Road signs in the United Kingdom
Road signs 12 in the United Kingdom and in its associated Crown dependencies and overseas territories conform broadly to European design norms, though a number of signs are unique: direction signs omit European route numbers and road signs generally use the Imperial System of units (miles and yards), unlike the rest of Europe (km and m). Signs in Wales and parts of Scotland are bilingual.
A range of signs are used on British roads such as motorway signs, warning signs, and mandatory signs.
Modern British road signage can be traced to the development of the "ordinary" bicycle and the establishment of clubs to further the interests of its riders, notably the Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC), the National Cyclists' Union (NCU) and the Scottish Cyclists' Union (SCU). By the early 1880s, all three organisations were erecting their own cast-iron "danger boards". Importantly, these signs warned of hazards, rather than just stating distances or giving direction to places, acknowledging the fact that cyclists, like modern motorists, were unlikely to be familiar with the roads they were travelling along and were moving too fast to take avoiding action without prior warning. In addition, it was the cycling lobby that successfully pressured the government in 1888 into vesting ownership of and responsibility for roads with county councils in previously established highway districts that would be funded from taxation rather than tolls. The districts were active in the erection of semi-standardised directional signs and mileposts in the latter years of the 19th century.
The rise of motoring after 1896 saw the pattern repeated. The larger motoring clubs, notably The Automobile Association (AA) and the Royal Scottish Automobile Club (RSAC) erected their own, idiosyncratic warning boards and direction signs on a wide scale. Under the Motor Car Act 1903 four national signs were created which were to be set at least 8 ft (2.4 m) from the ground and 50 yards (46 m) from their reference point. These signs were distinguished based on their shape, rather than a symbol or writing on them. These included a white ring meaning speed limited (as marked on a small information plate below it); a white (sometimes red) diamond for a "motor notice" such as a weight restriction (given on a plate below); a red disc for a prohibition; and a red open triangle for a hazard or warning. The latter two could provide more detail by having an information plate below them, but often it was left to the motorist to guess what the sign was referring to, and it was common to have variations between different local areas for what was a prohibition or just a "notice". This format was to develop into the British road sign that was standard from 1934 until 1964. Before this time regulations for traffic signs were published under powers created by the Road Traffic Act 1930 and so national road signage specifications were only advisory.
Following a review of national signage in 1921, a limited number of warning and hazard information plates also used symbols, rather than only text. Such symbols had been developed in continental Europe as early as 1909, but before this had been dismissed by the UK which favoured the use of text. The symbols were simple silhouettes which were easy to recognise at a distance. Some were unusual, such as 'SCHOOL' (and later 'CHILDREN') was depicted by the 'flaming torch of knowledge'. The government made increasing efforts to standardise road signs in the Road Traffic Act 1930 (RTA) and regulations of 1933, being finally consolidated with the publication of the 1934 Road Traffic Acts and Regulations handbook. These saw the end of non-standard permanent signs being erected by motoring clubs, such as the black and yellow vitreous enamel AA signs (although this did not include temporary direction signs). While the RSAC had ceased erecting signs, the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) had begun to do so to RTA specifications (save for the inclusion of the RAC badge) and was very active in this respect in the late-1930s.
The 1934 national British signs included: a red disc (for a prohibition), a red open triangle (for a warning or hazard), a red ring (for an order), and a red open triangle in a circle for a new warning with an order (which had the plates 'SLOW - MAJOR ROAD AHEAD' and 'HALT AT MAJOR ROAD AHEAD', the predecessors of 'GIVE WAY' and 'STOP' signs respectively). All signs were to carry information plates mounted below them, which were illustrated with a wide range of prescribed standardised symbols, and only text when no symbol existed. The lettering and symbols were black on a white background, except for orders (like 'TURN LEFT') which were white on blue. New to the UK were the first combination sign, which incorporated information on the sign itself, the 30 miles per hour speed restriction (introduced in 1934), with '30' in black letters on a white disc surrounded by a red ring, to indicate it is an order sign. The 30 mph sign was accompanied by its 'derestriction' sign, a white disc with a diagonal black band bisecting it, which marked the end of the restriction. Neither of these signs required separate information plates. The 1934 RTA&R also clarified direction and distance signage, which remained in that form until 1964. All signs were mounted on posts painted in black and white stripes, and their reverse sides were finished black, green, or more rarely (usually after repainting) white. The 'HALT' plate was unique in being T-shaped; orders were mainly landscape and warnings always portrait. Sizes were strictly prescribed, the warning plate being 21 by 12 inches (53 cm × 30 cm) with the surmounting triangle 18 inches (46 cm) equal.
As part of its anti-invasion preparations during World War II, the British government instructed all navigational signposts and railway station signs to be removed, so as not to aid potential enemy ground movements. After the war ended, larger motoring associations embarked upon a programme to erect temporary road signs. These temporary signs, which were not required to conform to the standardisation laid down by the government, usually displayed the motoring association’s logo and colour-scheme.
Some road signs were subject to minor modification, mainly in the early post-World War II years. For instance, 'SCHOOL' became a schoolboy and girl marching off a kerb, 'CHILDREN' a boy and girl playing handball on a kerb's edge. A train 'CROSSING NO GATES' was given a more toy-like locomotive. Meanwhile, the triangle was inverted for 'HALT' and 'SLOW', while 'NO ENTRY' became a combination sign - a red disc bisected by a horizontal white rectangle bearing the lettering. Orders were now black on white, save for 'NO WAITING', which was black on yellow in a red ring. Some of these changes were part of an attempt to reflect European standards.
Early road signs were usually cast iron, but this was increasingly displaced by cast aluminium in the 1930s. Cast signs were designed to be maintained by being repainted with the raised lettering and symbol easily picked out by an untrained hand. This sort of sign was sometimes given an element of night use by the inclusion of glass reflectors. An alternative to casting and painting was vitreous enamelled sheet iron or steel. In the 1950s cast signs were quickly displaced by sheet metal (usually aluminium) coated with adhesive plastics; these could be made reflective, famously by Scotchlite. Such signs had become almost universal by the reforms of the early 1960s.
