Traffic signs play a critical role in our nation’s transportation infrastructure. Consisting of physical signs placed above or near a road, they provide information to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. While you’re probably familiar with the general purpose of road signs, though, you might be surprised to learn the six following facts about them…

1. The First Road Signs Were Designed for Cyclists

The modern road sign has origins dating back to the late 1800s, during which they were erected on U.S. roads to warn cyclists of potential hazards. The lack of transportation safety back then resulted in a high number of cycling-related injuries. As a result, several cycling organizations partnered to create road signs that warned cyclists of potential hazards.

2. They Are Governed By the MUTCD

The way in which road signs are designed and used is governed by the Federal Highway Transportation Administration (FHWTA’s) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Available to view online, the MUTCD contains provisions for creating and using traffic signs in the United States.

3. Octagon Is the Universal Shape for Stop Signs Because of Its Low Cost

Ever wonder why stop signs are octagonal? You may assume that it’s because octagons are more visible than other shapes, but this isn’t the case. The U.S. government actually chose octagon for the shape of stop signs because it was the cheapest to make, allowing municipalities to save money when creating new roads and upgrading existing roads with stop signs.

4. MUTCD Traffic Signs Were Designed Using an Apple PowerPC Computer

All of the signs published in the MUTCD were originally created using an Apple PowerPC computer. Graphic designer Richard Moer used the now-obsolete computer to design all of the traffic signs shown in the MUTCD. Considering that the Apple PowerPC is nearly three decades old, that’s an impressive feat to say the least.

5. There Are 3 Types of Parking Signs

Not all parking signs are the same. Under the MUTCD, there are three specific types of parking signs, including permissive, no parking and no standing

6. Traffic Signs Were Originally Made of Wood or Stone

While most traffic signs are now made of metal, some of the earliest signs were made of wood or stone. Of course, these rudimentary traffic signs weren’t particularly effective. Once the industrial revolution arrived, metal became the preferred material for traffic signs.

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