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Modern British road signage might be traced to the development of the ‘ordinary’ bicycle and the establishment of clubs to further the interests of its riders, notably the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC), the National Cyclists’ Union (NCU) and the Scottish Cyclists’ Union (SCU). By the early 1880s all three organisations were erecting their own cast iron ‘danger boards’. Importantly, as the name suggests, these signs warned of hazards, rather than just stating distances and/or giving direction to sites, acknowledging the fact that cyclists, like modern motorists, were unlikely to get familiar together with the roads they were travelling along and were travelling too fast to take avoiding action without prior warning. In addition, it was the cycling lobby that successfully pressured government (in 1888) into vesting ownership of and responsibility for roads with county councils in previously established Highway Districts (HDs) that would be funded from taxation rather than tolls. The HDs were active while in the erection of semi-standardised direction signs and mileposts while in the latter years of the 19th century.
The rise of Motoring following 1896 saw the pattern repeated. The larger motoring clubs, notably the Automobile Association (AA) and the Royal Scottish Automobile Club (RSAC) erected their own, idiosyncratic warning boards and direction signs on a wide scale. In addition, under the 1903 Motor Act, 4 national signs were made, supposed to be set at least 8 feet from your ground and fifty yards from your reference point. These signs were interesting in being primarily based on shape, rather than text or image; a white ring (speed limited as marked on a small details plate below it; somewhat ironic, given that few cars carried speedometers); a white (sometimes red) diamond (a ‘motor notice’ e.g. fat restriction, given on a plate below); a red disc,(a prohibition); and a red, open triangle (a hazard or warning). These latter two could be given detail by the attachment of an facts plate below, but often it was left to the motorist to guess what the sign was referring to and local variations as to the definition of what was a prohibition or just a ‘notice’, for instance, were prevalent. In spite of this confusing beginning, this format of sign was to develop into the British road sign that was typical from 1934 until 1964. Before this time, until 1933, when regulations for traffic signs were published under powers created by the Road Traffic Act (RTA) of 1930, ‘national’ road signage specifications were only advisory.
Subsequent a review of ‘national’ signage in 1921 a limited number of warning/hazard facts plates were enhanced by the use of symbols, rather than text only. Such symbols had been developed in continental Europe as early as 1909, but had been dismissed by the UK, which favoured the use of text. The symbols were uncomplicated silhouettes, straightforward to ‘read’ at a distance. Some were peculiarly British, ‘SCHOOL’ (and later even ‘CHILDREN’) depicted by the flaming torch of knowledge, presumably assuming that all motorists were affluent enough to have enjoyed a classical education. Government was to make increasing efforts to standardise road signs while in the Road Traffic Act of 1930 and regulations of 1933, being finally consolidated with all the publication of the 1934 Road Traffic Acts and Regulations. These saw the conclude of the extremely individual black and yellow vitreous enamel AA signs (although the AA was still allowed to erect temporary direction signs, and still does). Whilst the RSAC had ceased erecting signs, the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) had begun to do so to RTA specifications (save for the inclusion of the RAC badge) and was quite active in this respect while in the late 1930s.
The national British signs were now a red disc (prohibition) a red, open triangle (warning/hazard), a red ring (an order), and a red, open triangle in a ring for your new (1933) warning with order ‘SLOW -MAJOR ROAD AHEAD’ and ‘HALT AT MAJOR ROAD AHEAD’ plates. (The predecessors of ‘GIVE WAY’ and ‘STOP’). All signs were to carry information and facts plates mounted below them, the warnings or hazards being illustrated with a wide range of prescribed symbols, but with a text panel below, being only text where no symbol existed. Lettering and symbols were black on a white ground except for orders (e.g. TURN LEFT) , which were white on blue. New to the UK were the first combination sign, which incorporated information on the sign itself, the 30 miles per hour speed restriction (introduced in 1934), ’30’ in black letters on a white disc (the facts) surrounded by a red ring (the order sign). It was accompanied by its ‘derestriction’ a white disc with a diagonal black band bisecting it. Neither of these signs required separate data plates. The 1934 RTA&R also clarified direction and distance signage which also remained in that form until 1964. All signs were mounted on posts painted in black and white stripes, and their reverse sides were finished black, green, or far more rarely (usually just after repainting) white. The HALT plate was unique in being T shaped, orders were mainly landscape and warnings always portrait. Sizes were strictly prescribed, the warning plate being 21×12 inches along with the surmounting triangle 18 inches equal.