The major reform of UK road signage to better reflect European practice happened in two stages. The first was associated with the first motorway construction project and the development of a signage system for it by the Anderson Committee of 1957. Although it was additional to the existing signage, it set several benchmarks that were developed under the Worboys Committee of 1963 that was largely responsible for the road signage system effected from 1964, which is still current. Until Worboys, the most notable differences between European and UK signs was the use of symbols without text wherever possible, thereby increasing the internationalism of their meaning, and with their combined nature, such as warning signs having the symbol inside the triangle instead of on a separate information plate, on the continent. The Worboys Committee recommended that such practices were adopted in the UK and the 'New Traffic Signs' of 1964 were part of the most comprehensive reformation of the UK streetscape ever. Unlike previous government efforts to regulate signage, which tended to be cumulative, Worboys argued a modernist position of starting from a clean slate, with all previous signs being deemed obsolete, illegal even, therefore subject to total and systematic replacement. As a result, local authorities were charged with massive resignage programmes. Order and Prohibition signs were almost all replaced within a couple of years, with the warning and direction signs taking a longer amount of time. Few pre-1964 warning signs survived more than about ten years and while direction signs were similarly replaced more have survived as they were not deemed as essential.
The system currently in use was mainly developed in the late 1950s and the early 1960s, with additional colour-coding introduced in the mid-1980s. There were three major steps in the development of the system.
- The Anderson Committee established the motorway signing system.
- The Worboys Committee reformed signing for existing all-purpose roads.
- The Guildford Rules introduced features to indicate different categories of route.
In 1957, a government committee was formed to design signs for the new motorway network. A system was needed that could be easily read at high speed. Colin Anderson, chairman of P&O, was appointed chairman; T. G. Usborne, of the Ministry of Transport, had charge of proceedings. Two graphic designers were commissioned to design the system of signage: Jock Kinneir and his assistant (and later business partner) Margaret Calvert. The new signs were first used on the Preston bypass in 1958.
The UK government formed another committee in 1963 to review signage on all British roads. It was chaired by Sir Walter Worboys of Imperial Chemical Industries. The result was a document that defined traffic signing in Britain, the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD). It was first introduced on 1 January 1965 but has been updated many times since. It is comparable with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices in the United States. The TSRGD is a Statutory Instrument that prescribes the sign faces and permitted variants that may be used on UK roads. The TSRGD is supported by the Traffic Signs Manual (TSM), which consists of eight separately-published chapters which provide "the codes to be followed in the use, siting, and illumination of signs both on all-purpose roads and motorways. It also covers temporary signs for use in connection with road works, in an emergency by the police, and temporary route signing by motoring organisations and highway authorities."
To eliminate sign clutter in the mid-1980s, a colour-coding system was developed to indicate different route types on a single sign. The system, also adopted in the Republic of Ireland, became known as Guildford Rules, after trials in Guildford, Surrey.
Detailed guidelines govern road signs in the United Kingdom. The basic units of measurement used by sign designers and typographers are the 'x-height' (the height of the lower case letter 'x') and the 'stroke width' (sw) (4 sw = 1 x-height). The sizes of borders, symbols and arrows and the spacing and layout of the sign face are expressed in sw, so that all the elements remain in proportion. The x-height of a sign is dictated mainly by the speed of traffic approaching it; hence 300 mm (12 inches) x-heights are common on motorways, whereas parking signs are mostly at 15 mm (1⁄2 inch) or 20 mm (3⁄4 inch) x-height.
Almost all signs have rounded corners. This is partly for aesthetic reasons. It is also safer for anyone coming into contact with a sign, and it makes the sign more durable, as rain and snow are less likely to corrode the corners.
Units of measurement
The United Kingdom uses mostly imperial units on road signs for distance measurements and speed limits. Vehicle weight limits are signed only in metric (TSRGD 1981) but older signs with height, width and length restrictions may show metric units in addition to imperial. For distances only miles and yards are used. From March 2015, all new height, width and length restrictions must have dual metric-imperial units.
Three colour combinations are used on Worboys direction signs depending upon the category of the route. All roads are categorised as either motorways (white on blue), primary routes (white on dark green with yellow route numbers), or non-primary routes (black on white).
TSRGD 1994 also prescribed a system of white-on-brown direction signs for tourist and recreational attractions. TSRGD 2002 updated this and introduced a system of black-on-yellow signs for roadworks. TSRGD 2016 is the current version in force.
On Advance Direction Signs, as introduced under the Guildford Rules, the background colour indicates the category of route on which it is located. On all directional signs, destination names are placed on the colour appropriate to the category of route used from that junction. A panel of one colour on a different colour of background, therefore, indicates a change of route status. A smaller area of colour, called a patch, surrounds a bracketed route number (but not its associated destination) to indicate a higher status route that is joined some distance away. A patch may only be coloured blue or green.
Signs indicating a temporary change, such as roadworks or route diversions, are denoted with a yellow background. Usually, these signs use a simple black on yellow colour code, more complex signage use the conventional signs superimposed onto a yellow background.
In some areas, such as the Dartmoor National Park, additional signs and colours are used to distinguish road conditions. In addition to the national colour schemes, the park also uses white signs with a light blue border and text to denote routes suitable for medium-sized vehicles and white signs with a brown border and text for routes suitable for cars and small vehicles only. The park also uses fingerpost signs for routes suitable for local traffic only. These routes are publicised in park leaflets and other media.
For ease of reference, the main colour-coding rules may be summarised as below:
|Blue||White||White||Motorways M1, A1(M)||Anderson|
|Green||White||White (with yellow route numbers)||Primary routes A2||Worboys|
|White||Black||Black||Non-primary routes A335, B190||Worboys|
|White||Blue||Black||Local destinations||Worboys, now defunct and replaced by above|
|White||Red||Black||Ministry of Defence sites|
The colour-coding for panels on signs may be summarised as below:
|White||Red||Black||Ministry of Defence sites||Guildford|
Two typefaces are specified for British road signs: Transport and Motorway.
