Road signs in the Republic of Ireland

Road signs in the Republic of Ireland

Road signs in the Republic of Ireland mostly differ from the traffic signs used elsewhere in Europe. Directional signage is similar to that of the United Kingdom, but is bilingual. Distances are in kilometres, unlike in the UK where Imperial measurements are still used. Apart from directional signage, the basic prohibitory signs such as "no left turn" and "no right turn" are among the few standard signs used in the Republic of Ireland. The most widespread signage, hazard or warning signs, employs the yellow diamond layout used in the United States, Australia and elsewhere, but nowhere else in Europe. The actual symbols used on these warning signs, however, often bear a closer resemblance to those used in the UK and the rest of Europe than to those seen in the US. Some mandatory signs (one way, left turn only, right turn only) are unique to Ireland. On 20 January 2005, Ireland adopted metric speed limits [ [ UKMA road signs - International experience] ] . Around 35,000 existing signs were replaced and a further 23,000 new signs erected bearing the speed limit in kilometres per hour. To avoid confusion with the old signs, each speed limit sign now has "km/h" beneath the numerals.

Legal basis

Signage in Ireland is prescribed under the "Traffic Signs Manual 1996", issued by the Department of the Environment, older signs appears appear in secondary legislation (see the references section at the bottom), however much of the signage (particularly directional signage) used has never been legally prescribed for. The TSM itself is not a law. However, signage is meant to be based on the principles in it. It is partially based (particularly directional signage) on the United Kingdom Traffic Signs Manual, itself based on the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions.

Those road signs which are prescribed in law are prescribed under the "Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations 1997-2004", the 1997 regulations being the main set [ [ S.I. No. 181/1997 — Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations, 1997.] ] which repealed various traffic signs regulations dating back to 1964.

Directional signage

Directional signage is fairly similar to the United Kingdom design. Place names are listed in Irish in mixed case, followed underneath by the English language equivalent place name in all capital letters. The UK Transport Heavy and Motorway typefaces are used, although the Irish language text uses a distinctive oblique variant, in which script a and dotless i are used for "A", "a" and "i" to contrast better with "Á", "á", and "í". Only the Irish place name is shown if the sign is in the Gaeltacht, or the official name in English is identical to the Irish name or nearly so (for example Dún Laoghaire or Port Laoise). Due to the need to signpost in both languages, usually a limited number of destinations will be signposted. If a destination can be reached by following a route which is a spur from that route, the destination and route number will be shown in brackets. Also, distances are shown in kilometres.

Motorway signs use white text on a blue background. Non-motorway national primary routes use white text on a green background, with the specific route number in yellow bold text. Regional and local county roads use black text on white background. Signs to points of interest (services, institutions, tourist sights) have white text on a brown background. National routes (whether motorway or not) generally have large signs at the approach to junctions showing the exits for various destinations. Some higher specification regional roads including by-passed former national primary routes also have such signage. Large steel plate fingerpost signs are used at roundabout exits. The majority of Irish rural roads use small fingerpost signage at road junctions.

Signage on motorways has previously been near identical to that on UK motorways (but see new motorway signage, below); although in the Republic of Ireland, motorway junctions are not always numbered, or the number is not always signposted. The sign at the actual exit, which in the UK shows the road number to be reached, is replaced by the destination instead. On the M50, in the case of junctions with national routes, the initial advance direction sign is replaced with a list of destinations for that national route. The Republic of Ireland also continues to use the "Motorway Ahead" sign, listing the motorway regulations, which has been mostly discontinued in the UK (the actual sign used is very similar to the version formerly used in the UK).

One feature of road signage in Ireland, particularly along Dublin's quays is that some national primary road signage directs drivers generically to destinations such as "The West" and "The South" and the "The North". This system, inherited from the UK system, was banned under the 1996 TSM — which mandates the use of the terminal destination and next primary destination of the route instead — however signage was only patched with specific destinations in the early 2000s. While this has been replaced with specific placenames in some cases it remains in use in other areas. In summer 2006 signage for "North" and "South" was erected in Ashbourne at the start of the new N2 dual carriageway. Nevertheless, generally directional signage on major routes shows major or end destinations. Smaller towns and placenames are only shown on signage nearer to that location. Thus travelling on the Irish route network requires some geographical knowledge of the country.

New motorway / high quality dual carrigeway signage

In 2005, upon the opening of the South Eastern Motorway section of the M50, the National Roads Authority erected new style gantry signage. The new signage retains typical colours and fonts buts differs from older side of road signage in that it uses separate overhead panels for each lane, headed with the route number in each case as well as new half-gantry signs closer to the exit. The new signage has also been erected on the N2 FinglasAshbourne scheme and N7 ClondalkinNaas scheme. These are the first roads in Ireland where overhead gantry signage has been used as a matter of course, instead of just very major junctions. Drivers are given clear advanced warning 1 km ahead of an upcoming junction. A half gantry at the junction then directs them to their destination. The new style signage is visually clearer than older type signage with drivers able to read the gantry signage from a distance of approximately 300m on a straight stretch of road. The new gantry signage is also nearly 100% interference-, damage- and graffiti-proof given the height of the signage directly situated over live traffic.

