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UK government gives councils new powers to remove unnecessary road signs

Local authorities across England and Wales will get new powers from April 22 to remove pointless road signs that are an eyesore and distract drivers, as part of the UK government’s introduction of new signage rules and regulations.

According to Department for Transport (DfT) figures, the number of signs on England’s roads has increased from 2.45 million in 1993 to an estimated 4.57 million in 2013. Now simpler rules are being brought in to give councils the power to take down unnecessary signs, and for the first time, signs that say ‘new’ layout ahead will have ‘remove by dates’ on the back, so they are not needlessly left in place for years. The department has appointed Sir Alan Duncan to lead a task force that is looking at removing pointless signs, and this crackdown will pave the way for wider changes. The DfT feels that too many signs look ugly and stop drivers seeing only essential messages, so cutting the number and size of signs will help reduce unnecessary eyesores for all road users and local residents.

Councils are responsible for signs on their local roads and are expected to save £30m (US$42.8m) in running costs by 2020 as a result of the simpler new sign rules. Fewer signs also need to be lit than before, which will save energy costs and light pollution. However, safety signs must still be lit, such as ‘stop’ signs or signs for low bridges. The DfT says that new roundabout and road layout signs are sometimes left up for years, and they should be taken down within three months. They will now have ‘remove by’ dates on the back, so residents know when they should go and can hold their local authorities to account.

In other reforms being brought in: the requirement for both a sign and a road marking has been removed in some cases, such as for a mandatory cycle lane or a ‘permit holders only’ parking bay that now only needs to be shown with a road marking; only one sign now needs be installed to show the start of a traffic restriction, such as no entry, or no left-turn if it is safe; the requirement to place repeat speed limit signs has been removed, so councils can now make their own decisions on how many speed limit signs are needed, so that drivers know what limits apply; after successful trials, councils can now install new eye-level cycle traffic lights to make busy junctions easier and safer for cyclists; and smaller sizes are now available for signs, such as those aimed only at walkers and cyclists to avoid cluttering roads needlessly.

Announcing the reforms, UK Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said, “Road signs should only be installed on our roads when they are essential. Our common-sense reforms will help get rid of pointless signs that are an eyesore and distract drivers. These new rules will also save £30m in taxpayers’ cash by 2020, leaving drivers with just the signs they need to travel safely.”

April 19, 2016

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