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DfT publishes advice on new traffic signs regulations

TSRGD circular emphasises need to reduce street sign clutter

Mark Moran
04 May 2016

The Department for Transport (DfT) stresses the need to reduce sign clutter in its circular on the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2016.

TSRGD 2016, which came into effect on 22 April, prescribes the designs and conditions of use for traffic signs to be lawfully placed on or near roads in England, Scotland and Wales. It covers road markings, traffic signals, pedestrian, cycle and equestrian crossings.

Reducing sign clutter was a key aim of the revision of the regulations governing traffic signs. “TSRGD 2016 contains a number of changes which will cut costs, complexity and sign clutter,” says the circular, which was published today. “It provides a modern framework that will mean far fewer signs need to be placed, and gives local authorities the right to remove many of their existing signs.”

“Overuse of traffic signs blights our landscape, wastes taxpayers’ money and dilutes important road safety messages,” says the circular. “Research carried out by the department to inform the Traffic Signs Policy Review showed that the number of traffic signs has doubled in the last 20 years. This is unsustainable, and bears out the need to reduce signing whenever possible. A culture change is needed in the way signing is used.”

Last year transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin asked Sir Alan Duncan MP to lead a task force looking into all the issues surrounding sign clutter and to make recommendations as to how this can be reduced further, building on the work TSRGD has already done. Ministers will decide how to take forward Sir Alan’s recommendations, including amending TSRGD 2016 if needed.

The DfT added that the new approach encourages localism. “The department sets the legislation governing what traffic signs look like and mean, but decisions about which traffic signs to place and where to place them is a matter for local authorities. TSRGD 2016 gives authorities more tools than ever before to tackle the scourge of too many signs. The department expects authorities to be proactive in making use of these tools to get rid of unwanted and unnecessary signs, and design signing schemes to minimise visual clutter from the outset.”

The new circular can be downloaded by clicking here

The DfT’s circular explains the new structure of the regulations, and provides worked examples to help users navigate how the new document works. It highlights what the changes means at practitioner level and provides a clear link from the previous regulations to the new version. The circular is designed to be read in conjunction with SI 2016 No 362 by all those involved in designing and implementing traffic management schemes, and in road traffic regulation generally.

TSRGD 2016 introduces a new structure to that used in previous versions. Regulations and directions that apply to all traffic signs are set out in the overarching Regulations and General Directions - Parts 1 and 2. The circular states: “All sign-specific requirements are now separated from the general regulations and directions and placed together with to the signs to which they relate, within a series of separate standalone schedules. Generally Part 1 to each schedule introduces the requirements specific to that schedule.”

A fundamental change has been a shift towards a ‘menu approach’ for directional and parking signs. Instead of prescribing complete sign designs, upright signs now mostly appear as component elements. Another feature of the new structure is the repetition of symbols, for example the ‘No waiting’ symbol, which are prescribed in different sizes according to their different uses. 

The DfT circular says: “The new structure is designed to guide the reader systematically; first through the process of building a sign through tables which, in turn, cross refer to the applicable regulations and directions contained within other parts of that schedule.” 

The level of prescription in both the regulations and directions has been reduced. Many upright signs and markings that are commonly placed in combination now appear within the same Schedule, for example give way at junctions. The former Schedule 3 (Railway and Tramway Level Crossings) Schedule 5 (Bus, Tram and Pedal Cycle Facilities) and Schedule 6 (Road Markings) have been dispersed through the new schedules.

Launching the circular, transport minister Andrew Jones said: “This radical overhaul of TSRGD represents a significant contribution to the Government's deregulatory programme. By removing much of the cost and red tape associated with the delivery of traffic management solutions, and by broadening the range of available information on traffic signs, road users will feel the benefit sooner in terms of reduced congestion, improved road safety and clear and succinct signing - thus benefiting the wider economy. We have also included a range of new signs to promote cycling take up and safety.

“We have stripped out the rules that contributed to the proliferation of traffic signs; providing a pragmatic regulatory regime that keeps the message to the minimum necessary, without distracting road users and spoiling the environment. Even in this technological age, traffic signs remain the only method of communicating to all road users what they need to know to complete their journey safely, efficiently and within the law. While safety must never be compromised, having introduced these changes I expect traffic authorities to play their part.”

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