Road signs

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    • #707576


      What do you guys make of road signage in Ireland? I’m from Northern Ireland but drive alot down south and and always find the signage there of a very low standard. The reason I’ve brought this up on an architectural board is that signage has an asthetic component besides simply providing directions. Not only do signs in the Republic fall far short of adequate standards of travel guidance, but their poor design, construction and maintenance often make them an eyesore. IMO nothing lets an area of urban renewal down more than a street filled with shoddy, thoughtlessly placed and often lopsided road signs.

      I read some where that architects were employed in Holland to design the country’s road signs. When you think about it this makes a fair degree of sense. As more and larger road signs are erected in urban and rural areas to cope with increasing traffic and more complex roads surely their visual impact should be given greater consideration. Who better to do this than those who make their livelyhoods considering design and appearance in public spaces.

      Any way to cut to the chase, and because I’m too lasy to type it again, here are some cut and pasted comments I made on another forum….

      Durability – Why are signs down south so flimsy? While the shoddy state of older signs can be explained by their age, the modern versions erected in recent years appear to be alarmingly fragile. Many directional signs and certainly the vast majority of warning signs are bent or twisted. A large number have almost reached the point of ineligibility. On the other hand, signs that have stood for far longer in NI – decades even – seem to be in practically pristine condition by comparison. Despite having always placed this disparity at the foot of higher rates of driver collisions the true reason was recently revealed to me. A friend who manufactures signs up here told me that those in the Republic are actually cut from thinner sheets of alloy! Result – they’re simply less robust. In the long run this will surely just add further to maintenance/replacement costs. On top of this a whole stream of dingy signs just look unsightly.

      Ease of reading – As is a problem up here, I feel that signs down south are simply too small. When you factor in bilingualism they appear overly crowded reducing ease of comprehension. This is particularly the case with your white signs on R routes. Their minute!! Anything over 30 would seem to require the vision of a fighter pilot to digest the information. Surely bilingual signs need to be much larger, not smaller!!

      Lighting/reflectivity – This seems to be a foreign concept altogether. In the UK signs at major junctions are usually lit. On top of this all motorway/trunk road signs have what seems like reflective sheeting stuck over them. This improves visibility at night remarkably and is something the NRA should really consider.

      Maintenance – Whoever’s job it is should be given their notice. I’ve seen signs that appear to have disintegrated years ago and yet they are never replaced. A simple question: why spend the time and money putting up signs in the first place if after suffering major damage they’re forgotten about? Of course there’d be less repair required if signs were made from more robust material!

      Warning signage clutter – As well as having too few signs you can also have too many. On many of the south’s roads I find that you are increasingly bombarded with an excessive number of yellow diamonds, chevrons etc. This is compounded by many councils seeming inability to remove the older signs they update – I once saw five signs in a row warning of a sharp bend, eh!!! The net result is that drivers when confronted with too much info will simply switch off. In the UK the balance seems to be about right. Not too few warnings to leave you unaware but not so many as to become a blur.

      Gantry signs – On most other national motorway networks these are very common. They make travel so much easier on multi-laned roads, especially at complex intersections. The M50 around Dublin could really do with plenty.

      Finger posts – C’mon, these were probably phased out in other countries not long after ww2. What gives – apart from their ability to remain pointed in the right direction? Furthermore most signs are now erected in the UK with at least two poles ensuring that they can’t be swivelled round the wrong way when colliding with a vehicle.

      Diagrammatic signs – Very common in advance of junctions up here, so too in Germany and Holland. Unfortunately they seem to be used much less down south – only really prior to roundabouts and m’way slip roads.

      Tourism signs – These seem to have shot up in ridiculous numbers at many junctions leaving important route signage almost crowded out. Ironically, forests of brown finger posts in picturesque towns and on rural roads do tourism few favours – they’re a bleedin’ eyesore! Up here, the regulations governing these seem to be much tighter – certainly they’ve been kept away from junctions more effectively.

      Traffic lights – With the exception of London for some reason, these always have white rimed surrounds in the UK. The simple effect is to increase the driver’s awareness of their existence. This policy, however, seems to have only been inacted in a minority of towns down south. Surely it would make more sense in terms of visual consistency to standardise all traffic lights across the Republic. Both Britain and Ireland should also make far more use of lights on gantries.

      Finally, striped poles – Always save the best until last. I’m sorry, but has some facet of traffic management passed me by. What, oh what, unearth is the idea behind painting the odd signpost here and there in town centres with black and white stripes. Either paint all of them or none at all! The current approach looks ridiculous. Were workmen blindfolded and told to paint any they happened to bump into? Seriously though, are zebra poles really necessary – surely pedestrians/drivers aren’t that blind?