Transport is a mixed-case font and is used for all text on fixed permanent signs except route numbers on motorway signs. It is used in two weights: Transport Medium (for light text on dark backgrounds) and Transport Heavy (for dark text on light backgrounds).
Motorway has a limited character set consisting of just numbers and a few letters and symbols needed to show route numbers; it has elongated characters and is designed to add emphasis to route numbers on motorways. Motorway is used to sign all route numbers on motorways themselves, and may also be used on non-motorway roads to sign directions in which motorway regulations apply immediately (such as motorway slip roads). Motorway Permanent is light characters on a dark background; Motorway Temporary is dark on light.
Transport Medium and Motorway Permanent were developed for the Anderson Committee and appeared on the first motorway signs. The other two typefaces are similar but have additional stroke width in the letters to compensate for light backgrounds. These typefaces are the only ones permitted on road signs in the UK. Although signs containing other typefaces do appear occasionally in some places, they are explicitly forbidden in government guidelines and are technically illegal.
Bilingual signs are used in Wales. Welsh highway authorities, until 2016, could choose whether the signs in their area were "English-priority" or "Welsh-priority", and the language having priority in each highway authority's area appeared first on signs. Most of south Wales used English-priority while western, mid, and most of northern Wales were Welsh-priority. New regulations that came into force in 2016 mandate all signs to be in Welsh first, with the existing "English-priority" signage being replaced only when they otherwise would. Bilingual signs were permitted by special authorisation after 1965, and in 1972 the Bowen Committee recommended that they should be provided systematically throughout Wales.
A small number of multilingual signs exist in the UK on major roads that leave major ports (such as the Port of Dover). They give the UK standard speed limits and remind drivers to drive on the left, in English, French, and German. Multilingual 'no stopping' signs exist in several locations on the M25.
In the Scottish Highlands and Islands, many road signs have Scottish Gaelic in green, in addition to English in black. This is part of the Gaelic language revival encouraged by many, including the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.
- Class 1 (engineering grade) is a low-performance glass bead product, it was the first reflective material used on the UK network and invented by 3M. Today in the UK it is used only for street nameplates and parking signs.
- Class 2 (high-intensity) is generally a microprismatic product which uses truncated cube corners to return light to the driver. It is commonly used for directional signs or less important regulatory signs. There are also high-intensity glass bead products that meet this class.
- Class 3 (diamond grade) is a high end microprismatic product for important signs, those on high-speed roads and in areas of ambient lighting where a driver may be distracted by the light clutter. Class 3 can be divided into two divisions; 3A for long distance and 3B for short distance. Currently, the only product that performs to these levels is Diamond Grade DG3.
Road signs, markings and signals in the United Kingdom are formally categorised into sets, identifiable by the design number:
- Warning signs (5xx)
- Regulatory signs (6xx)
- Level crossing signs (7xx)
- Information signs (8xx)
- Bus, tram & cycle signs (9xx)
- Road markings (1xxx)
- Direction signs (2xxx)
- Traffic signals (3xxx)
- Signals for crossing facilities (4xxx)
- Lane control signs (5xxx)
- Road works signs (7xxx)
For clarity, signs are more commonly grouped together below
The importance of a warning sign is emphasised by the red border around its edge and the triangular shape. Some warning signs do not have a red border like sharp deviation. The priority of traffic through the junction is indicated by the broader line. Examples below exclude low bridges, railway and tramway level crossings, bus and pedal cycle facilities, traffic calming and road works.
Plate use with "STOP" triangle to give the distance to STOP line
Plate used with "GIVE WAY" triangle to give the distance to GIVE WAY line
Traffic signals ahead
Part time traffic signals ahead
Traffic merges from the left
Traffic merges onto the main carriageway
Bend to right (left if symbol reversed)
Double bend first to the left (right if symbol reversed)
Junction on a bend (symbols may be reversed)
Junction on a bend (symbols may be reversed)
Plate used with "roundabout" or "bend" signs
Sharp deviation of route to the left (right if chevrons reversed)
Plate used with warning signs where a reduction in speed is necessary
Advisory speed limit in miles per hour
Road narrows on both sides
Road narrows on the right (left if symbols reversed)
Oncoming traffic will be in the middle of the road
Single file traffic in each direction
Road wide enough for only one line of vehicles
End of dual carriageway
Two-way traffic on route crossing ahead
Worded warning ("Ford" may be varied to "Flood", "Gate", "Gates" or "No smoking")
Try brakes after crossing a ford or before descending a steep hill
Plates used with "steep hill" signs
Plates used with "steep hill" signs
Plates used with "steep hill" signs
Opening or swing bridge
Riverbank or quayside
Water course alongside road
Plate used with "soft verges" for distance shown
Distance to hazard
Distance and direction to hazard
Distance over which hazard extends
Low-flying aircraft or sudden aircraft noise
Low-flying helicopters or sudden helicopter noise
Falling or fallen rocks
Traffic queues likely ahead
Traffic queues likely ahead
Slow-moving military vehicles likely to be in or crossing the road
Plate for "slow-moving vehicles" to show distance over which slow lorries extends
Ice or Snowdrifts
Plate used with "ice". may be varied to "snowdrifts"
Other dangers (plate must be used to indicate the hazard)
Fire station ahead, STOP when lights show. "FIRE" may be varied to "AMBULANCE"
Plate indicates nature of the hazard
Pedestrians in road for distance shown
Frail pedestrians likely to cross
Disabled pedestrians. "Disabled" may be varied to "Blind"
Children going to or from school
"School" plate used with the children sign
"Playground" plate used with the children sign
"School patrol" plate used with the children sign
"Disabled children" plate used with the children sign
Horse-drawn vehicles likely to be in the road
Accompanied horses or ponies likely to be in or crossing the road
Wild horses or ponies
Migratory toad crossing
“Farm traffic” plate
Area infected by animal disease
Plate used with "cattle grid" for indication of bypass for horse-drawn vehicles and animals
Plate used with "cattle" to indicate supervised cattle crossing ahead
Signs in circular red borders are prohibitive, whether or not they also have a diagonal red line. Circular blue signs mainly give a positive (mandatory) instruction. Such circular signs may be accompanied by, or place on, a rectangular plate (information) that provides details of the prohibition or instruction; for example, waiting and loading plates and zone entry signs.