The national signs were issue to minor modification, mainly while in the early post-war years. For instance, ‘SCHOOL’ became a schoolboy and girl marching off a kerb, ‘CHILDREN’ a boy and girl playing handball on a kerb’s edge. ‘CROSSING NO GATES’ was given a more toy-like locomotive. Meanwhile the triangle was inverted for ‘HALT’ and ‘SLOW’, though ‘NO ENTRY’ became a combination sign – a red disc bisected by a horizontal white rectangle bearing the lettering. Orders were now black on white, save for ‘NO WAITING’, which was black on yellow in a red ring. 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 from the 1930s. Cast signs were created to be maintained by being repainted while using 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 alternate to casting and painting was vitreous enamelled sheet iron or steel. Within the 1950s cast signs were quickly displaced by sheet metal (usually aluminium) coated with adhesive plastics, these could be designed reflective, famously by ‘Scotchlite’. Such signs had become almost universal by the reforms of the early 1960s.
The major reform of UK road signage to far more reflect mainland 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 (1957). Though it was additional to the existing signage, it set a number of benchmarks that were developed under the Worboys Committee (1963) that was largely responsible for that road signage system effected from 1964, which is still current. Until Worboys, the most notable differences between European signs and those from the UK was their reliance on symbols without text wherever doable, thereby increasing the internationalism of their ‘language’, with each other with their combined nature, for instance the warning signs having the symbol within the triangle instead of on a separate information and facts plate. The Worboys Committee recommended that such practices were adopted inside the UK and the ‘New Traffic Signs’ of 1964 were part of the most comprehensive reformation of the UK streetscape that the country has experienced. Unlike previous government efforts to regulate signage, which tended to be cumulative, Worboys argued a modernist placement of starting from zero, with all previous signs being deemed obsolete, illegal even, as a result issue to total and systematic replacement. As a result local authorities were charged with massive resignage programmes. Order and Prohibition signs were almost all replaced inside of a couple of years, while using the warning and direction signs taking somewhat lengthier. Few pre 1964 warning signs survived much more than about ten years, and, although direction signs were similarly replaced, extra have survived as they were not deemed as critical as the others in regulatory terms.
The system currently in use was mainly developed while in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, with additional colour coding introduced from the mid 1980s. There were three major steps within 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.
In 1957, a government committee was formed to design signs for the new motorway network. A system was needed that could be readily read at high speed. Colin Anderson, chairman of P&O, was appointed chairman; T. G. 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 newest signs were first employed on the Preston By-pass in 1958.
 Worboys Committee
Main article: Worboys Committee
The UK government formed another committee in 1963 to review signage on all British roads. It was chaired by Sir Walter Worboys of ICI. The result was a document that defined traffic signing in Britain: Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD). It was first introduced on 1 January 1965 but has been updated many times since. It is actually comparable with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices inside United States.
 Guildford Rules
As part of an effort to eliminate sign clutter while in the mid-1980s, a colour-coding system was developed to indicate information and facts pertaining to different categories of route. The system became recognized as Guildford Rules, after the town of Guildford, Surrey, where experimental versions of this signing system were tested.[specify] But in later years, the term Guildford Rules became infrequently applied.
A sign for that Magic Roundabout in Swindon showing a rather unorthodox method of incorporating mini-roundabouts into signage. (The correct method, introduced inside the 1994 TSRGD, is to use a black disc with central white dot for just about every mini-roundabout.) This peculiarity is prevalent in Wiltshire.
A British speed limit (in mph) sign in a residential space.
UK roadsigns are governed by an extremely complex and detailed set of guidelines. The fundamental units of measurement applied by sign designers are the ‘x-height’ (the height of the lower case letter ‘x’) and the ‘stroke width’ (sw) (four sw = 1 x-height). The sizes of borders, symbols and arrows and the spacing and layout of the sign face are expressed in sw, so that all the factors remain in proportion. The x-height of a sign is dictated mainly by the speed of traffic approaching it, hence 300mm x-heights are common on motorways, whereas parking signs are mainly at 15mm or 20mm x-height. Marker posts .