      Sorry for the long-winded post. The above is a sincere attempt at constructive criticism not a mindless rant. However, I do feel that the Republic’s increasingly high quality roads are being let down by a chaotic and poorly thought out signage system.

      Roads 7/10 Signs 3/10

    • #749383

      As someone once said ‘Irish road signs defy gravity’ Ask any tourist or visitor. While the road surface quality has improved tremendously in recent years. There is no political will, let alone any other will to sort out signage or road markings. While there is a lot of talk about road safety in this country, the most glaringly obvious road safety aspects are completely ignored.


      1. Signs non-existent at junctions
      2. Signs turned around!?!?! This is thanks to our adoption of British standard ‘clips’ as opposed to continental nailed signs to poles
      3. Signs in a ditch or blown off
      4. Filthy signs, caked in dirt, that no one wants to clean
      5. Signs covered in hedgerow, same reasons as 4.
      6. Absent road markings (lethal at night!!)

      The main problem is county councils employ their own road teams, who like to do as little work as possible. They all work on a work to rule basis. As local government is unaccountable in the Republic, nobody has paid domestic rates, since 1978. Who can object?

      The road crews are ‘supervised by local authority bureaucrats who most of the time, don’t want to rock the boat or simply don’t care. Topped off by the Department of Environment, who have responsibility for non-national roads, who don’t or WON’T issue directives. The road teams would be offended if you asked one or two of them to go out and straighten never mind clean a road sign. I have seen two man crews in many countries, drive along roads and clean, tidy up and straighten signs, Not in this country!!!!!!

      While most of the road surfacing is carried out in summer, the road crews lie relatively idle in winter months. ideal time to tackle signage?

      I also really think the whole question of enforcing traffic laws is laughable, never mind when speed cameras are rolled out. Due to the chances of escaping prosecution, ‘ I couldn’t see any signs, there was no line on the road, your honour’ Case dismissed!

      Fortunately, Northern Ireland has an independent Roads Service, separate from council control. We should emulate that in the Republic for non-national roads or a least privatise the non-national network as No amount of money is going to change the existing, couldn’t give a damn attitude.

    • #749384

      Hi Niall,

      How exactly is administration for the roads network organised in the Republic? Would I be right in thinking that national routes – including motorways – come under the control of the Department of Transport and the National Roads Authority?

      If county councils and the Department of the Environment are failing in their remit maybe a start would be to transfer their responsibilities to the DoT/NRA. It would also seem logical to have one authority with sole responsibility for the road network. Think of the cost savings and improvements in efficiency etc. Surely common sense alone dictates that there’s something wrong when the lions share of the road transport system isn’t managed by the Department of Transport.

      I’m no fan of centralisation but when county councils are clearly failing in their duties then there should be a change. The somewhat better performing NRA could hardly do a worse job.

      I should add at this point that I’m in no way claiming that signage up here is perfect – indeed it’s anything but. However, it’s not bad by international standards. The problem down south is that signage is often woeful, arguably the worst I’ve encountered having driven quite a bit across the UK/Europe. So clearly something is very wrong.

    • #749385

      Yes, MT you are right, crazy situation is Department of Transport and NRA run the National M and N Roads, generally these well signed and surfaced. And the Department of Environment and the councils look after everything else.

      Good point, there should be a regional roads authority, which should contract out to the private sector, who would be accountable straight to the Minister for TRANSPORT. What probably happens at moment is hard-pressed councils divert money for roads budget to other areas, endangering the lives of Johnny and Mary motorist, never mind the poor pedestrians. They should have roads responsibility taken away from them altogether.

      Also, there should be a Driving Standards Authority who should organise all testing and maintain same standards countrywide. At present 31 local authorities, are responsible for driving tests in their own area. You should see the hilarious pass/fail rates

    • #749386

      Peter Jordan’s excellent road signs in Ireland website:

    • #749387

      so with the changeover – just to clarify – will they be changing EVERY road sign in the republic, even on those thousands of confusing lanes?

    • #749388
      Paul Clerkin

      You don’t tend to see many max speed signs on the smaller roads…

    • #749389

      no what i mean is will they be changing the signs on the lanes?

    • #749390

      Good point.
      Re the lack of max speed signs on smaller roads, it is intended to replace all of black line national speed limit signs with actual speed in kph. Of course that’s not to say that just these will be replaced, and we will continue on travelling for 30 miles without seeing another in time honoured tradition.

      I think sign-posting is an interesting indicator of a nation’s disposition, and in Ireland it is one of not caring for rules, or indeed making them in the first place. Perhaps that is being stereotypical, but I think it is still relevant to the roads situation. Being meticulous to the last detail or authoratative are not our strong points.