Stop before crossing the traverse line on the road and ensure the way is clear before entering a major road
Give way to traffic on the major road (English Language Only)
Give way to traffic on the major road (English and Welsh Language)
No Entry for vehicular traffic.
All vehicles prohibited.
Plate for "vehicles prohibited", during the time indicated except for access
Plate for "vehicles prohibited", all vehicles prohibited from 'Play Street' during the period indicated except for access
Motor vehicles prohibited (that is: excluding non-mechanically propelled vehicles being pushed by pedestrians). This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except Buses')
Motor vehicles except solo motorcycles prohibited. This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except for access')
Solo motorcycles prohibited. This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except for access')
Towed caravans prohibited
Ridden or accompanied horses prohibited
Horse-drawn vehicles prohibited. This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except for access')
Articulated vehicles prohibited
Goods vehicles exceeding an unladen weight of 7.5 t prohibited. This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except for access').
End of prohibition of goods vehicles exceeding the maximum unladen weight indicated in a previous sign
Vehicles exceeding length indicated prohibited (metric). This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except for access')
Vehicles exceeding length indicated prohibited (imperial). This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except for access')
Vehicles carrying explosives (such as fireworks) prohibited. This sign is not actually in the regulations but separately approved by the DfT.
Additional plate required on "prohibited: vehicles carrying explosives" sign because the sign is not included in the TSRGD
Vehicles exceeding width indicated prohibited (imperial and metric) This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except Buses')
Vehicles exceeding height indicated prohibited (imperial and metric)
Vehicles exceeding a gross weight of 33 t prohibited from crossing the bridge or structure. The exception plate is optional, but this is the only exception permitted.
Exception plate for use only with specified regulation signs giving exception for access to premises or land adjacent to the road, where there is no other route. Other exceptions may be shown
Except for loading and unloading by goods vehicles
Priority must be given to vehicles from the opposite direction
Priority must be given to vehicles from the opposite direction (supplementary panel)
No U-turns for vehicular traffic
No right turn for vehicular traffic
No left turn for vehicular traffic
Stop, children crossing ahead (This sign can only be displayed by a person at a patrolled crossing).
Stop before crossing, Police ahead
Combines the three prohibitions shown, specifies to where it applies and adds the additional prohibition of animals. The word 'animals' and/or the prohibited pedestrians sign may be omitted
Vehicular traffic must turn left (right if symbol reversed)
Vehicular traffic must turn ahead in the direction indicated by the arrow
Vehicular traffic passing the sign must keep to the left of the sign (right if symbol reversed)
Dual carriageway Plate
Mini-roundabout (give way to traffic from the immediate right)
No Waiting or No Parking
Clearway, no stopping
End of controlled or voucher parking zone
Speed Limit Signs
The United Kingdom national speed limit for cars and motorcycles is 70 miles per hour on a motorway and dual carriageway, and 60 miles per hour on a single carriageway road. In urban areas where there is electric street lighting the speed limit is 30 miles per hour unless otherwise signed.
National speed limit applies
Entrance to a 20 miles per hour speed limit zone
End of 20 miles per hour zone
Minimum speed limit of 30 miles per hour
End of 30 miles per hour minimum speed limit
Speed camera ahead with reminder of 30 miles per hour speed limit
Area in which cameras are used to enforce the speed limit regulations
Average speed check
National speed limits
Speed limits are in miles per hour (Northern Ireland Only)
Maximum speed (10)
Maximum speed (20)
Maximum speed (30)
Maximum speed (40)
Maximum speed (50)
Maximum speed (60)
Low Bridge Signs
Bridges with a clearance of less than 16 feet 7 inches (5.05 m) are normally signed. Signs were formerly only in feet and inches, but from 2015 new or replacement signs must contain both imperial and metric measurements. The signs used at a low bridge depend on the type above the road. If a beam bridge with a horizontal clearance, the roundel is used and the limit is a prohibition. However if the bridge is an arch over the road, warning signs are used as the height varies across the width of the carriageway. Bridges particularly at risk from strikes may have a variable message sign that is activated by high vehicles passing through an infra-red beam. When the sign is activated four amber lamps flash, the top pair alternating with the bottom pair.
Warning of maximum headroom of arch bridge/overhanging structure some distance ahead (sign also used at the bridge itself)
Supplementary plate informing height limit warning is of an overhanging building
Warning of maximum headroom of arch bridge directly ahead (metric)
Warning of maximum headroom of arch bridge directly ahead (imperial)
Supplementary plate used with arch bridge warning signs
Height restriction (metric and imperial)
Level crossing Signs
Some level crossings in the United Kingdom do not have gates or barriers. These crossings will have several signs posted on approach and at the crossing.
Level crossing with gate or barrier ahead
Railway level crossing without gate or barrier ahead
Warning of light signals at a level crossing ahead (the sign may also be used at a lifting bridge or airfield)
Electrified overhead cable ahead
Supplementary plate informing height of overhead cables at level crossing ahead
Risk of grounding at level crossing ahead
Information sign for large vehicles informing to phone at automatic level crossing
Information sign for very large vehicles to phone before crossing railway
Direction to telephone at level crossing
Telephone at level crossing
Countdown marker to level crossing (3)
Countdown marker to level crossing (2)
Countdown marker to level crossing (1)
Supplementary plate warning drivers to not block the level crossing
Supplementary plate at multiple track automatic level crossings warning of a second train
Ungated level crossing
Bus and cycle signs
Some roads and pavements are shared with cyclists and buses. The word "local" on the bus symbol means the only buses that may use the lane are those running a local service. Where the word "local" is not shown, the lane may be used by any vehicle designed to carry more than eight passengers, excluding the driver, and local buses. Solo motorcycles may use the lane where the motorcycle symbol is shown on the signs. Other vehicles may enter and stop in a bus lane to load and unload unless signs alongside the lane indicate otherwise.
