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Only a handful of these pre signs still exist. By the early s, all three organisations were erecting their own cast-iron "danger boards". Importantly, these signs warned of hazards, rather than just stating distances or giving direction to places, acknowledging the fact that cyclists, like modern motorists, were unlikely to be familiar with the roads they were travelling along and were moving too fast to take avoiding action without prior warning.
In addition, it was the cycling lobby that successfully pressured the government in into vesting ownership of and responsibility for roads with county councils in previously established highway districts that would be funded from taxation rather than tolls. The districts were active in the erection of semi-standardised directional signs and mileposts in the latter years of the 19th century.
The rise of motoring after saw the pattern repeated. These signs were distinguished based on their shape, rather than a symbol or writing on them.
These included a white ring meaning speed limited as marked on a small information plate below it ; a white sometimes red diamond for a "motor notice" such as a weight restriction given on a plate below ; a red disc for a prohibition; and a red open triangle for a hazard or warning. The latter two could provide more detail by having an information plate below them, but often it was left to the motorist to guess what the sign was referring to, and it was common to have variations between different local areas for what was a prohibition or just a "notice".
This format was to develop into the British road sign that was standard from until Before this time regulations for traffic signs were published under powers created by the Road Traffic Act and so national road signage specifications were only advisory.
Such symbols had been developed in continental Europe as early as , but before this had been dismissed by the UK which favoured the use of text. The symbols were simple silhouettes which were easy to recognise at a distance. The government made increasing efforts to standardise road signs in the Road Traffic Act RTA and regulations of , being finally consolidated with the publication of the Road Traffic Acts and Regulations handbook.
These saw the end of non-standard permanent signs being erected by motoring clubs, such as the black and yellow vitreous enamel AA signs although this did not include temporary direction signs. All signs were to carry information plates mounted below them, which were illustrated with a wide range of prescribed standardised symbols, and only text when no symbol existed.
Neither of these signs required separate information plates. All signs were mounted on posts painted in black and white stripes, and their reverse sides were finished black, green, or more rarely usually after repainting white. As part of its anti-invasion preparations during World War II , the British government instructed all navigational signposts and railway station signs to be removed, so as not to aid potential enemy ground movements.
Old-style sign warning of a school ahead, still in existence in Glastonbury , Somerset. The national signs were subject to minor modification, mainly in the early post- World War II years. Some of these changes were part of an attempt to reflect European standards. Early road signs were usually cast iron , but this was increasingly displaced by cast aluminium in the s.
Cast signs were designed to be maintained by being repainted with the raised lettering and symbol easily picked out by an untrained hand. This sort of sign was sometimes given an element of night use by the inclusion of glass reflectors. An alternative to casting and painting was vitreous enamelled sheet iron or steel. In the s cast signs were quickly displaced by sheet metal usually aluminium coated with adhesive plastics; these could be made reflective, famously by Scotchlite.
Such signs had become almost universal by the reforms of the early s. The major reform of UK road signage to better reflect European practice happened in two stages. The first was associated with the first motorway construction project and the development of a signage system for it by the Anderson Committee of Although it was additional to the existing signage, it set several benchmarks that were developed under the Worboys Committee of that was largely responsible for the road signage system effected from , which is still current.
Until Worboys, the most notable differences between European and UK signs was the use of symbols without text wherever possible, thereby increasing the internationalism of their meaning, and with their combined nature, such as warning signs having the symbol inside the triangle instead of on a separate information plate, on the continent.
Unlike previous government efforts to regulate signage, which tended to be cumulative, Worboys argued a modernist position of starting from a clean slate, with all previous signs being deemed obsolete, illegal even, therefore subject to total and systematic replacement. As a result, local authorities were charged with massive resignage programmes.
Order and Prohibition signs were almost all replaced within a couple of years, with the warning and direction signs taking a longer amount of time. Few pre warning signs survived more than about ten years and while direction signs were similarly replaced more have survived as they were not deemed as essential.
The system currently in use was mainly developed in the late s and the early s, with additional colour-coding introduced in the mids.
There were three major steps in the development of the system. The Anderson Committee established the motorway signing system. The Worboys Committee reformed signing for existing all-purpose roads. The Guildford Rules introduced features to indicate different categories of route.
Anderson Committee[ edit ] In , a government committee was formed to design signs for the new motorway network. A system was needed that could be easily read at high speed. Usborne, of the Ministry of Transport , had charge of proceedings.
Two graphic designers were commissioned to design the system of signage: Jock Kinneir and his assistant and later business partner Margaret Calvert. The new signs were first used on the Preston bypass in It was first introduced on 1 January but has been updated many times since. The TSRGD is supported by the Traffic Signs Manual  TSM , which consists of eight separately-published chapters which provide "the codes to be followed in the use, siting, and illumination of signs both on all-purpose roads and motorways.
It also covers temporary signs for use in connection with road works, in an emergency by the police, and temporary route signing by motoring organisations and highway authorities.
The system became known as Guildford Rules, after the town of Guildford in Surrey , where experimental versions of this signing system were tested. Design[ edit ] A rare non-regulation road sign with metric units in St Albans , Hertfordshire A sign at the Magic Roundabout in Swindon incorporating mini-roundabouts into signage. The correct method, introduced in the TSRGD, is to use a black disc with a central white dot for each mini-roundabout.
This peculiarity is common in Wiltshire. A complex set of detailed guidelines governs road signs in the United Kingdom.
The sizes of borders, symbols and arrows and the spacing and layout of the sign face are expressed in sw, so that all the elements remain in proportion. Shape[ edit ] Almost all signs have rounded corners. This is partly for aesthetic reasons. It is also safer for anyone coming into contact with a sign, and it makes the sign more durable, as rain and snow are less likely to corrode the corners. Units of measurement[ edit ] The United Kingdom uses mostly imperial units on road signs for distance measurements and speed limits.
From March , all new height and width restrictions are to have dual metric-imperial units. All roads are categorised as either motorways white on blue , primary routes white on dark green with yellow route numbers , or non-primary routes black on white. TSRGD  updated this and introduced a system of black-on-yellow signs for roadworks.
TSRGD is the current version in force. On Advance Direction Signs, as introduced under the Guildford Rules, the background colour indicates the category of route on which it is located. Usually, these signs use a simple black on yellow colour code, more complex signage use the conventional signs superimposed onto a yellow background.
In some areas, such as the Dartmoor National Park , additional signs and colours are used to distinguish road conditions. In addition to the national colour schemes, the park also uses white signs with a light blue border and text to denote routes suitable for medium-sized vehicles and white signs with a brown border and text for routes suitable for cars and small vehicles only. The park also uses fingerpost signs for routes suitable for local traffic only. These routes are publicised in park leaflets and other media.
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Road signs in the United Kingdom
TSRGD and TSM
Using Traffic Signs Manual to decipher TSRGD