      One aspect of the UK’s road signage that has always fascinated me is the aforementioned use of lighting on virtually every sign in the country, certainly in urban/semi-urban areas & all ntl routes.
      It is carried out with mind-blowing precision – even the tiniest of blue one-way arrow signs in the back end of nowhere have lamps attached above. On roundabouts the amount of lamps arching over the traffic flow signs can reach ridiculous proportions, while on motorways most map signs are floodlit. In rural villages sign posts are lit, places in Ireland that would barely have a sodium street light.
      It is extraordinary. Never in a million years would such attention to detail be paid over here, indeed the very idea of local authorites going to the effort of installing electrical services to all their signposts, let alone maintaining them is laughable.
      It’s a totally different culture – although one must accept that Britain is of course a much more developed nation.

      On thing I’d be reluctant to let go is our stripey poles – leave them alone MT, they’re part of who we are! 🙂

    • #749391


      Only speed limit signs are being tackled with our adoption, at long last of metric speed limits. The remaining warning signs and directional signs will probably carry on as re, confusing, hit and miss or completely absent.

      Time for a root and branch reform?!?

      Should bring in a foreign body and give them the contracts?

    • #749392

      I agree, Niall. Yes, local authorities should be stripped of their road management responsibilities. They’ve had their chance and have proven themselves woefully inadequate. A centralised approach involving one gov. department and agency seems to be the best alternative.

      At present 31 local authorities, are responsible for driving tests in their own area.

      Thats surprising. Although there are a number of agencies responsible for driving tests in the UK – mind nowhere near 31 – as far as I’m aware there is only one universal test with no variation in assessment standards.

      Hi Graham

      It’s a totally different culture – although one must accept that Britain is of course a much more developed nation.

      I often think the differences on both counts are overstated. While I agree levels of maintenance are lower in the Republic this may have more to do with small inefficient councils (many British councils having populations equivalent to the entire south) than any increased laxity in attitude. As I said in previous posts the Northern Ireland route may be the approach to follow in solving this problem – complete centralisation.

      Having said all this, and getting back to an architectural/engineering theme, I think poor maintenance can be overstated as the cause of the Republic’s shoddy and patchy signage. Afterall, if a junction has no signs to begin with maintenance isn’t the issue. Instead, I’d argue that the main cause of the south’s signage appearing as if a hurricane had just blown through is its poor quality/construction to begin with. The signs just aren’t built to last.

      The sheeting/plates that the signs consist of is thin and flimsy. Far too often signs are placed on one pole and not two, allowing them to be knocked around by passing traffic etc. As for foundations, is any standard amount of concrete adhered to? Clearly not often enough, as about every second or third sign in the Republic leans over – far too many for the cause to be driver collisions. By simply avoiding these flaws up here and in Britain signs require little to no maintenance in the first place, remaining in good standard for years.

      Take traffic lights. In Northern Ireland it is extremely rare to find any that lean over. Yet, in Dublin alone a huge number have slowly but surely developed a lean in one direction or another. Not enough to suggest vehicular collisions but rather that foundations have been skimped on. Were they erected properly in the first there’d be no need to straighten/maintain them when they eventually lean too far. Finally, it goes without saying that when a sign does have a run in with a motorist the more robust the construction the better it’s chances of remaining in reasonable nick.

      To illustrate this point an interesting experiment could be conducted. Take two similar Irish towns in the same county and replace all the signage/signals in one with their UK equivalents. Construct them to UK standards and then suspend all maintenance. Come back in five years and I think you’d notice a considerable difference in signage ‘depreciation’ from one town to the other. Alright, this will never happen but it’s a curious idea all the same.

      My god, what a long-winded post. If your still awake, my apologies. I just feel that dilapidated and shoddy streetscapes – of which signage plays a big part – detract so much from the architecture in their midst. Should add too that the UK isn’t necessarily the best place for Ireland to learn from, just the one I’m most familiar with.

    • #749393


      On thing I’d be reluctant to let go is our stripey poles – leave them alone MT, they’re part of who we are!

      Fair enough, they may not be my cup of tea but who am I to argue with culture. 😉 My main problem is if stripey polls are indeed part of traffic policy down there why are they erected so erratically. Take the new speed limit signs – sometimes they appear on zebra poles, other times they don’t. The resulting visual impact is an inconsistent mess; either they should be used across the board or not at all. If Irish culture was as elusive as stipey poles in the Irish countryside then James Joyce would most likely have published only every fourth chapter of Ulysees.

