JohnPullin's Blog

Journalism, engineering, business, and sometimes other things

Traffic signs: a roadside broadside

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There’s a generalised government promise out there that no one has any intention of acting upon to reduce street clutter, and specifically the number of roadside signs. I’ve written about this before in relation to urban signage – the apparent requirement that every Elim Pentecostal Church in south London should be signposted from every direction, for example.

The smiling English countryside has, however, what I contend is the most useless sign of them all. There are examples on the A303, the main road to the south west, about a mile either side of Stonehenge. The sign says “Queues Likely”, with a graphic of queuing cars in a red triangle.

I can’t see what use this sign is to anybody. If you’re in a queue when you trudge past it, you’re probably not unaware of the fact. If you’re not, then you don’t need it. If there was a sign five miles back saying “Queue Ahead: Turn off to Avoid it” it might be helpful. But on this road at least there isn’t. If it indicated how far the queue ahead was likely to extend, that might be useful information; but it doesn’t. The sign just sits there, passively, with a slightly smug tone of “I told you so”. Even though it didn’t.

But of course it does convey some information, though not necessarily the sort the sign owners intended. It tells you, for instance, that the road planners know they have a bottleneck that they’re incapable or unwilling to sort out. It advertises clearly their inadequacies.

It shows, too, that while they can’t or won’t sort out the road, they’ve got time to commission and erect a sign or two. There’s presumably been measurement and analysis to determine that queues are indeed likely at these spots: pencils sucked, heads nodded in sage agreement, judgements made. Instead of holding meetings to sort out the road, they probably held meetings to sort out a sign that tells you they didn’t sort out the road.

All pretty useless, really. And in these days of the internet of things and intelligent transport systems, a reminder that there’s still a lot of unconnected unintelligence about.

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Written by johnpullin

August 18, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Transport

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