Traffic signs are generally created working with specialist computer software. The 2 most well-liked systems are SignPlot from Buchanan Computing, and KeySign (previously AutoSign) from Key Traffic Systems, originally developed in 1980s by Pete Harman and Geoff Walker while working for Humberside County Council.
Almost all signs have rounded corners. This is partly for aesthetic reasons. It truly is also safer for anyone coming into make contact with with a sign, and it makes the sign more tough, as rain is less likely to corrode the corners.
 Units of measurement
Britain is the only European Union member nation to use Imperial rather than SI measurements for distance and speed. Aside in the USA and Burma-Myanmar, it’s the only highways network still adopting the Imperial system but the Secretary of State for Transport can authorise the use of metric models (and inside case of driver spot signs has done so). The Welsh Assembly and the appropriate minister from the Scottish Parliament have similar powers. However, vehicle excess weight limits are signed only in metric (TSRGD 1981), and metric models could optionally be made use of in addition to imperial ones for height, width and length restrictions.
Because of the disproportionate number of bridge strikes involving foreign lorries (between 10 and 12% in 2008), the British Government has made dual models mandatory on new height warning and restriction signs on 9 April 2010. However, a wholesale metrication of distance signage in line with all other EU states is not under consideration.
Three colour combinations are used on Worboys direction signs depending upon the category of the route. A road might be a motorway (white on blue), a primary route (white on dark green with yellow route numbers), or a non-primary route (black on white).
TSRGD 1994 prescribed a system of white-on-brown direction signs for tourist attractions as well as introduced the Guildford Rules (see below). TSRGD 2002 contains the current standards and includes a sophisticated system of black-on-yellow direction signs for roadworks.
On Advance Direction Signs, as introduced under the Guildford rules, the background colour indicates the category of route on which it is located. On all directional signs, destination names are placed on the colour appropriate to the category of route employed from that junction. A panel of 1 colour on a different colour of background hence indicates a change of route status. A smaller place of colour, called a patch, surrounds a bracketed route number (but not its associated destination) to indicate a higher status route that is joined some distance away. A patch may possibly only be coloured blue or green.
Signs indicating a temporary change such as roadworks or route diversions are denoted with a yellow background. Usually these signs use a straightforward black on yellow colour code, much more complex signage use the regular signs superimposed onto a yellow background.
For ease of reference, the main colour coding rules are summarised in Table one.
Background Border Lettering Usage Ruleset
White Black Black Non-primary Route Worboys
White Red Black Ministry of Defence sites
Yellow Black Black Roadworks Guildford
Green White White with Yellow Route Numbers Primary Route Worboys
Blue White White Motorway Anderson
Brown White White Attractions
The colour coding for Patches and/or Panels on signs is summarised in Table two.
Patch or Panel Border Lettering Usage Ruleset
Red White Hospitals Guildford
Red Black Ministry of Defence sites Guildford
Green White Primary Route Guildford
Blue White Motorway Guildford
Brown White Attractions Guildford
Transport is a mixed-case font and is utilized for all text on fixed permanent signs except route numbers on motorway signs. It is employed in two weights: Transport Medium (for light text on dark backgrounds) and Transport Heavy (for dark text on light backgrounds).
Motorway has a limited character set consisting of just numbers and a few letters and symbols needed to show route numbers; it has elongated characters and is made to add emphasis to route numbers on motorways. Motorway is utilised to sign all route numbers on motorways themselves, and may also be used on non-motorway roads to sign directions in which motorway regulations apply right away (such as motorway slip roads). Motorway Permanent is light characters on dark background; Motorway Temporary (dark on light).
Transport Medium and Motorway Permanent were developed for the Anderson Committee and appeared on the first motorway signs. The other two typefaces are similar but have additional stroke width from the letters to compensate for light backgrounds. These typefaces are the only ones permitted on road signs within the UK. While signs containing other typefaces do appear occasionally in some destinations, they can be explicitly forbidden in Government guidelines, and are technically illegal.
