Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Improvements for UK speed related signs

In the previous article "UK metric speed limit signs" we gave examples of what British metric speed limit signs would look like, and also showing the necessary changes and minimum changes from a purely metrication perspective.

In this article we will provide suggestions on how we can improve the British signage further, make them more consistent with international norms, and suggest some new signs. As a result we can reduce the need to have speed limits for everything, and potentially reduce the number of signs.

Advisory speed limit (Highly recommended change and new sign)

Shown below is the original Advisory Speed Limit at a left bend, the changed Advisory Speed Limit sign, and a new (in the UK) "End of Advisory Speed Limit" sign:

With this change, all advisory speed limit signs would be standalone, and none would be supplementary. This advisory speed limit sign is also by far the easiest to read, and can be read instantaneously. The square shape distinguishes it from minimum speed limit (which is circular).

The end of advisory speed limit sign cancels the previously posted advisory speed limit, and makes it obvious when this is happening.

100km/h Advisory speed limit (left); End of 100km/h advisory speed limit (right)

Having said this, another alternative is to phase out advisory speed limits altogether, this option is good because as well as simplifying the speed limit system (only maximum and minimum mandatory) this can save money too because there will be no more advisory speed limit signs / supplementary plates to maintain.

End of speed limit zone (Highly recommended change along with urban / built-up area sign)

This sign means end of 30km/h zone, default urban / built-up speed limit and restrictions applies. This type of sign is only for use within urban areas.

This sign is a big improvement, because it minimizes the words used, and we can much more clearly see that this is the end of the 30km/h zone. Clutter is also reduced - It is not necessary to say "Zone Ends" because "Ends" just adds unnecessary clutter. This sign already means "Zone Ends".

We can use this in conjunction with the urban areas sign and end of urban areas sign.

There is of course, nothing new about this sign, and similar designs are already in place in the rest of Europe, especially Germany.

Replace "National Speed Limit" with All clear / Derestriction (Highly recommended change)

This sign replaces “National Speed Limit” signs. This type of sign is supposed to be a derestriction sign as per international norms, and not a speed limit sign.

However, this all clear / derestriction sign would mean:
  • End of all restrictions, including all posted speed limits
  • Default speed limit (which can still be called “National Speed Limit” if one really wants to) still applies, depending on area.
  • This sign cannot be used in urban or built-up areas.
This change would make this sign more consistent with other British signs (all other derestriction signs in the UK have broken black lines), as well as consistent with international norms.

Introduce "End of Speed Limit" sign (Highly recommended new sign)

This sign would mean end of the stated speed limit – 60km/h in this case, default speed limit now applies, but other restrictions are still in force.

This can also replace "National speed limit signs as well", but where other restrictions still apply (e.g. no stopping).

This type of sign would be unlikely to ever appear in built-up areas.  The only exceptions would be for end of 30km/h and 40km/h speed limits, and even these are only to be used where the standalone 30km/h and 40km/h are used. In other words only where 30km/h Zone and end of 30km/h Zone signs are not used.

Introduce urban / built-up area sign (Highly recommended new sign)

Entering the built-up area of Camberley (left); Leaving the built-up area of Camberley (right)

The "Entering urban / built-up area" sign on the left will mean:
  • You are entering the place name stated (in this case Camberley)
  • The default speed limit is now 50 km/h – cancelling all previous speed limits.
  • The default restrictions for urban areas would also apply (i.e. parking and stopping permitted unless signs / markings say otherwise).
The “Leaving urban / built-up area” sign on the right will mean:
  • You are leaving the built-up area stated (in this case Camberley)
  • Default speed limit for rural areas applies, unless overridden by other signs (e.g. posted speed limit signs, or motorway signs). In other words, the same meaning as “Derestriction” / “All clear”.
However, we absolutely must have markings on the road saying what the speed limit is on entry to the urban area (50 km/h), an example which is shown in the previous article.

Note that these signs will apply for all built-up areas and urban areas, including but not limited to towns, suburbs of larger towns and suburbs of cities.

We would still need 50 km/h signs in rural areas (e.g. villages) though, as well as repeaters.

Speed limits can also be reviewed in such a way that the number of signs can be minimized so that the entire urban area is 50km/h. Therefore less clutter can result.

Kraftfahrstraße (motor road) style signage and regulations (Highly recommended changes)

Kraftfahrstraßen (motor roads) are roads in Germany and elsewhere in continental Europe (but having different names) which have motorway-like regulations and are often dual carriageways, they have their own special sign. We propose that this sign is also used in the UK.

