‘My God, It’s Full of Stars!”

I can’t help but view the image above and think of 2001, with some impenetrable black slab tilted horizontally and laid upon the city. The sign, which comes from Toronto, has been the source of some puzzlement over its origin or purpose — maybe someone in actual authority can provide the final answer as to what this signage means and why it needs to be in place (although, I will admit, the sign gains in strange, mythic stature the less one knows about it). It seems to have something to do with plowing — and monolithic refers to its construction — but are sidewalks plowed by trucks? (and if it’s plowed in the way the above image suggests, wouldn’t that dump a bunch of snow on that very sidewalk?) Why only a monolithic sidewalk there, and not anywhere else? What’s a non-monolithic sidewalk called?

And as reader Bruce notes, the sign has even prompted a searching inquiry into self-effacing signage and Canadian national identity.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 29th, 2010 at 11:23 am and is filed under Traffic Psychology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “‘My God, It’s Full of Stars!””

  1. Stuart Says:

    Ref pg 12 of this document:

  2. Corey Burger Says:

    I did some digging and it turns that that this is a message to snow plow crews that they cannot leave a giant pile of snow beside the road, as it will encroach on the sidewalk:

  3. Tom Vanderbilt Says:

    Thanks for the intel; I do wonder, if they’re not allowed to leave snow in the space next to the sidewalk, what happens to it — trucked away?

  4. Stuart Says:

    Page 10 of the document above talks about snow-removal when there is not enough space and no melt, to “make space for pedestrians”.

  5. Paul Johnson Says:

    It seems that Americans tend to be clueless when it comes to snow removal. In Holland, the bicycle lanes and boulevards get plowed first. In Oregon, it’s where they plow the snow to, even when it would make sense to plow it to the center instead (making a snow median of sorts).

  6. Scott Says:

    Here in Portland, Maine, the city only clears the sidewalks on a few major streets. Everywhere else the property owner is responsible for clearing any sidewalks that abut their property.

    You can imagine how well that system works…

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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