Government to Cut Road Sign 'Clutter'

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

An official announcement from the Department for Transport has heralded plans to give local councils greater freedom to design, add and remove road signage and markings without approval from central government.

Ostensibly the plans, which are under consultation until the 10th of June 2014, aim to reduce the number of signs 'cluttering' Britain's roads. The total number of signs across the country has jumped from two million in 1993 to more than 4.6 million today, and Roads Minister Robert Goodwillie claims the proposed changes will "mean greater flexibility for councils to cut the number of signs, whilst ensuring consistency and making sure our roads are even safer for cyclists and motorists."

However, the legislation will also devolve power to determine the size of parking bays and the shape and size of box junctions: both of which have received significant publicity in recent years for the fines they bring in from errant motorists, and the ensuing controversies over ineffectual signage and markings.

Last year, Halfords and G3 Pro found that more than 10 million motorists suffered damaged paint work and subsequent costs and car insurance claims due to small parking spaces; and road markings for box junctions and bus lanes have caused complaints over poor signage and visibility in areas from Devon to Clapham and beyond.

The consultation's impact assessment clearly states that the objectives of these changes include "removing regulatory barriers, where possible, to the design of traffic signs" and "reducing the requirements for traffic signs"; which could potentially equate to less clarity in terms of the rules and regulations motorists are subject to.

Added safety measures for cyclists are also proposed, including expanding cycle boxes and adding extra, low-level lights to give cyclists a head start. And while safety measures and accident prevention measures are always welcome, it does sound like motorists may have more, not less, to look out for if the legislation is passed. And all with fewer signs to guide them. But all will depend on how local councils choose to implement the proposed powers, should they go ahead.

Once the consultation has concluded in early June, successor legislation is expected to be put in place by early 2015.

Sources:
1. www.gov.uk/government/news/new-changes-could-cut-britains-46-million-road-signs  
2. www.gov.uk/government/speeches/traffic-signs-consultation  
3. www.halfordscompany.com/media-centre/press-releases/consumer-news/rash-of-car-park-scratches-irritate-uk-drivers  

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