Start of Kraftfahrstraße-style dual Carriageway regulations and End of Kraftfahrstraße-style dual carriageway signs are shown below:

The start of Kraftfahrstraße-style dual carriageway regulations sign above would mean:
  • 60km/h minimum speed limit, therefore no pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, tractors, or certain kinds of mopeds.
  • No stopping, parking, or reversing
  • Maximum speed limits are lower than or equal to motorways, depending on class of vehicle.
As expected this end of dual carriageway sign means end of "dual carriageway" regulations. The default speed limit for rural areas applies, unless overridden by other signs (e.g. posted speed limit signs, or motorway signs). In addition to this, the end of the Kraftfahrstraße-style regulations sign has the same practical effect as "Derestriction" / "All clear".

As mentioned earlier, these signs (and regulations) exist throughout Continental Europe already. As well as in Germany where these type of roads are called Kraftfahrstraße, in Austria and Switzerland these roads are called Autostraße (which literally translates to "motor road"), and most of the rest of continental Europe have Autostraßen but with a different name, in France this type of road is called a voie rapide. In the UK, many (but not all dual) carriageways are equivalent or almost equivalent to Kraftfahrstraßen.

To avoid confusion in the UK, this sign must only be used where there is a dual carriageway, which are roads separated by a central reservation (but this can have 1 or more lanes), and which are motorway-like but are not motorways. On no account should this sign be used on single carriageways.

In practical terms, the dual carriageways with Kraftfahrstraße style signage will remain unchanged for most road users – only pedestrians, tractors, cycles, and mopeds would now also be forbidden from entering. However, leaner drivers could be permitted here unlike on motorways, which is a matter for discussion in itself.

Because stopping would already be forbidden by these proposed new regulations, we can remove all the no stopping, no parking, and national speed limit signs and repeaters, meaning less signs to maintain. Other signs which would no longer be needed include no cycles. For example in Reading when you enter the A329 dual carriageway there are no less than four signs on entry: Derestriction (National Speed Limit), no stopping, no cycles, and no pedestrians – all four of these signs can be replaced with the “Dual Carriageway / Kraftfahrstraße” sign shown in this subsection.

Example sign for Dual Carriageway / Kraftfahrstraße 1500m ahead:

Whatever we call this new sign, it is worth coming up with a new name for this type dual carriageway, in other words the UK equivalent of Kraftfahrstraße. Not all dual carriageways need to be converted to Kraftfahrstraße-style roads, just those resembling motorways.

15 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

  1. Really interesting article, nice to see some real suggestions of how to implement the changeover whenever it may finally happen.

  2. I do hope you're not condoning the banishment of cyclists from all dual carriageways. How about calling it a "motor road"?; I understand where you're coming from, though.

    1. A separate path for mopeds, bicycles, pedestrians and slow vehicles can be built. As long as it is at least 3.5 metres wide, smooth, efficient and does not require too much stopping or giving way, than putting these other vehicles on a separate path and calling these dual carriageways with full grade separation motorways and remaining dual carriageways motor roads or expressways would work well. I also suggest examining the feasibility of putting low speed mopeds (25 km/h or less) on urban cycle paths and standard mopeds (45 km/h or less) on rural cycle paths. I also suggest introducing a 60 km/h zone sign. For most quiet country roads, this is a good idea. It can be enforced with a speed table that is only comfortable to take at 60 km/h or less and taking away all indications of who goes first, forcing negotiation, and a cycle/moped path on rural medium to high volume and higher speed (70 km/h or more) roads unless there is no point (like an indirect motorway where no cyclists need to be anyway) would be a smart idea. Turbo roundabouts where cyclists, pedestrians and mopeds are kept far away from motor traffic either in an underpass or simply not needing to be there should also be implemented in the UK. They would likely replace a lot of multi-lane roundabouts.

  3. @Kevin - I can assure you that I do not favour the banishment of cyclists from all dual carriageways, and not all dual carriageways should be converted into motor roads. Only those dual carriageways which are motorway-like would need to be considered for converting to motor roads. The name "motor road" is a very good suggestion.

    1. Dual carriageways without full grade separation, with or without hard shoulders, and those with roundabouts but prohibit low speed vehicles, stopping, reversing and parking, would be motorway like.

