The Department for Transport wants to reduce sign clutter. Very commendable, you might think. So why don’t they adopt an obvious measure that would make many signs smaller, simpler and easier to read – and thereby reduce clutter?
The Department for Transport has recently published a leaflet ‘Reducing sign clutter’ together with a press release. (This is actually a re-announcement of an earlier policy by the Department for Communities and Local Government in 2010 – see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11092590) . Here is an extract from the latest press release:
“Thousands of traffic signs are being brought down across the country as part of a Government drive to rid streets of clutter.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is urging local authorities to continue the cull.
He has also unveiled a new document called ‘Reducing Sign Clutter’ that provides guidance to local authorities on how to remove unnecessary traffic signs as cost-effectively as possible…
.. The new traffic signs advisory document provides local authorities with various hints and tips to help get them started in removing pointless signs. It also encourages authorities to think about:
• Improving the streetscape by identifying and removing unnecessary, damaged and worn-out signs;
• Helping to ensure signs are provided only where they are needed;
• Minimising the environmental impact, particularly in rural settings; and
• Reducing costs, not just of the signs themselves but maintenance and energy costs.”
Although the tone of the leaflet is somewhat patronising, its recommendations – so far as they go – are generally unexceptionable . It glosses over the fact that much signage is a legal requirement (e.g. speed limit repeater signs), and that the spread of 20 MPH zones in residential areas is leading (as in Portsmouth in 2007/8) to a big increase in the number of signs.
However, the glaring omission from the Circular is its failure to deal with the question of the design of the signs themselves. MetricViews has tackled this issue before (see http://metricviews.org.uk/2010/08/ukma-welcomes-attack-on-sign-clutter-but-obvious-targets-have-been-missed/ ), but it is worth repeating. We quote from our 2010 article:
“Some examples of current cluttered signs (on the left) and our proposed simplified signs (on the right) are given below:
Current cluttered signs Clear metric signs
The simplicity and legibility of the metric signs speaks for itself. The refusal of the DfT to endorse them demonstrates that their political masters give higher priority to pleasing the anti-metric lobby than to any genuine concern for the environment and road safety.