I looked at the Shottisham Village Facebook page and saw a post about the PC recommending that Parishioners clean road signs. I found the request in the Village news letter and it made me smile and then quite perplexed. So I thought about Road Signs and the responsibilities in relation to them. Whilst writing this post and it can take me some time to get posts to the point of publishing they made a further Facebook post but more of that later.
Road signs have many uses, but taking it back to basics, they are to inform and warn.
Road signs can be,
- warning signs – draw the driver’s attention to possible hazards on the road ahead and where they need to slow down or to highlight something such as a low bridge or a level crossing,
- regulatory signs – let drivers know what traffic restrictions there are and help to enforce these restrictions, such as speed-limit signs,
- directions signs – show how to get to a place.
- other information – signs for local facilities, such as recycling sites
Warning, with Regulatory signs are of the biggest benefit although the brown type that display tourist information are good, ‘Where am I’ signs are probably not really necessary currently because of the advent of SATNAV. Who could have believed in 1990 that global positioning satellites would have such a spin off for the ‘hard of navigating’. OK they certainly can go wrong with cars being sent towards lakes, rivers and across fields but that really depends on type and how often it is updated. Like all complex bits of IT they need to be set right. One of our cars has SATNAV installed by the manufacturer and has a manual as thick as an unexpurgated copy of War and Piece’. In there it will tell you how to unset the ‘avoid toll roads’ to stop a 50 mile diversion to get across the Dartford Tunnel. I just cannot find the time to search the relevant section out so we go to the old method of following the road signs.
So who is supposed to look after our Road Signs, replace, cleaning, visibility etc, Locally it is the County Council but the Highways Agency does look after trunk and motorways signs. So how do they decide what and how. Well it was surprise to me but there is Government published manual called ‘Traffic Signs Manual’ (wasn’t expecting that) and it is divided into 8 parts. The Manual does say that regular cleaning of signs is a necessity, however, looking at the Shottisham Village Association FB page, the Village newsletter and various other documents on the web, a lot of County Councils no longer make sign cleaning a priority. What does a clean sign mean? Well if it is reflective (has retro reflective coating) and I assume some of our Country Councils signs are reflective, then I suspect that they will not shine so well if they are dirty. I have also read that older drivers need more time and light to read signs and make decisions compared with other drivers. Sad and true for me but signs need to be clean to be read well especially at night.
Now the point of this blog; the Parish Council is recommending that if you have a dirty sign outside you house get out and clean it. They say that the County Council no longer offer this service. It is not a service it is a responsibility that we pay our rates for. We pay rates so that we do not have to perform certain tasks ourselves, street cleaning, rubbish collection road repair and the installation and maintenance of signs. Cleaning is a necessity.
What is ignored by the PC is the danger that you could be putting yourself in if you do go out on our roads many of which, or is it all, are without pavements. I personally consider this request is misguided at best and ‘something else’ at worst.
After some time writing this blog, picking up and putting it down, the SVA posted another Facebook item which stated that a response from the County Council stating that they have never said that they no longer clean signs and they go on to explain the types of signs they will clean although they so not make it clear what signs they will not clean. Mmm, so where did the PC get that information. Interesting. The SVA go on to recommend that the Villagers do not clean road signs because of the inherent dangers on our narrow and pavement less roads.
They give a couple of website links and I think one is quite interesting. This is the Community Self Help website. In this they give ways in which Communities can take over some of the traditional responsibilities of the County Council including sign cleaning. I could wax lyrical about the issues of self help and what our rates are being used for but I will not. In the Sign Cleaning section it has some interesting parts which I will copy below,
Using community volunteers
This option enables town and parish councils to utilise community volunteers to undertake work on the highway. Town and parish councils will be responsible for ensuring there is somebody suitable trained and qualified to supervise volunteers and ensure that work is undertaken in accordance with the legal requirements of working on the highway. Suffolk County Council will provide the relevant training for ‘lead’ volunteers.
So when using community volunteers on the roads Town and parish councils will be responsible for ensuring there is somebody suitable trained and qualified to supervise volunteers and ensure that work is undertaken in accordance with the legal requirements of working on the highway. Suffolk County Council will provide the relevant training for ‘lead’ volunteers.
The County Council will provide free of charge,
- Standard peak helmets
- Clear lens safety spectacles
- Orange latex palm coated gloves
- Orange high visibility breathable waterproof jackets
- Orange high visibility long sleeve waistcoats
- Yellow high visibility combat trousers
So I and the County Council believe that if the Parish Council are suggesting that village folk clean signs they need to comply with their responsibilities to keep people safe.
I hope that the Village Association will contact the CC and ask them to inform local Parish Councils of the misapprehension that the local PCs are under with regard to signs and get them to withdraw any ‘clean sign’ request that does not include a trainer lead person, protective equipment, high viz clothing to comply with their duty to keep village folk safe.