Increasing walking as a useful part of everyday life is a shared objective of many stakeholders in Massachusetts. One potential strategy to do so is installing wayfinding signs, which can give people clear information about walking routes and walking times to reach key destinations. With funding from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), WalkBoston has now worked with seven communities, ranging from downtown urban centers to rural villages, to create systems of wayfinding signage.

WalkBoston’s initial wayfinding project in 2014 focused on Codman Square, which is a hub of commercial and civic activity in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Working with local community organizations and DPH’s statewide Mass in Motion program, we installed 90 wayfinding signs along the streets that lead to and from the Square.

Building off this initial effort, in 2016 WalkBoston placed approximately 300 additional wayfinding signs in five communities (Springfield, Turners Falls, Fall River, Northampton and Belchertown) in partnership with DPH’s “1422” program, which is funded by the US Centers for Disease Control to promote utilitarian walking. The size and scope of the projects varied greatly, ranging from 10 signs along a rural corridor in Belchertown, to over 130 signs in Fall River connecting downtown, the newly opened Quequechan River Rail Trail and neighborhood destinations.

In addition to these efforts, WalkBoston also installed three wayfinding pavement decals near our office in downtown Boston to test the durability of sidewalk marking materials under heavy pedestrian traffic. This test was inspired by the Fall River project, which included the installation of several pavement decals in locations where there were no street poles to mount signs. We have found significant durability and continued visibility for the decals through multiple winters and heavy foot traffic.

Our experience shows that wayfinding projects can be adapted to meet the needs of diverse communities at different scales. Follow-up evaluation surveys we conducted in Turners Falls and Fall River suggest that wayfinding signs are a highly visible and tangible measure that can catalyze community interest in walking.

To learn more about these projects and our methodology for implementation, you can download our summary wayfinding report here. WalkBoston is currently pursuing additional wayfinding projects in the Boston neighborhoods of Talbot-Norfolk Triangle (Dorchester) and Mattapan Square. If you’re interested in developing a wayfinding project in your community, please contact us.