Buses prohibited. This sign may additionally display an exception plate (for example: 'Except for access')
Riding of pedal cycles prohibited. Schedule 5 of the traffic signs regulations specifically states that the use of this sign is not backed by any legislation
(Undivided) shared path route for cyclists and pedestrians only
Divided track for cyclists and pedestrians only
Route for use by pedal cycles only
Route for use by tramcars only
Route for use by buses and tramcars only
Contra-flow bus lane
Route recommended for pedal cycles on the main carriageway of a road
End of bus lane
Junction ahead leading to a parking place for pedal cycles
With flow cycle lane
Bus lane with traffic proceeding from both ways (reminder for pedestrians)
With-flow cycle lane ahead
Parking place for buses only during the times shown
Contra-flow bus lane which pedal cycles may also use with traffic approaching from the right (reminder for pedestrians)
Pedestrian zone signs
Areas such as high streets and shopping areas may be signed as "pedestrian zones". Restrictions are detailed on zone entry signs and repeater plates. The entry signs may indicate that buses, taxis, disabled badge holders or permit holders may enter the zone. Examples of zone entry signs include:
Entry to and waiting in pedestrian zone restricted except for loading during the period
End of restrictions associated with a pedestrian zone
Waiting restriction repeater signs within the pedestrian zone
No vehicles allowed in pedestrian zone except for lorries during the period with no waiting at any time
No vehicles allowed between 7am & 11am and between 4pm and 8pm on Mondays to Saturdays only in pedestrian zone except for loading from lorries
Loading bays and Parking signs
Both signs and road markings indicate waiting restrictions. On-street parking places may be designated for a particular class of vehicle (e.g. solo motorcycles or car) or a specific type of user (e.g. permit holders or disabled badge holders). Parking may be free or paid for (e.g. "pay and display" or parking meters).
There may be a time limit on the period of stay and a minimum time before returning to a particular parking place. Where a plate does not indicate the days of the week, the restrictions apply at the same times on every day, including Sunday. Where the time of day is not shown, the controls apply for 24 hours. If a bank holiday falls on a day when the controls are in operation, the controls apply in the normal way unless the plate states that they do not. Special restrictions may apply on days when a large event is being held.
Waiting prohibited except for loading and unloading during the period indicated
Waiting prohibited except for loading and unloading during the period and in the direction indicated
Waiting prohibited in designated off-highway loading area during the period indicated
Continuous prohibition on loading and unloading
Bay reserved for loading and unloading only
Waiting prohibited in the direction indicated (upper panel), and loading and unloading prohibited in the direction indicated (lower panel)
Parking place reserved for disabled badge holders only
Parking for all vehicles, with restrictions on length of waiting time and return period (not necessarily free, though the sign must state if not free)
Parking place reserved for voucher parking during the period indicated
Direction to a parking place available only on the day specified
Vehicles may be parked partially on the verge or footway
Vehicles may be parked wholly on the verge or footway
End of an area where vehicles may be parked partially on the verge or footway
For use on busy motorways and other wide roads where verge mounted signs would be frequently obstructed by other traffic.
An advance direction sign (ADS) generally has blue, green or white as its background colour to indicate the status of a road (motorway, primary or non-primary) on which it is placed. Except on the main carriageway of a motorway, coloured panels are used to indicate routes from the junction being signed that have a different status. A direction sign (DS) should always be a single colour indicating the status of the road to be joined, although there are a few rare exceptions to this rule.
The Heavy and Medium typefaces were designed to compensate for the optical illusion that makes dark lines on pale backgrounds appear narrower than pale lines on dark backgrounds. Hence destinations are written in mixed case white Transport Medium on green and blue backgrounds, and in black Transport Heavy on white backgrounds. Route numbers are coloured yellow when placed directly on a green background. Some signs logically show the closest destination on the route first (i.e., on top), while others show the most distant settlement first. On a roundabout DS, the route locations are usually listed with the closest destination at the bottom and the furthest away at the top when going straight ahead, and likewise going left and right. However, many left-right signs more logically indicate the closest destination at the top with further afield destinations listed in descending order.
Destinations and roads which cannot be directly accessed on a driver's current actual route, but can be accessed via an artery route of that carriageway, are displayed in brackets.
All types of ADS (but not DS) may optionally have the junction name at the top of the sign in capital letters in a separate panel.
A route confirmatory sign is placed either after a junction where distances were not shown on the ADS or DS or is placed on an overhead information sign but does not show distances to the destinations along that route.
End of motorway regulations, including the national speed limit in 1 mile
Start of motorway regulations, including the national speed limit
Number of route reached from a motorway exit road
10 miles to the next motorway service area
Junction ahead with another motorway
Entrance to motorway service area, or similar facility within the length of a motorway where motorway regulations cease to apply
Motorway junction ahead, displaying the route number and destination reached by taking this route
Route number of the motorway with destinations and distances to places along or reached from that route
Direction to a motorway at the junction shown, indicating route number and destination reached
Entrance to a motorway service area
Availability of motorway service areas ahead with distances
Availability of motorway service areas ahead with distances and names of operators
Additional traffic lane joining from the left ahead (right if reversed)
Leave motorway at next exit
Risk of Fog ahead. Proceed with caution
Risk of Ice ahead. Proceed with caution
End of temporary restrictions
Temporary Speed Advisories
Temporary Speed advised of 50 mph due to prevailing traffic or weather conditions.
Lane 2 is closed ahead. Use lane 1 and proceed with caution.
Lane 2 and 3 closed ahead. Use lane 1 and proceed with caution.
Lane 1 closed. Use lanes 2, 3 and 4, Proceed with caution
Do not enter the traffic lane directly below[a]
Both lanes closed. Do not enter the motorway when the red lamps are flashing in pairs from side to side
All 3 lanes closed Do not enter the motorway when the red lamps are flashing in pairs from side to side
All 4 lanes closed. Do not enter the motorway when the red lamps are flashing in pairs from side to side
- A previous signal may direct you into an adjacent lane. More than one lane may be closed to traffic. If all lanes display a red cross, the motorway ahead is closed. Motorists caught using the traffic lane are subject to a fine of £100 and will receive points on their licence.
