) commenters that the multi-use or shared use vision for the trail is important to them. The rectangular sign with the bike and the hikers came in a close 2nd to the most preferred oval mulit-use sign which was sign #9. I liked the fact that terms “respect each other” and “looks more friendly” were used to describe the message of the multi-use signs (sharing a trail).

    Signs for other uses such as x-country skiing and inline skating were asked to be considered

    Seperate signs for bicycles or walker or hikers were also suggested, depending on approved and appropriate trail uses.

    There is some interest to include the Upper Valley Trails as part of the sign detail representing the Region and/or our organizations effort to get this trail marked on the ground. In those cases sign number 4 was suggested with various symbols for the different uses.

    There is some variation for color choice. Green and/or brown are the preferred choices and fit the national standards for sign colors depending on use.

    My thoughts:
    As many of you know, much of the current LOOP trail concept uses existing infra-structure, some of which is not that hospital to hikers or walkers. Eventually the full loop will identify all appropriate uses but for the most part bicycling is the only use that has a complete LOOP currently available. The Upper Valley Trails Alliance will be holding a trails forum in May, Trails Connect 2, to discuss some priorities to get more mulit-use and walkable trail sections linked. Where walking and/or hiking is the approved trail use we will continue to develop some appropriate signage. I’ll soon be posting some modified ideas based on Loop Trail Steering Committee comments from 11.30.09 and your thoughts.

    A few more comments:

    I think that #9 sign is the most clear for multipurpose trail signage. Or have 2 types when some trails are walking and some are for bikes exclusively: In that case, I recommend #1 and #2. The different shapes will help differentiate the 2 difference user groups. Vertical orientation on walking will work well on trees and posts.

    Judy Reeve

    I just looked at the loop trail signs and want to put a vote in for the oval sign that is shown in today’s e-mail/newsletter.
    I like that it shows the bike and walk symbols plus the title is clear in the upper white section. I like the white and green sectioning to identify the trail – it will show up better than all green at dusk.

    Susan Berry


  1. Upper Valley Trails Connect: Signing the Hub « Roots, Rocks & Mud

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