      On a related point, if a driver collides with a sign post can they claim damages from the council if the pole wasn’t striped? Are unpainted poles in breach of safety regulations? (Hope no one feels sripey pole discussions are too highbrow for this board)

      Other comments on the new speed limits:

      The designers have failed to compensate for the increased amount of info on the new signs. Not only do they now contain km/h but in many cases carry an extra digit (eg. 100 instead of 60). The result is a shrunken/thinner typeface that is difficult to read. This problem could have been avoided by placing km/h on a separate sign beneath – easily removed when the system bedded in – or simply larger circular plates. This visual failing is all the more unfortunate for the fact that with the standard national speed limit replaced with ones that are road specific reading the signs has become essential where previously 60mph could have been assumed.

      The vast majority of the larger initial signs signalling a new speed zone have again been placed on only one pole. When these signs are inevitably knocked or lean over they’ll be much harder to read – especially if it’s a hedge they’re leaning into.

      A worrying number have been placed too close to the edge of traffic lanes. Standing in these spots many will be knocked into smithereens.

      Lighting. Could 60 km/h limits at the edge of urban areas not have been lit at the very least? At night, with the smaller typeface, these signs will be very hard to read unlit.

    • #749394

      Road signs, eh? Was up in the leadmines today and saw this 😮

      Cars have to pull into the verge to pass eachother.. at 80 km/h?? :confused:

    • #749395

      That is a joke!!!!!

      Also, again we have copied the British and used ‘clip’ roadsigns, 500 euro that one on the right will be the wrong way around in a couple of weeks!!

      Screw the bloody things to the poles!!! (look at the Spaniards and French!)

    • #749396

      Interesting to note in the pic how effective the stripey poles are at attracting your attention to the signs in leafy rural locations – they essentially double the visiblity of the sign.

      Agreed about the clips but what are the benefits over the screw system, surely there must be something -do they just make it easier to attach and detach signs?
      Re MT’s point about the new typeface – yes it is unfortunate that the signs are more crowded now with the k/mh. And the numbers are also more difficult to read as a result of the new narrow typeface. And to chuck in another whinge, it is unbelieveable how many of the new limit signs haven’t even been erected striaght on the old poles – not even level!

    • #749397


      On the continent, road signs come with poles. They are manufacured all in one, so when you place/replace signs you replace the pole. The advantage is the signs are screwed in and straight on the poles, when the leave the factory.

      We use the British clips and poles separetly. However while they manage to tighten/straighten and put them on the top of right sized poles. It defeats our workmen!!

      ‘Sure, it’ll do rightly’

      It looks a mess. Good point about the black and white stripes.

    • #749398

      Thanks – thats interesting. So certainly there’s a practical benefit to the clips from a maintainace and replacement perspective, but sure they’re never carried out here anyway – might as well have them fixed!
      The swinging-round issue is a common problem with traffic lights too.

    • #749399

      Irish Times 9 Feb 2004

      Theft of Kerry road signs ‘an industry’
      Anne Lucey

      Road signs in Co Kerry are being stolen by “professional” sign takers, who were profiting from people’s sentimental attachment to the county, a councillor has claimed.

      Any sign with Kerry on it is particularly vulnerable, according to Cllr Michael Healy-Rae. In a recent episode, only the “Welcome to Cork” sign was left on the main tourist route between Kerry and west Cork, he said – all others inside the Kerry border were stolen.

      The Independent councillor said professional gangs were “roaming the country” and conducting “an industry” nationwide in road sign removal. “You can’t keep a sign with a popular place- name on it.” The signs were ending up in bars and homes in New York and the UK and the lucrative trade was costing Kerry taxpayers thousands of euro each year, he added.

      Mr Healy-Rae said a stronger adhesive for the poles and a new method of fixing the signs needed to be found. In some cases, “pole and all has been carried”.

      The matter emerged during a motion by Mr Healy-Rae at an area meeting of Kerry County Council. Mr Healy-Rae said there was “extreme confusion” regarding signposts for graveyards in Glencar, a remote mountain and valley area which stretches from the foothills of Ireland’s highest mountains, the MacGillycuddy’s Reeks, to Glenbeigh. Different names were being used on the signs than on public death notices.

      Near Bonane, on the Kerry-Cork border, all but one of around six signs had been taken recently. Only the “Welcome to Cork” sign on the other side of the tunnel remained, according to Mr Paul Neary, senior engineer for south Kerry council. The local Kerry placenames and the “Welcome to Kerry” signs were gone. It cost between €500 and €2,000 to replace the metal signs on galvanised poles, he added.

      I live in County Wicklow, the place sign for the village I live in has been unclipped from its pole as well, not surprising, as it was only clipped on to one pole!!!

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