Signs in Wales are generally bilingual, such as this “historic route” sign on the A5 near Menai Bridge.
Put names in Gaelic are becoming increasingly widespread on road signs throughout the Scottish Highlands.
Bilingual signs are used in Wales. Welsh highway authorities pick out whether they’re “English-priority” or “Welsh-priority”, and the language having priority in every single highway authority’s place appears first on signs. Most of south Wales is English-priority although western, mid, and most of northern Wales are Welsh-priority. Bilingual signs were permitted by special authorisation soon after 1965 and in 1972 the Bowen Committee recommended that they should be provided systematically throughout Wales.
Bilingual signing in Wales and elsewhere has caused traffic engineers to inquire into the safety ramifications of providing sign legend in multiple languages. As a result some countries have opted to limit bilingual signing to dual-name signs near destinations of cultural importance (New Zealand), or to use it only in narrowly circumscribed spots such as near borders or in designated language zones (such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) countries). A small number of these signs exist within the UK on major roads that leave major ports (such as Dover). They detail in English, French, German, and, occasionally, Swedish, standard speed limits and reminders to drive on the left. Multi-lingual “no parking” signs exist in several places on the M25.
In the Scottish Highlands, road signs often have Scottish Gaelic in green, in addition to English in black. This seems for being part of the Gaelic language revival encouraged by many, including the Brd na Gidhlig; see Gaelic road signs in Scotland.
Road signs from the UK must be retroreflective in order for drivers to read them at night. There are 3 commonly made use of grades of components utilised:
Class one (Engineering Grade)is a low performance glass bead products, it was the first reflective material employed on the UK network and invented by 3M. Today while in the UK it really is employed only for street nameplates and parking signs.
Class two (High Intensity) is generally a microprismatic merchandise which uses truncated cube corners to return light to the driver. It’s commonly made use of for directional signs or less critical regulatory signs. There can also be high intensity glass bead products and solutions that meet this class.
Class 3 (Diamond Grade)is a high finish microprismatic merchandise for crucial signs, those on high speed roads and in locations of ambient lighting where a driver might be distracted by the light clutter. Class 3 is often divided into two divisions; 3A for very long distance and 3B for short distance. Currently the only item that performs to these levels is DG3.
Road signs while in the United Kingdom may perhaps be categorised as:
 Directional signs
A standard roundabout sign on a primary road.
An old style fingerpost directional sign from the village of Chawton with a county indicator annulus above it.
The term “directional sign” covers both Advance Direction Signs (ADS), placed on the approach to a junction, and Direction Signs (DS) at the junction itself, showing where to turn. A DS has a chevron (pointed) end, and this type is also referred to as a flag-type sign.
Stack type – while using the destinations in each direction on a separate panel that also contains an arrow;
Map-type – to give a highly clear and simplified diagrammatic plan view of a junction, for example a roundabout.
Dedicated lane – shows the destinations separated by vertical dotted lines to indicate which lane to use;
Mounted overhead – for use on busy motorways and other wide roads where verge mounted signs would be usually obstructed by other traffic.
An ADS generally has blue, green or white as its background colour to indicate the status of road (motorway, primary or non-primary) on which it is placed. Except on the main carriageway of a motorway, coloured panels are utilized to indicate routes from the junction being signed that have a different status. A DS should always be a single colour indicating the status of the road to get joined, whilst there are a few rare exceptions to this rule.
The Heavy and Medium typefaces were meant to compensate for the optical illusion that makes dark lines on pale backgrounds appear narrower than pale lines on dark backgrounds. Hence destinations are written in mixed case white Transport Medium on green and blue backgrounds, and in black Transport Heavy on white backgrounds. Route numbers are coloured yellow when placed directly on a green background. Some signs logically show the closest destination on the route first (ie, on top), although others show the most distant settlement first. On a roundabout DS, the route locations are usually listed with all the closest destination at the bottom and the furthest away at the top when going straight ahead, and likewise going left and proper. However, many left-right signs logically indicate the closest destination at the top with further afield locations listed in descending order.
Destinations/roads which cannot be directly accessed on a driver’s current actual route, but might be accessed via an artery route of that carriageway, are displayed in brackets.
