How to reduce road sign clutter safely
What is street clutter?
Street clutter, or road sign clutter specifically, is the excessive usage of signage to display information and warn of hazards in a particular area. This can have consequences in terms of safety, sign compliance and a negative environmental impact.
Why is too much street furniture a problem?
Research has shown that too many signs can result in drivers failing to process the information displayed, leading to an increased risk of an incident. This impacts the level of safety on a particular section of the road network and therefore requires careful consideration.
Should drivers fail to comprehend a hazard warning, for instance, signs signalling a junction ahead or bend in the road, this could potentially result in a collision or cause the driver to veer off the road.
Too much street furniture can be an issue with both permanent and temporary signs. If there is a need recognised for an additional temporary road sign, it is essential that consideration is taken to ensure that this doesn’t result in temporary sign clutter. If not fully considered, this can have a short-term impact on the safety of the road as other signage may be missed.
Reducing street clutter can also help to alleviate the negative environmental effect that too much signage can have. Sign clutter can lead to light pollution, excessive use of grid power or batteries, visual intrusion, in addition to causing disturbances to areas close to the side of the roads where signage is installed.
How to reduce road clutter?
Conduct a road sign audit
The first step in reducing street clutter is conducting a road sign audit. It is important to audit all existing signage in a particular area and remove any redundant signs.
Avoid sign duplication
Sign duplication is rarely necessary and would provide limited additional benefit to drivers and road users. The sign audit may highlight instances where sign duplication has occurred. We would therefore recommend rectifying any locations identified and avoiding this where possible. Instead, it is important to consider the optimum positioning of the sign to ensure maximum visibility.
Utilise existing posts and lighting columns
Should the need be established for new signage to be installed, make sure to consider the findings of your road sign audit to identify any opportunities to use existing posts and lighting columns that could help reduce street clutter. This is possible with road signage, subject to the location of the existing posts but more importantly, that the impact to the structural integrity is minimal.
Visual cohesion can also be improved by ensuring signs attached to the same post are mounted on the same size board. This will help improve the perception of clear and organised road signage.
It is also possible to consider the option of mounting signage on walls, railings and other street furniture, provided this does not impact and reduce visibility of the signage, nor impact pedestrian walkways.
Bollards can also be an effective mounting option, particularly in pedestrian zones where vehicles are permitted to travel.
Avoid the visual intrusion of high posts
Attaching road signage to lighting columns can provide an ideal solution for cutting street clutter, however, if the post doesn’t support a luminaire it’s important to ensure that the post doesn’t protrude above the top of the signage.
Visual intrusion can also be caused by sign arrays exceeding 4m in height and so care should be taken to avoid this, whilst ensuring that the hazard warning or information is still being clearly displayed for road users.
Remember to remove transient signage
Temporary signage relating to a change in the road layout for example ‘NEW ROUNDABOUT AHEAD’ (diagram 7014) and ‘NEW LEVEL CROSSING’ (diagram 790) should only be displayed for a maximum length of 3 months after the works have been completed. The road signs should feature a remove-by date and care should be taken to ensure these signs are removed once expired.
Some signage is only required at certain times of the year such as Migratory toad crossing (diagram 551.1), Flood (554A) and Ice (554.2). It is therefore important to ensure that these signs are removed once the period of potential hazard has passed to avoid contributing to sign clutter. Some maintenance packages can include this service to ensure this is actioned even when resources are limited.
Do not overuse hazard warning signage
Specific locations identified as requiring signage in order to notify road users of a potential hazard should, of course, be implemented. It is however important to avoid using this type of signage excessively for instance with junction warning signs as this increases clutter and contributes to sign blindness.
Equally with bend in the road signage, this should only be utilised to support locations where road safety may be in jeopardy or has already been identified as an accident blackspot.
Implement multi-functional signage
The next generation of intelligent transport systems involves multifunctional signage which can display dual safety messages subject to the relevant hazard for the road user. For example, using radar technology it is possible to display a ‘junction ahead’ warning should a car be detected approaching a junction. The technology can also be used to display speed warning messages, speed limit or speed display message in response to an oncoming vehicle.
By implementing such technologies, road safety can be prioritised whilst ensuring street clutter is avoided. Read more on how such signage was installed successfully for Dudley Council.
Consider sign aesthetics
Signage does not have to be excessively sized in order to be effective. Utilising compact, lightweight signage can help improve the street scene and limit sign clutter whilst helping to improve the safety on your roads. Lightweight signage also ensures they can be easily dismounted and moved to another location where required or stored should the sign display transient information.
Road signs are critical to maintain road safety but must be used strategically in order to maintain their effectiveness. Conducting a review of your signage can help identify where to focus efforts, remove redundant signage and improve your sign strategy. The specialists at TWM can support you with service and help improve the effectiveness of road signage on your network whilst reducing street clutter.
Information sourced from the Traffic Signs Manual.