They’re ugly, they’re often unnecessary and they cost a fortune. That’s what a West Midlands MP says about the road signs that clutter our streets.
Learning the meaning of every sign in the Highway Code is a ritual familiar to everyone who has taken a driving test.
But too many signs mean nothing at all, according to Stratford-upon-Avon MP Nadhim Zahawi.
Rather than conveying useful information to motorists, they are erected on the orders of over-zealous council officials who believe they are protecting the local authority from the risk of being sued if an accident takes place.
But Mr Zahawi (Con) and fellow Tory MPs want a new approach – including a fine of up to £500 every time a council puts up a useless sign and refuses to take it down again.
They are also calling for an official website allowing the public to name and shame road sign extremists who insist on spoiling Britain’s highways with unnecessary clutter.
Along with Conservative MPs Steve Baker, Anne Main and Julian Smith, Mr Zahawi has published a report with the uncompromising title: Poles Apart – How to get rid of a million useless road signs.
He said: “Across the country councils and other organisations have blighted our roads, towns, cities and countryside with unnecessary and expensive signs.
“They claim they must have a sign every 10ft because the law and regulations tell them to simply isn’t true. This pamphlet is our attempt to clarify the situation and suggest some solutions.
“At the heart of our solution is the public. Identifying problem signage and getting something done about it is the Big Society in action, but officers often fail to respond to issues the public raise.
“Or they blame tight budgets for being unable to do anything about it, while wasting money erecting yet more unnecessary signs elsewhere. This has to change and we hope that this pamphlet will be the catalyst to do just that.”
The aim, according to Mr Zahawi, is to give residents the power to get rid of signs. But the first step lies with Ministers at Westminster.
The leaflet concludes: “Localism and the Big Society, together, should empower citizens to demand councils meet higher standards of aesthetics and administrative competence. We urge the Secretaries of State for Transport and Local Government to work together to make this happen.”
TRAFFIC SIGN CRIMES
Most drivers “don’t have a clue what they are intended to signify”, according to the MPs. In fact, they are a warning not to stop, but they tend to be used on roads where nobody would stop anyway unless their car broke down. The signs are “a pointless waste of metal and money.”
Speed camera signs
Frequently put up on the orders of police where no cameras exist, so that officers are free to set up mobile speed camera traps. Councils don’t realise they are entitled to tell the police to get lost but they should do just that, say the MPs.
Red route signs
These designate bus routes but the same effect is created by painting red lines in the road. The report states: “Red Routes in the likes of Birmingham are one of the most absurd examples of road sign excess.“ Paint a red line on the road: don’t put a pole up every 20 yards.”
Cycle route signs
Cycle paths are already visible on the road and don’t need blue signs every ten yards, the MPs say.
Controlled zone boards
These set out the parking restrictions in force in a road. The same information can usually be conveyed by painting a couple of yellow lines on the road.
New road layout ahead
Signs warning motorists that an upcoming junction has been rebuilt may have some value, but the trouble is that they are frequently left in place once they have been erected.
End of motorway restrictions
Given that this sign is aimed at drivers who have just come off a motorway, does it tell them anything useful?
Local access only
These signs may bring some cheer to villagers hoping lorry drivers will stop cutting through their village, but as they have no legal force whatsoever they are a waste of money.
Traffic lights ahead
The great thing about traffic lights is that they light up, making them easy to see even without a sign.