All types of ADS (but not DS) could optionally have the junction name at the top of the sign in capital letters in a separate panel.
A route confirmatory sign is placed either just after a junction where distances were not shown on the ADS or DS or is placed on an overhead details sign but does not show distances to the locations along that route.
 Warning signs
The importance of a warning sign is emphasised by the red border drawn around it and the principally triangular shape.
This sign warns drivers that there may perhaps be a queue (line) of traffic ahead, possibly hidden beyond a visual obstruction.
UK road sign warning of horses and riders ahead.
No Motor Motor vehicles, Dunwich, Suffolk.
 Regulatory signs
Signs in circular red borders are prohibitive, whether or not they also have a diagonal red line. Circular blue signs mainly give a positive (mandatory) instruction. Such circular signs may well be accompanied by, or position on, a rectangular plate (details) that provides details of the prohibition or instruction; for example, waiting and loading plates and zone entry signs.
“Stop” signs (octagonal) and “Give Way” signs (inverted triangle) are the 2 notable exceptions, the distinctive shapes being recognisable even if the face is obscured by dirt or snow.
 Informational signs
Informational signs are mainly rectangular (square or oblong) but, strictly speaking, this category also covers directional signs. They are often coloured to match the directional signing for the status of road in question, but where this is not necessary these are generally blue with white text. Examples contain “lane gain” and “lane drop” signs on grade-separated roads, and “IN” and “OUT” indications for accesses to private premises from your highway.
 Road works signs
Marker posts Road works are normally signalled with a triangular, red-bordered warning format is applied to indicate that there are works ahead. The graphic is of a man digging. In the roadworks, diversions and other instructions to drivers are normally given on yellow signs with black script. 
 Street name signs.
Legally these are not defined as traffic signs from the UK. This gives authorities flexibility on the design and placement of them. They is usually fixed to a signpost, wall, lamp column, or building. The text is usually in the Transport typeface utilized on road signs. It’s also frequent for street nameplates to use the serif font made by David Kindersley.
Driver spot sign and Area marker post on A38 from the West Midlands.
 Spot identifiers
Numbered route markers of one type or another are utilized to identify specific places along a road. Historically, milestones were utilised, but since the early 20th century they fell into disuse. However, for administrative and maintenance purposes, place marker posts measured in kilometres (rather than in miles) have been erected on motorways and certain dual carriageways. The numbers on place marker posts were embedded into emergency roadside telephone numbers and were made use of by the emergency expert services to pinpoint incidents. The advent of the mobile phone meant that spot numbers that were embedded into motorway emergency telephone systems could no more time be applied and since 2007 driver site signs have been erected on many motorways. These contain significant info about the location and carriageway direction, and the reference number should be quoted in full when contacting the emergency solutions.
 Northern Ireland, Crown Dependencies and overseas territories
Road sign in Gibraltar – note the distance is given in metres
The designs of road signs in Great Britain is prescribed within the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) apply specifically to England, Scotland and Wales. These regulations do not extend to other territories that come under the jurisdiction of the Crown. Road signs in Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are under the jurisdiction of their local legislatures. Whilst the policy in these territories is to align their road signs with those prescribed from the TSRGD, small versions could be seen.
Traffic signs in Northern Ireland are prescribed by The Traffic Signs Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997 and they are administered by the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Tynwald (Isle of Man Parliament), through its Traffic Signs (Application) Regulations 2003 explicitly included Part I of the TSRGD into Manx law, but not the other parts of that legislation. One of the consequences of this partial incorporation is that though in England and Wales speed limit signs must appear on equally sides of a carriageway, this is not necessary within the Isle of Man.
Road signs in Gibraltar and the British Sovereign Base Regions in Cyprus are controlled by the Ministry of Defence. Inside the SBA road signs are modelled on Cypriot road signs rather than British Road signs including the use of metric speed limits whilst in Gibraltar the rule of the road is to drive on the correct and to use metric units (as while in the rest of the Iberian peninsula).
Road signs in Hong Kong also use a modified version of the British model, including the Transport font. This policy has continued post- the 1997 transfer of sovereignty to China. Directional signs include place-names in Chinese characters which have been designed to match the Transport font, as nicely as English-language text.