Product Review: Routearrows

Last November, Gary introduced a product to me called Routearrows (find a complete description at  We are always seeking new and better ways to mark the course for PMBC’s Casa Grande Century (CG100) ride.

Routearrows are basically colorful shaped paper arrows with a contact adhesive on the back (photos are below).  They are potentially attractive in that they’re quite visible to cyclists but not distracting to motorists, and appear fast and easy to apply.  The website touts that removal is unnecessary because they “disintegrate from traffic wear and leave no trace.”   The site further states that “If they stay dry and see very little traffic, it can take up to 6-8 weeks until they’re completely gone.”

The CG100 is routed primarily along farm roads south of Queen Creek and east of Casa Grande.  Since these roads see sparse traffic, I decided that  applying routearrow test samples onto my driveway would be a conservative assessment, likely to be run over at least 5 or 6 times a day by my truck and SUV.  I instructed my wife and son to deliberately steer and run over them on each entry and exit.  The markers  were placed to receive a full day of sunshine on sunny days.

I took photos of one of the markers frequently at first, but spaced out once I realized the disintegration would take a while.   Click on any photo to see it in closer detail.

Day 0 - applied November 22, 2010
Day 1 - November 23, 2010
Day 2 - November 24, 2010
Day 3 - November 25, 2010
Day 6 - November 28, 2010
Day 9 - December 1, 2010
Day 23 - December 15, 2010
Day 53 - January 14, 2011
Day 62 - January 23, 2011

During this assessment period we received the following rain (data from the nearest station’s historical data from

  • 0.03″ on November 28th
  • 0.25″ on December 16th
  • 0.25″ on December 22nd
  • 0.76″ on December 29th
  • 0.22″ on December 30th

Total of 1.51″ rain, pretty normal for winter months in desert Arizona.   The traffic loading in my driveway was probably lighter than a farm road, and so this is a conservative test.

You can readily see that the color gradually fades out over the 8 week timeframe.  The arrow shape stays completely intact while the surface of the paper roughens.   The contact adhesive became very weak after about 6 weeks.  By the 8th week, all of the test samples had come loose and blown off my driveway, to be found in the bushes.

To reiterate the vendor’s claim:  “If they stay dry and see very little traffic, it can take up to 6-8 weeks until they’re completely gone.”    I found this statement to be false.   Over this 8-week test, only the color was “completely gone,” while the arrow itself was still quite a thick slab of paper that had barely begun disintegrating.

My conclusion from this 8 week trial is that, for purposes of the CG100, these markers would have to be removed following the event.   Leaving them down will potentially draw unwanted attention from ADOT or the county due to the slow deterioration.  More importantly, the soon-to-detach arrows disintegrate slowly and therefore represent trash to the surrounding environment.

On January 22, 2011, I rode our club’s Mummy Mountain route and noticed that an event ride had very recently used and left red Routearrows on a course up there.   The arrows are nicely visible and not a distraction for motorists.  We will plan to monitor these markers over time when the club returns to this site (likely in March 2011).

Assessment Summary
  • Visibility to Cyclists – Good
  • Distraction to motorists – Virtually none
  • Deployment – Rapid, although a typical turn requires the application of 4 separate arrows
  • Marking Effectiveness – Very good.  Easy ability to pre-indicate, then indicate, then confirm each turn
  • Customization – Poor.  Not really large enough to accommodate specific messages or street names
  • Weather Resistance – Good enough for 1-day event, or longer depending on conditions.
  • Clean up – Based on the exposure tests above, event staff should remove Routearrows following an event.  This finding is not a huge shortcoming, but it does discredit the vendor’s claim that Routearrows do not require clean-up.  They do.
  • Storage – Good, requires very little shelf space
  • Cost – The CG100 would require about 300 arrows at a cost of around $100/event.

I like the Routearrow product and will consider it an “arrow in our quiver.” They offer a mixture of advantages and shortcomings compared to the current use of small cardboard markers (shown below):

Existing CG100 cardboard marker - front face is about 8.5" x 11"