Reading the signs – do you know the meaning of these road signs?

In the Queen’s Birthday Honours list last month Margaret Calvert was awarded with an OBE for services to typography and road safety. The name may not be all that familiar but drivers will certainly be familiar with Calvert’s work and see it every day without even realising it.

It was the mid-sixties when Margaret Calvert and her colleague Jock Kinneir designed the signage and typeface that would be used across the entire road network in the UK to provide drivers with information, regulations and warnings about the road ahead. Yet Calvert’s iconic pictograms, which include ‘Men At Work’ and ‘Schoolchildren Nearby’, are still in use today and are unchanged in 51 years.

But not all road signs are as recognisable as these Calvert classics. Some are a little less obvious and, in our recent research, we found that many drivers couldn’t identify the road signs we showed them, despite many believing they had a good understanding of the meaning of most signs.

We showed our survey respondents a number of UK road signs and ask them to identify the sign’s meaning. The least known road sign was for ‘End of minimum speed limit’ with nearly 8 out of every 10 incorrectly guessing the meaning of the sign and half believing the sign to mean the end of a maximum speed limit zone. Another sign that confused many of the people we asked was for ‘All Vehicles Prohibited except bicycles being pushed by pedestrians’. Only 25% knew the meaning, perhaps due to the limited information and lack of pictograms that the sign provides.

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