Top 5 Takeaways from the IHE Traffic Signs Conference 2016
Last week, Will Baron and Alan Mason were present at the IHE Traffic Signs Conference at Aston University, Birmingham. Organised by the IHE, it provides traffic signing professionals with an opportunity to gain valuable information and advice in relevant and current signing matters. Including a small exhibition, around 120 delegates this year were there to hear talks from DfT personnel and other stakeholders from Local Government and Highways England. The conference covered many interesting topics, and there were five key ‘take-away’ themes.
Two of the talks were about the history of traffic signs and signals. Examples given to illustrate the signing system in use today were one of the earliest known, a Roman milestone; a range of symbolic signs, that replaced worded warnings, introduced in the 1950’s through to some of the early experimental direction sign designs more familiar to today’s road user.
Traffic signals too have undergone significant development, from the first pedestrian crossing signal erected in December 1868 in Bridge Street in Westminster, London. This employed a semaphore like system, raised and lowered manually by a police constable who would rotate a handle on the side of the pole. Sally Gibbons from the DfT gave a fascinating insight into the journey to the highly sophisticated electronic control systems in use today.
#2 Access to the ‘Powers that be’
The morning talks were given by various representatives from the DfT, including Wayne Duerden who is currently Head of the Traffic Engineering Policy, on the new Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2016 that came into force in April this year. A complete shake-up of the structure of the Regulations, along with various relaxations, for example of sign lighting requirements, was bound to include some omissions and errors. These will be addressed by the upcoming Amendment Regulations. Guidance too was forthcoming, answering a series of commonly asked queries.
The new regulations have proved controversial and somewhat difficult for many to get used to. Not only has the document been restructured, the changes, particularly omissions, are foxing some practitioners. How long do you look for something that isn’t there before you decide a requirement has been removed? John Bennet from the DfT gave a great insight, and answers to some questions that have been coming from Local Authorities, in a session titled ‘Where does it say… ?’ and Ashraf Keeka covered ‘Common questions to the Traffic Signs Mailbox’. Great information about the changes in TSRGD 2016.
The new Regulations give Local Authorities greater powers in the design of traffic schemes, particularly with a view to decluttering – removing signs and other street furniture from the streetscape. An award winning scheme was presented showing how parking and other traffic regulation can be communicated to drivers through an innovative approach to signing and the use of different materials such as stone paving to signify parking areas for example. The before and after photos below of one aspect of the scheme in Preston says a lot.
Sign and street scene design is a creative process. It needs imagination, deep thought, and an eye for design. Under the new regulations, the traffic professional has more power and flexibility to improve the design of our roads and pedestrian areas. However, just because you can dispense with signing and sign lighting, doesn’t mean that it will always be good to do so. It was a key theme for the conference to encourage practitioners to think carefully about whether signs are needed and to make intelligent use of the new framework to ensure the correct and safe use of roads and streets by all. Do drivers need two signs to tell them the speed limit, do they really need to know that this is the way to the next big town? One thing of note in the Preston scheme is the complete removal of pedestrian guard railing, and the promotion of the pedestrian in the town over car use.