Directional road signs
The term "directional sign" covers both Advance Direction Signs (ADS), placed on the approach to a junction, and Direction Signs (DS) at the junction itself, showing where to turn. A DS has a chevron (pointed) end, and this type is also referred to as a flag-type sign.
300 yards to a roundabout or the next point at which traffic may leave a primary route
200 yards to a roundabout or the next point at which traffic may leave a primary route
100 yards to a roundabout or the next point at which traffic may leave a primary route
Junction ahead of a primary route with a non-primary route through a town or village that has been by-passed
Additional traffic lanes joining from the right ahead. Traffic in the right-hand lane joins the main carriageway. Traffic on the main carriageway has priority over joining traffic (primary route)
Additional traffic lane joining from the left in 200 yards. Traffic on the main carriageway had priority over joining traffic from the right-hand lane of the slip road (primary routes)
Camping and caravan site 300 yards ahead
Steam railway tourist attraction 300 yards ahead
Picnic area 150 yards ahead
Direction to tourist attraction indicated by a symbol
Direction along a route passing through places of interest recognised by a regional tourist
Direction and distance to a picnic area
Direction and distance to a Tourist Information point or centre
Junction ahead from a motorway exit slip road to the tourist attractions shown
Direction of the route to a tourist attraction for pedestrians
Junction ahead leading to a tourist attraction
Youth hostel 200 yards in the direction indicated
Junction ahead from a motorway exit slip road to the tourist attractions shown
Historic castle tourist attraction 10 miles ahead
Stopping place for buses used for carrying tourists to allow passengers to take photographs
Motorway junction ahead leading to a town or geographical area containing several tourist attractions and a Tourist Information Point or Centre
Distance ahead to a parking place with a Tourist Information Point, picnic site, public telephone, public toilets and viewpoint
Diversion routes are marked with black symbols on a yellow patch (square, triangle, circle, or diamond). These mark diversionary routes in the event that the road ahead is closed for any reasons. Motorists can navigate following the symbol and can find their way back to the original road at a junction above the closure. The four symbols may be a solid shape or just outlines. They are most commonly placed on directional signs, following the route number (e.g. A 25) but may be free standing.
Motorway exits have trigger signs that are normally covered. In the event of a closure, the sign is uncovered and will say, for instance, "To rejoin M6 follow (symbol)". Following the symbol will allow rejoining at a later junction.
On minor roads a simple black on yellow sign with an arrow and the word Diversion is used, as here.
Solid Circle - Emergency diversion route for motorway and other main road traffic
Solid Triangle - Emergency diversion route for motorway and other main road traffic
hollow Square - Emergency diversion route for motorway and other main road traffic
hollow Diamond - Emergency diversion route for motorway and other main road traffic
Diversion trigger sign - Main road closed, follow diversion to arrive at the same location
For triangle diversion, turn right
Diversion sign on minor roads or for road works starting to left.
Informational signs are usually rectangular and generally blue with white text.
Traffic has priority over vehicles coming from the opposite direction
No through road
Unsuitable for heavy goods vehicles
Unsuitable for long vehicles
No hard shoulder for 400 yards
Location of weight restriction ahead with indication of an alternative route (may show a different restriction or that the restriction is gross weight rather than unladen weight)
Roadworks and temporary signs
Roadworks are normally signalled with a triangular, red-bordered warning format is used to indicate that there are works ahead. The graphic is of a man digging. Within the roadworks, diversions and other instructions to drivers are normally given on yellow signs with black script.
Lanes bend ahead
Restrictions apply. No vehicles over width shown
Diversion for motorists travelling to destination
Temporary Advisory speed limit in miles per hour
Get in Lane. HGV use left lane, all other vehicles use right lane
Street name signs
Legally street name signs are not defined as traffic signs in the United Kingdom; this therefore gives authorities flexibility on the design and placement of them. They can be fixed to a signpost, wall, lamp column, or building. The text can be in many different fonts but normally either the Transport typeface used on road signs or the serif font designed by David Kindersley. In many areas, the sign will also show the name of the local authority, its coat of arms, or part of the street’s postcode.
Numbered location markers of one type or another are used to identify specific locations along a road. Historically, milestones were used, but since the early 20th century they fell into disuse. However, for administrative and maintenance purposes, distance marker posts and driver location signs have been erected on motorways and certain dual carriageways. The numbers on distance marker posts are embedded into emergency roadside telephone numbers and are used by the emergency services to pinpoint incidents. The advent of the mobile phone meant that drivers were not accessing location information embedded into motorway emergency telephone systems, and since 2007 driver location signs have been erected on many motorways. These contain important information about the location and carriageway direction.
Standard with no right turn
Crossroads ahead (1965–1975)
T-junction ahead (1965–1975)
Side road ahead (1965–1975)
Staggered crossroads ahead (1965–1975)
Traffic merges from the left (1965–1994)
Traffic merges onto the main carriageway (1965–1994)
Series of bends ahead (1965–1975). This sign is rarely still used today (for sharp/dangerous bends)
Steep hill upwards ahead (1965–1975, replaced with % gradient)
Steep hill downwards ahead (1965–1975, replaced with % gradient)
Stop - children crossing (1965–1994)
Lorries prohibited (1965–1975)
Vehicles exceeding width indicated prohibited (1965–2016, defunct imperial only sign, new signs must show both metric and imperial)
Buses and coaches prohibited (1965–1975)
Foggy conditions may exist (1975–1994)
Icy conditions may exist (1975–1994)
Snowdrifts may exist (1975–1994)
Right-hand lane of a 2 lane dual carriageway closed ahead (1975–1981)
Change of carriageway ahead (1975–1994)
Vehicles exceeding height indicated prohibited (1975–2016, defunct imperial only sign, new signs must show both metric and imperial)
Vehicles and loads exceeding weight in tonnes indicated prohibited (1981–1994)
Vehicles exceeding the indicated unladen weight in tonnes prohibited (1994–2011, replaced with lower-case t)
Vehicles exceeding an indicated gross weight prohibited from crossing bridge (1994–2011, replaced with lower-case t)
No Right Turn
Road Works Ahead
Approach Direction Sign
Junction Direction Sign
National Speed Limit Applies
Speed Limit except Built-up Areas
No Left Turn
Two Way Traffic
Level Crossing with No Gates
Halt at major road ahead
Slow, major road ahead
The designs of road signs in Great Britain as prescribed in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) apply specifically to England, Scotland and Wales. These regulations do not extend to Northern Ireland. Traffic signs in Northern Ireland are prescribed by The Traffic Signs Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1997 and are administered by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Northern Ireland signs are broadly the same as those in Great Britain, although changes made in Great Britain are often not made in Northern Ireland at the same time. One example is the series of bends ahead sign, which was removed from TSRGD in 1975 but only removed from the Northern Ireland regulations in 1979.
