The Mysterious Symbols of PEI Road Signs

Last week the Canadian Cartographic Association held its annual meeting here in Charlottetown. By way of a delightful cartographic coincidence, I made the acquaintance of the program chair, Roger Wheate, from the University of Northern British Columbia, and over the weekend I got a chance to spend some time out and about with Roger.

This morning, after he returned to Prince George, Roger sent me an intriguing photo, wondering whether I knew what the symbol represented:

Tourism Photo

I knew enough to know that the starfish represented the Points East Coastal Drive and that the “56” represented point-of-interest № 56, the Forest Hills Multi-Use Trail.

But what of the “sunshine over upper case A with an line over top of it” symbol?

No idea.

I searched online in vain.

I looked in the Prince Edward Island Visitors Guide for clues.

I phoned 1-800-565-7421, but the friendly agent there had no idea.

As a last resort, I sought out Hubert MacIsaac, Compliance Signage Officer with the province’s tourism department. Hubert, it turns out, is one of the friendliest public servants you’ll ever meet.

And after I emailed him Roger’s photo he quickly got back to me with this helpful signage key:

Prince Edward Island Tourism Signage Key

It turns out that Roger had encountered the symbol for “Day Adventure,” the symbolic representation of which confounds me: is it a happy picnic table person enjoying the sun, having an adventure in daylight?

As near as I can tell, using Google Image Search as my guide, this symbol is unique to Prince Edward Island – perhaps unique to eastern Prince Edward Island.

And it is not alone in its mysterious quality.

Referencing the chart above, one wonders why the symbol for “Farm Market” (№ 55) is of a lobster and a fish trapped inside a cabin.

Or why № 32, Botanical Garden, presumably an outdoor attraction, is represented by a flower inside a house.

Would tourists from away, in search of a bottle of slivovice, know that the symbol of the stylized “PEILCC” (№ 46) means “liquor store”?

Are their really that many “Iron Works” (№ 54) on the Island that a symbol needs to be dedicated to them? And can you really hold an anvil in your hand like that?

And wouldn’t symbol № 64, “Distillery,” be more appropriate for symbolizing time travel?

Symbols are useful when they transcend language and allow for quicker communication than words allow; if Roger, an experienced cartographic expert, couldn’t deduce the meaning, then perhaps it’s time for a change?


David Ross's picture
David Ross on June 5, 2015 - 15:54

It's curious that Rossignol winery would have a symbol distinct from other wineries, and likewise that downhill skiing would have a distinct symbol from Brookvale. I'm also not clear from a tourist's perspective what the distinction would be between a market and a farm market, nor what it is about a picnic table and an umbrella that should suggest an unsupervised beach.

On the plus side, the icons in their current configuration offer excellent possibilities for an island-wide scavenger hunt of some sort. Some of them must surely only exist on one or two signs at most.

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