Despite its significant advantages, the new gantry signage has caused confusion because the downward arrows over the left traffic lanes seem to indicate to drivers that they should pull out into the right lane if they wish to continue on the motorway or dual carriageway, breaking the keep left rule. In July 2007, some of the gantry signage on the M50 between Junctions 13–17 was replaced with signage in a revised style, reverting to a single panel over the mainline (although this style is still not prescribed by the TSM, which mandates the use of gantry signage identical to that used in the United Kingdom — the TSM, is however, currently under review). By March 2008 all the 2005 style gantries had been removed from the M50, although they are still present on the N2 and N7. The one aspect of the 2005 scheme that has been retained is the half-gantry (or cantilever) sign just before the exit, which has now also been extended to other roads. A second change introduced in 2007 is that the flag sign at the gore, which previously listed the primary destinations to be reached, now features the junction number and the word "Exit" instead.

Warning signs

Warning signs are similar to United States design, in that they are black on an amber (orangish yellow) background, and are diamond shaped. Road works hazard signs are reddish orange. This type of road sign was introduced in 1956 with the Traffic Signs Regulations, 1956. Some signs were added later, and many types of signs, even common ones, do not appear in any statutes. Some types of sign in particular (for example, pedestrian/zebra crossing signage) are somewhat randomly designed, and differ between county/city boroughs.

:1 "Introduced: Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations, 1962":2 "Introduced: Road Traffic (Signs) (Amendment) Regulations, 1964":3 "Introduced: Road Traffic (Signs) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations, 1979":4 "De facto, may not have appeared in legislation":5 "Version shown long superseded by metric version at some unknown date":6 "No longer used after 1962. On these signs children face the wrong way for driving on left.":7 "Version shown superseded at unknown date. Same sign in reddish orange now used.":8 "Used for 2+1 road."

Other warning signs not shown here include:
*Assorted non-standard junction signs
*Traffic merging junction signs (e.g. on dual-carriageway/motorway slip roads)
*Traffic island ahead/traffic separates from oncoming traffic
*Road narrows at one side, road narrows (using UK-style pictogram)
*Crosswinds (picture of a windsock)
*Hospital entrance ahead
*Zebra crossing, Pedestrian crossing
*Elderly crossing
*Cattle crossing, Deer crossing
*Horses/Horseriders crossing, Pony trekking
*Falling rocks (picture of cliff face with tumbling rocks)
*Trams (Dublin, around Luas system)
*Tunnel (rare, examples at Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork)
*Low flying aircraft (examples near Cork International Airport on the Kinsale Road)
*Electrical cables overhead (rare, examples alongside Luas line near Custom House in Dublin)
*Traffic queues (Cork South Ring Road)

Examples of temporary or road works signs (red-orange) include:
*Road works (pictogram of workman shovelling)
*Loose chippings (v. common after rural road resurfacing)
*Temporary traffic lights
*Manual signals ahead (pictogram of man with flag)
*Road narrows (both sides, or one side)
*Bumps/dips or uneven surface
*Lane ends ahead

Regulatory signs

Regulatory signs are mostly circular and mostly black on a white background, with a red border. If the sign contains a prohibition, a red line will diagonally bisect the sign. This type of road sign was introduced in 1956 with the Traffic Signs Regulations, 1956. Some signs were added later.

In Ireland, the "Give Way" sign, a downward pointing triangle, reads "Yield" (on signs erected prior to 1997: "Yield Right of Way" ) or, in Gaeltacht areas, "Géill Slí". A blank inverted triangle was provided for in legislation applicable between 1956 and 1961. The international octagonal "Stop" sign is also used.

Speed limit signs have the speed with the letters "km/h" underneath. 120 km/h is used for motorways and high quality dual carriageways e.g. N2, 100 km/h is used for national primary and national secondary roads and also part the R132 in Co.Louth. 80 km/h is used for regional and local roads. 60, 50 and 30 km/h are used in urban built up areas (see Road speed limits in the Republic of Ireland). There are no longer any "end of speed limit" signs in Ireland (a white circle with black diagonal line as used in the UK). However an (illegal) exception to this is the R135 (old N2) in Ashbourne, Co.Meath. The front of the large urban gateway signs to the town travelling from Dublin showing "40"(mph) were changed to "60 km/h" however the rear of the large signs were never changed and remain in place as of 2007.