    2. A motor road name is so clutter, so I recommend ‘expressway’. The expressway: should have grade-separated junctions, hard shoulders, mustn’t start or end with a circle. Obligatory restrictions are: no slow-moving vehicles (below 50 km/h), no stopping, reversing, parking except in emergency and speed limit of 120 km/h. Wider (2x3/2x4) can have a higher speed (130/140/150 km/h). There is no need to put NO signs, just a symbol of expressway, like we, Poles, do.

    3. I suggest doing what the Dutch do. They have 50 km/h urban areas, (by default, often reduced to 30) 80 km/h rural areas, 100 km/h expressways, including the two lane kind, sometimes with a divide between the two directions and sometimes not, and full motorways, 2x2 minimum with a solid divide, hard shoulders, full grade separation, and always using interchange ramps, and those have 130 km/h limits, or sometimes 120 or 100 in urban areas or where the acceleration lanes are too short.

      The UK needs to upgrade much of it's dual carriageway system to motorway standards. Sometimes this is easy, like where it would be simply building a hard shoulder on each side, putting a crash barrier in the middle if it already doesn't have one, maybe removing a few side roads, and prohibiting slow vehicles, sometimes more complex, but it should happen. Some of the high quality single carriageway roads, with more grade separation or sometimes roundabouts or occasional traffic lights, no local access and preferably with a divide between the two directions and at least a metre or two of a hard shoulder, would be upgraded to the autoweg 100 km/h roads. The rest of the rural 60 mph (97 km/h) areas should be downgraded to either 80 km/h distributor roads or 60 km/h rural access roads.

  4. Using a start and end of town sign to replace urban speed limit signs (as they do in France) is more confusing than simply putting speed limit signs at the start and end of the urban section. If you want to make signage more readily comprehensible, you need to spell things out more clearly, not rely on arbitrary conventions like that.

    Your use of advisory speed limit signs also leaves a lot to be desired. Presently, a speed limit on a blue sign indicates a minimum speed, and yet you want to use a very similar looking sign to indicate an advisory maximum speed. Why not stop unnecessary meddling and just leave it as a white plate?

  5. I like the idea of the 'motor road' though I recommend the use of 'express road', a French translation of 'voie express', used for these kinds of near-motorway roads. That way, motor road and motorway are not confused. And they can stop the many 'No-' signs before the road e.g. No Cycling, No Pedestrians, No Horses etc.

  6. @Alexander - Your suggestion "express road" is very good too. I personally don't mind either way what we decide to call near-motorway roads.

  7. Sorry, I should've put this in my previous comment, but the sign for near-motorway roads should reflect the classification of the route i.e. primary/non-primary, as I believe it would look neater when on a directional sign.

  8. @Alexander - Interesting suggestion about the express road/motor road sign colour reflecting the route classification, it would certainly be more logical. Although if there are express roads which go through both primary and non-primary routes there would be a change of colour during the route, depending on the road. Not sure it would be standard, but if it's allowed under the Vienna Convention it shouldn't be a problem.

    I think the reason why they have been the same colour as motorway signs is to reflect the fact they are motorway-like, and that was reflected in the designs here.

  9. I have just read that the Republic of Ireland's National Roads Authority is considering introducing express road/motor road signage, according to Wikipedia.

  10. Wouldn't the "motor road" be analogous to our current Axx(M) type? An A-road "under motorway restrictions" but not built to the same standards, basically? So, higher speed limits for non-car traffic, and all non-motorway traffic (unmotorised, solid tyre/tracked/unsuspended, 49cc mopeds, industrial or agricultural vehicles that can't maintain 25+ mph unladen and on the flat, etc) banned... but probably lacking a full hard shoulder, full centre barrier and proper motorway standard junctions / junction distance separation.

    It's something that could do with clarification, to be fair, because people get easily confused e.g. with the A1(M) vs the A14, and the different limits and restrictions applied on otherwise very similar bits of tarmac.

  11. In the Netherlands, expressways actually refer to upgraded two lane highways where a all the junctions either are interchanges, high speed roundabouts or occasionally traffic light controlled, and sometimes give way sign controlled. They have a green painted or colour asphalted section between 30-80 cm wide between the two directions, a single lane in each direction, though there would be turn lanes, a speed limit of 100 km/h, a minimum speed limit of 60, no mopeds, bicycles, pedestrians or other motor vehicles unable to legally go and be going at least 60 km/h. Passing may or may not be prohibited. The speed limit drops to 70 km/h in advance of a traffic light, but returns to expressway speed limit after the junction. They are used on many roads in the Netherlands, especially in the Eastern Netherlands where the roadway has not been divided into two carriageways or given full grade separation yet, where motorway regulations apply.


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