Sunday, 25 September 2016

Map Signs Are Useful

OK, this post is a bit niche, but let's pause for a minute and think about how we can multi-purpose the humble traffic direction sign and make things (a little bit) better.

My industry is often accused of ruining our towns, cities and rural places with traffic sign clutter. This is often true, but there will be a need to warn, inform and regulate for the foreseeable, so signs are here to stay!

A good principle to work with is that everything we place on our streets has to do a job (a real job, mind) and things that do more than one job are even better. Map signs are one such thing which do more than one job. On the face of it, they give directional information but they can also show us what the road ahead looks like. Here's an example from Basildon;

The sign in the top right corner is placed well in advance of the roundabout so a decision can be taken early on which direction to take. Not only does the sign actually tell the driver there is a roundabout coming up, it tells us that there is a left turn slip road (there is is on the main image), gives us the destination information to local places and gives a rough idea of how the roundabout is laid out. How about this bit of super-madness at Hemel Hempstead;

The map sign certainly shows the horror ahead, which is a roundabout with six mini-roundabouts around it (yes, you can go both ways around the main roundabout!). And here is one final roundabout in Dagenham which has been created by merging two;

The common thing with those three examples is that the signs explain the road layout quite clearly, but the layouts need explaining as they are unusual and less than intuitive for those unfamiliar with them and to a certain extent, a way of adding motor capacity to existing junctions. Map signs can also be used at T-junctions, like this example near Epping where the junction has a skew;

Here's one more in Lambeth which is designed to stop drivers taking a wrong turn before they get to this side road;

Here's another in Havering-atte-Bower which shows a sharp on the main road bend to the right, a side road to the left, destinations and the start of as weight limit.

Map signs are not rocket science to be sure, but they are a helpful little tool in the highway engineer's toolbox. When they are well-designed they not only provide important destination information, but they show what the road ahead looks like and what restrictions might be coming.

1 comment:

  1. Sustainable Safety helps with this. Predictability is the key aspect. You can predict what you are going to be driving or cycling on or whatever other information often from just looking at the road itself.

    For example at a roundabout, they are usually single lane roundabouts to begin with and I support David Hembrow and Mark Treasure's decision, cyclists shouldn't have priority over cars there, so it's very easy to understand. Multi lane roundabouts have raised ridges to prevent lane changes and it's easy to understand. At most standard junctions where one or more arms have a give way sign facing them, usually on the main road there will be a thru and right turn (left in the UK) lane and a left turn (UK right) lane, and on the side road, usually a single lane with a median divider if possible, especially in the countryside.

    Traffic signs are also much less wordy, and especially if they impose a speed limit, it's understandable what kind of road you're on. Motorways have at least two lanes per direction, a raised barrier in the middle, a hard shoulder and solid edge lines. The rural distributor roads have a broken white edge line and a centre line or a median, rural countryside roads have just a broken edge line. Urban distributors are like the rural ones in physical appearance although there is a transition between urban and countryside, same for access roads. Access roads in the urban area means usually brick paving and parking on street. Bus stops are often in specific bays, parking too. It's much simpler than a British street.

    Traffic lights have specific signals for each user and often divide the turn phases, at least the left turn (right in the UK), from the other modes, often pedestrians and cyclists too from conflicting traffic. They look like the direction and mode that they are governing, arrow shapes for turning traffic and cycling aspects for cycle signals.

    By making roads smaller too, it's easier to understand. They like to keep roads as narrow as possible. It's not that often that they will have 2 lanes per direction on roads other than exressways (autowegen) or motorways, although increasingly there are some in Noord and Zuid Holland, but even this is mostly restricted to countryside 80 km/h roads.

    It`s much simpler to understand how the Dutch will organize their roads than it is to decipher the meaning of a speed limit sign in the UK. Oh, and they use the metric system, as such, they have earned an award for having joined the 18th century, the UK has to do that before it can get the award for joining the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.