Although differing from the design originally laid down (see Regulatory Signs below), "Keep Left" and "Keep Right" signs are now mostly white on a blue background, on the British pattern. In order to avail themselves of standard designs from British suppliers, local authorities had made extensive use of the white-on-blue design, mostly because the electonically lit type of white-on-blue was more practical, in consequence of which legislation was enacted making both patterns legal. Under the Irish Power of One (energy conservation campaign) the electronic signs are being gradually replaced by reflective signs

Signage shown in the table below is not relative size in all cases. Images are based on sizes presented in different ages of legislation. Actual signage may be found in varying sizes, with the 1994 regulations finally setting three definitive sets of metric dimensions for each sign. Larger signs are used on motorways, dual-carriageways, major junctions, etc.

:1 "Introduced: Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations, 1997 (some signs in use prior to this)":2 "Falling out of use, Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations, 1997, still allows for it as well as more modern stay left sign.":3 "Introduced: Traffic Signs (Amendment) Regulations, 1961":4 "Introduced: Road Traffic (Signs) (Amendment) Regulations, 1966":5 "Introduced: Road Traffic (Signs) (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations, 1971":6 "Introduced: 19 February 2007, Only used in HGV Management System, Dublin City.

Obsolete signage

Earlier directional signage

The former "fingerpost" style of Irish directional signage can still be seen in many areas of rural Ireland. These signs differ from their modern day equivalent as they have black raised text on a white background. Destinations are in all caps (the Irish letter is simply smaller than the English one). Sometimes the former route number ("T" for trunk road, "L" for link road) can be seen, the former Bord Failte logo can be seen on some (they had responsibility for signage for a time), as can a harp occasionally. Distances on these signs are in miles. This style of signage has become a common feature of many tourist images of Ireland, and can be seen in some Irish pubs. However they can be easily rotated, and have been done so on occasion and therefore are not completely reliable. While most examples of these signs still in situ are rural finger-posts, the advance directional sign of this era can still very occasionally be seen - this has a grey background, with the destinations in outlined, white-background boxes linked together with black lines, the text is not raised on these, unlike on finger-posts. These signs, rare even when the system was in use, can be seen in some areas of Dún Laoghaire and Drogheda. These signs were prescribed under various regulations, with the final design prescribed under the "Road Traffic Signs (Regulations) 1962" [ [ S.I. No. 171/1962 — Road Traffic (Signs) Regulations, 1962.] ] . Despite the new signage style being introduced in 1977, the design change was never legislated (with only a reference to the change to italics in 1989) for and the old signage design was only repealed under the 1997 regulations some twenty years later.

The first generation of the current signage system, introduced in 1977, can also be seen in on some national roads (and also on the oldest stretch of the M1). This is similar to the current system, but the signs are simpler, a different shade of green is used, and the Irish place names are not in italics. These signs were directly based on the "Warboys Committee" designs which had been adopted in the UK in 1965. These signs were replaced by the current system on 1 January 1989 [ [ S.I. No. 292/1988 — Road Traffic (Signs) (Amendment) Regulations, 1988.] ] . The design of signs has continued to evolve with the introduction of patching under the "Guildford Rules" in 1994 and the introduction of cantilever directional signs in 2005, as well as the expansion in gantry signage since then.

The Irish "Yield" sign formerly read "Yield Right of Way", many of this older variant can still be seen around the country.

Earlier warning signs

Before adoption of the 1956 traffic signs regulations, warning signs accorded to a standard laid out in the 1926 "Road Signs and Traffic Signals Regulations" (see References, below). These signs, unlikely to exist "in situ" anywhere in Ireland nowadays, were similar to signs used in the United Kingdom at that time.

The signs were cast-iron plates, with raised type painted black on white. A square pictogram illustrated the hazard, and the type of hazard was written in both Irish, with traditional typeface, and English. A hollow red triangle normally surmounted the pole to which the sign was attached.

ee also

* Roads in Ireland


* Traffic Signs Manual 1996.
* [ S.I. No. 181/1997: ROAD TRAFFIC (SIGNS) REGULATIONS, 1997]
* [ S.I. No. 329/1979: ROAD TRAFFIC (SIGNS) (AMENDMENT) (NO. 2) REGULATIONS, 1979]
* [ S.I. No. 256/1971: ROAD TRAFFIC (SIGNS) (AMENDMENT) (No. 3) REGULATIONS, 1971]
* [ S.I. No. 171/1962: ROAD TRAFFIC (SIGNS) REGULATIONS, 1962]
* [ S.I. No. 284/1956: TRAFFIC SIGNS REGULATIONS, 1956]

External links

* A copy of the "Transport" font is available [ here] , free of charge.

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