|Territory||Drives on...||Speed units||Warning sign style|
The designs of road signs as prescribed in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) do not extend to other territories that come under the jurisdiction of the Crown. Road signs in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are under the jurisdiction of their local legislatures. Although the policy in these territories is to align their road signs with those prescribed in the TSRGD, small variations may be seen.
Isle of Man
The Tynwald (Isle of Man Parliament), through its Traffic Signs (Application) Regulations 2003, explicitly included Part I of the TSRGD into Manx law, but not the other parts of that legislation. One of the consequences of this partial incorporation is that while in England and Wales speed limit signs had to appear on both sides of a carriageway until 2016, this was not necessary for the Isle of Man. Likewise, an all-way stop is permissible in the Isle of Man, whilst it has been prohibited in Great Britain since 2002.
The use of the derestricted sign differs according to jurisdiction, in the Isle of Man it means no speed limit applies, whereas in Jersey it denotes a 40 mph speed limit, which is the highest permitted speed on the island. 
The Bailiwick of Guernsey and Jersey have a unique sign "Filter in turn", which is a give way without priority. It is similar to the all-way stops found elsewhere in the world, although there is no requirement to halt.
In Jersey, roads signs and markings are regulated by the Traffic Signs (Jersey) Order 1968.
The standard bus stop road marking (Diagram 1025) is painted white on Jersey roads, and a unique smaller bus stop marking is found at most stops, which lacks the stop cage.
By Article 18, the Minister for Infrastructure may cause a yellow line to be placed transverse across a minor road. This indicates a 'give way' rule, as normally indicated by double white dashed lines elsewhere. The standard give way triangle (Diagram 1023) is painted yellow, even at approaches to white give way lines at roundabouts.
Parking signage is considerably different. Unloading bays (Diagram 1018J) allow loading and unloading of goods and are painted yellow with yellow upright signs. Otherwise parking signs indicate 'paycard' or 'Disc' limit restrictions. A single yellow line (Diagram 1017) indicates a 24-hour waiting restriction.
At the end of all one-way roads, the marking 'NO ENTRY' is placed to ban entry for vehicles.
The Z-bend sign (Diagram 514) is prescribed and still used. The end of a cycle track can be indicated by a blue cycle track sign with a red stripe.
In Jersey, traffic signals follow the French pattern, omitting the red-amber phase.
In Jersey, there is less onerous requirements for the signage of speed limits than the UK. Repeater signs are never used for 40 mph, and are sometimes used for 30 mph where there are street lights (which would not be necessary in the UK). Furthermore, there is no requirement that speed limit signs appear on both sides of the carriageway (consequently they often only appear on one).
Weight restriction signs in Guernsey use hundredweight ("cwt") as a unit rather than the tonne, although one cwt was redefined as exactly 50.8023 kg in 1991. Guernsey devolves road markings and signs to Alderney and Sark. Sark does not permit road transport, aside from cycles and farm vehicles. Alderney has some different road markings, but the signs are broadly the same as Guernsey.
|Territory||Drives on...||Speed units||Warning sign style|
Isle of Man
The Overseas territories have much more autonomy regarding their use of signs and these can vary quite significantly from those used in Great Britain.
Akrotiri and Dhekelia
Road signs in Akrotiri and Dhekelia, on Cyprus, are controlled by the Ministry of Defence and maintain the same designs as the Republic of Cyprus. Speeds are in kilometres per hour, distances are in kilometres. Some signs are in Turkish as well as English and Greek.
Anguilla mostly uses the same road signs as the United Kingdom with minor differences. Anguilla's roads occasionally cross large dish drains requiring a vehicle to slow down to cross. Because of this, the territory has its own unique dip sign.
Bermuda mostly uses the same style as the United Kingdom, with some exceptions. Speed limit signs are in kilometres per hour and occasionally miles per hour, and all limit signs have this marked. Longer distances are typically in kilometeres, however shorter distances are signed in yards. Height and width sign restrictions are in both imperial units and metric. No entry signs have "NO ENTRY" written in black down the centre as was often used in the UK prior to 1965. Goods vehicles are prohibited by class rather than weight: a list of prohibited vehicle classes will usually accompany a generic "no lorries" sign. Bermuda still uses the Z-bend sign, phased out in the UK since 1975.
20 km/h speed limit sign
No entry sign
Goods vehicles prohibited sign
Series of bends ahead (Z-bend) sign
British Indian Ocean Territory
The road signs of the Cayman Islands are similar to the UK's, the only main difference is some signs have allowable alternatives from the US's Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, mainly for parking restriction signs. The warning sign for dead ends is one of the only signs to follow the US standard in the Road Code, although other US-influenced signs are listed for use near schools.
Information sign for vehicles
The Falkland Islands' road signs are similar to the UK. There is an additional road sign used in the Falklands to denote a minefield.
The road signs of Gibraltar are similar to the UK, with some signs being reversed to reflect driving on the opposite side of the road. There are some warning signs specific to Gibraltar, mainly to do with the unique wildlife of the territory. Speed limits and distances are in metric, in keeping with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. However, height and width clearance warning and regulatory signs are both in imperial and metric.
The road signs of Montserrat are similar to those of the UK. No entry signs have "NO ENTRY" written in red down the centre, similar to the design used in the Bahamas.
