Southern Sojourn

A visit to the U.S. South and South West in wintertime. Links to all pages:


Below are sections on Traffic Signs and Billboards.

The American road network is large. There are wide roads everywhere. Considering how scattered people live in rural areas, the road network is also in good condition. If you ignore the appearance of towns and villages, the road system is similar to that of Sweden.

Many country roads are three- or four-lane with a speed limit of 60-70 miles (100-115 km/h). In West Texas, I have experienced a 130 miles stretch (200 km) stretch of highway with a speed limit of 75 miles (120 km/h). There are remains of dead animals: dogs, cats, deer, etc.

Road 905 from Conway to Longs, South Carolina. Google Maps.

One morning I drove the 20 miles (33 kilometers) along road 905 from Conway in South Carolina to Longs close to the North Carolina border. It is a nice, winding road through a wooded area with housing along the road. In some places, housing estates had been built. The road is the only way to get back and forth between Conway and where people live.

It took me approximately 40 minutes to drive this distance. On the way I saw two school buses, zero cyclists and zero pedestrians. All traffic was by car. There was a speed limit of 45 miles (73 km/h). The speed limit was OK, but no one was obeying it. When everyone is driving 50-60 miles per hour (80-90 km/h), no one wants to walk or cycle along a road with no sidewalk.

This is what I see as a lack of planning and management of new construction in the US. Everyone wants to live in the beautiful forest area. There are no public bus routes and the road has no space for cyclists, so everyone must drive by car. Since all the houses are close to the road, everyone will disturb each other when going to and from the city.

Highway 64 with two perpendicular turns near Beebe, Arkansas. Google Maps.

Many American roads run completely straight either east-west or north-south. The straight roads must be due to straight property divisions, straight state borders and maybe also the impression that a straight road is more efficient.

A gently curving road gives lower speed and a more confident assessment of distances.

A completely straight roads mean poor road safety in two ways:

The longest strech of completely straight road I ever tried: Through Grady, New Mexico, to Hereford, Texas, 76 miles (124 kilometers). The landscape is completely flat, but it changes a lot. New Mexico lacks rainfall and Hereford is a prosperous cattle region. Google Maps.

McAlister, New Mexico

Big Bend State Park, Texas

On the way to Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Ozark Mountains, Arkansas.

Road 336, Texas. The yellow sign shows the water depth in case of flooding. There is no guardrail.

Route 66 near Texola, Oklahoma. Route 66 lost all traffic when Interstate 40 was built in 1966.

Motorways: I agree with John Steinbeck about motorways: "These great roads are wonderful for moving goods but not for inspection of a countryside. .. When we get these thruways across the whole country, as we will and must, it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing."

The motorways run right through the big cities and at the same time act as local expressways, including the noisy long-distance trucks. There is no protection against the noise. In city traffic, the motorways often have 4-5 lanes in each direction.

In the big cities, the motorways have many entrances and exits so many that some of them are located on the left side of the motorway. It's scary, because it can be very difficult to make four lane changes to the left lane before a certain exit. Exit lanes are marked with a yellow "Exit Only" sign.

Route 66 near Seligman, Arizona. Route 66 disappears under Interstate 40 at the bridge.

Interstate 95 tollway near Miami, Florida. There are two paid lanes and three lanes with a queue. In other countries, the lanes would be divided by "at least two in the car" or "bus and taxi only". In Florida it is for a fee.

American traffic signs require that you can read and read quickly, because there are many things that are written instead of being shown with a standard traffic sign such as "Bridge ahead", optionally supplemented with a frost symbol.

Lanes for turning left and right at intersections are marked with arrows on the asphalt, but are always reinforced with a sign saying "Left lane must turn left" etc. In the US, apparently it requires a text. It is not easy for the dyslexic or those who only know Spanish.

Here is no figure, but a long text: "Bridge may ice in cold weather". There is also a shorter version: "Bridge ices before roads". Ozark Mountains, Arkansas.

There is no standard traffic sign for overtaking, only the texts "Do not pass" and "No passing zone". Road in Arizona.

There is no standard traffic sign for a narrowing road. Road in Arizona.

There is no standard traffic sign for "No drive through". Road in Tennessee.

There exists actually a traffic sign with trucks prohibited - but here it is reinforced with a text: "No trucks". Road in Arkansas.

In the US, the road authorities are very happy with a full stop. Full stop is always combined with either normal or unconditional duty to give way - meaning that you will always have to read the text below the stop sign:

  1. A variant of normal duty to give way: Full stop from all sides at an intersection. The car that reached the stop line first must drive forward first.
  2. Unconditional duty to give way

"4-way", i.e. normal duty to give way. Full stop from all sides at an intersection. The car that reached the stop line first is the first to continue. Russellville, Arkansas.

Unconditional duty to give way, here enhanced with a long text: "Cross traffic does not stop". Road in Texas.

The no-entry sign exists - but it is always reinforced with the text "Do not enter". In the background there is a "Wrong way" sign. Presidio, Texas.

In the United States the same sign is used at both ends of a one-way street. Here the "One way" sign shows the beginning of a one-way street. Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Here the "One way" sign means "No entry". Why not use the red "Do not enter" sign? Clarksdale, Mississippi.

To make the confusion complete: Here both signs are in use. the "Do not enter" sign means "No entry", and the "One way" sign also means "No entry". Road in Texas.

Billboards was described by John Kenneth Galbraith as "The family .. pass on into a countryside that has been rendered largely invisible by commercial art". Yes, it is difficult to see the advantages of billboards.

However, it is a way to learn what someone will pay for others to read, for example "There are no dangerous weapons, only dangerous people".

There are billboards everywhere where there is traffic.

"Abortion. Proof Satan is alive & well". North Carolina.

"#JusticeForJohnnyDepp #MenToo - We Won!". Highway 64 near Columbia, North Carolina. Who won? I'm male, but I didn't win anything in Johnny Depp's lawsuit.

Marketing text on an empty billboard - a pathetic proof that billboards are superfluous.

Marketing text on an empty billboard - yet another, annoying proof that billboards are redundant.

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