Road transport in Pitcairn is primarily by quad bike. Signs are modelled on those of New Zealand, although they are not kept in step with New Zealand updates. Pitcairn's uses a unique slow down sign seen in neither the UK nor New Zealand – a red octagon with "SLOW DOWN" in white.
New Zealand's watch for children sign is sometimes used in Pitcairn.
The slow down sign, unique to Pitcairn.
The road signs on Saint Helena are similar to the UK's.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands inherited the traffic regulations of the Falkland Islands when it was made a separate territory in 1985. There are very few roads on the island and they are all gravel and unmarked.
Turks and Caicos Islands
The lack of road signs and official street names in the Turks and Caicos Islands was blamed for emergency vehicles not reaching their destination promptly, the government has since embarked on a programme of labelling roads and installing signs. Roads are labelled in a similar way to the US and Canada. Road signs are similar to those of the UK, although older MUTCD-influenced signs, including US-style speed limit signs, have not been actively replaced and are still seen.
Brown signs are sometimes erroneously used instead of green to denote primary routes. Officially, green is used for primary routes and white for local routes, as in the UK. There are no traffic lights in the Turks and Caicos Islands, most intersections are roundabouts. 
The road signs of the Virgin Islands are similar to those of the US. The BVI drivers manual lists British-influenced signage with occasional differences, but in reality, all signs installed follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
In 2018, new legislation was introduced in the Virgin Islands requiring that speed limits be labelled in both mph and km/h.
Road sign that appears in the BVI drivers manual (most likely due to incorrect document conversion from black & white into colour)
Road sign that is most commonly installed in the Virgin Islands
|Territory||Drives on...||Speed units||Warning sign style|
Akrotiri and Dhekelia
British Indian Ocean Territory
Tristan da Cunha
Turks and Caicos Islands
|left||mph and km/h|
- Highway Code
- Gaelic road signs in Scotland
- Road signs in Ireland
- Road signs in Wales
- Off-Network Tactical Diversion Route
- Hong Kong
- This article contains quotations from United Kingdom traffic regulations and handbooks, available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
- Oddy, N 'This Hill is Dangerous' in 'Technology and Culture' 56/2, April 2015 pp335-369
- "Imperial War Museum Collection Search". Photograph number HU 49250, A signpost in Surrey being dismantled (image). Retrieved 20 February 2020.
- "Traffic signs manual".
- "Chapter 7". Traffic Signs Manual (PDF). London: The Stationery Office. 19 October 2005. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-11-552480-6. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
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- "The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016".
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- "Height and width road signs to display metric and imperial". BBC News. 8 November 2014. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
- Department of Transport: "Local Transport Note 1/94", page 1. HMSO, July 1994.
- "Chapter 7". Traffic Signs Manual (PDF). London: The Stationery Office. 19 October 2005. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-11-552480-6. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
- UK Statutory Instrument:"The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002", The Stationery Office, 2002
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- Road Safety GB 31 March 2016
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- "Road Traffic Regulation Act: Section 82", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, 1984 c. 27 (s. 82), retrieved 2 May 2020
- TSRGD Schedule 5 diagram 951 specifically states "regulations: none" unlike every other sign.
- "Chapter 7". Traffic Signs Manual (PDF). London: The Stationery Office. 19 October 2005. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-11-552480-6. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
- "Chapter 7". Traffic Signs Manual (PDF). London: The Stationery Office. 19 October 2005. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-11-552480-6. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
- "£100 fine for flouting red X motorway signs planned". www.msn.com. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
- Marshall, Chris. "Emergency Diversion Routes". Roads.org.uk. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
- "Chapter 3". Traffic Signs Manual (PDF). London: The Stationery Office. 2019. p. 36, section 4.7.4. ISBN 9780115532238. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
- "The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016: Schedule 11", legislation.gov.uk, The National Archives, 22 April 2016, SI 2016/362 (sch. 11), retrieved 8 May 2020
- "Chapter 7". Traffic Signs Manual (PDF). London: The Stationery Office. 19 October 2005. pp. 116–117. ISBN 978-0-11-552480-6. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
- Highway Agency. "Identification of Incident Locations". Archived from the original on 17 March 2010. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
- Highway Agency. "Driver Location Signs (March 2007)". Archived from the original on 8 June 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2009.
- "Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 3113; The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002". Controller of HMSO. 16 December 2002.
- "The Traffic Signs Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1979". 1979. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "THE CHIEF CONSTABLE v MITCHELL & OTRS". The Isle of Man Courts. 11 June 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
- "The Manx Highway Code" (PDF). The Isle of Man Government. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "The Manx Highway Code" (PDF). The Isle of Man Government. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "Driving in Guernsey is different". The States of Guernsey. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
- "Traffic Signs (Jersey) Order 1968". www.jerseylaw.je. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
- "The Weights and Measures (Guernsey and Alderney) Law, 1991". Retrieved 29 October 2018.
- "Website of the Sovereign British Area, Cyprus". Administration of the Sovereign British Area, Cyprus. Retrieved 8 December 2009.
- "Drive to work every morning Ascension Island". YouTube. Retrieved 29 October 2018.
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- "Traffic Control Regulations, 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 4 June 2020.
- "Driving Georgetown to Seven Mile Beach - Grand Cayman". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
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- Official government websites
- Department for Transport traffic signs and signals index page
- The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002
- The Highway Code - Traffic signs section
- Know Your Traffic Signs - A Department for Transport publication detailing common road signs and their meanings.
- The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016
- War to Worboys — a Roads.org.uk article about the Worboys Committee.
- Other resources
- Traffic signs: report of the committee on traffic signs for all-purpose roads – The 'Worboys report', a 1963 report, at the Internet Archive
- Motorway Signs: Final Report of Advisory Committee for Traffic Signs on Motorways - The 'Anderson Report', a 1962 report for motorway signs, at the Internet Archive
- Institute of Highway Engineers sign design technical gateway
- British Road Design Project, curated by Patrick Murphy, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the British Road Sign at the Design Museum, London
- Traffic Signs and Signals UK