Irish Signage Complaints

19:38 Fri 01 Jun 2007. Updated: 12:48 05 Jul 2007
[, , , ]

Road signs. This is something that irritates me as a pedestrian, and a cyclist, and a driver. But it’s worst when driving. By “road signs” here I specifically mean the signs that let you know what the name of a street is. It’s truly amazing how much better the San Francisco infrastructure is for that than the Irish equivalent.

In Ireland, if you’re very lucky, the sign might be somewhere on a building, or possibly on a wall or fence, somewhere in the approximate area of a corner with another street. The height, proximity to corner, size, color, typeface, style, and kind of sign all vary. Really, though, that variance simply makes it harder to find and read them easily, and pales into insignificance with their frequent absence.

Still, as a driver, placement does matter quite a lot. It appears to be more or less impossible here to find out what the name of a street is before making a turn onto it—unless, of course, you know what it is already. Or you’re consulting a map.

That probably didn’t matter so much years ago. You turn onto a street, find out it’s not the one you want, and just go to the next one, what’s the problem? Now, though, with horrendous traffic, widespread highly-irritating one-way systems, and many restrictions on what turns you can take (particularly right turns), the cost of taking a turn is rather high.

But the infrastructure hasn’t been updated to reflect that cost. So, recently, I couldn’t remember which of a set of about three streets the street I wanted was. I was unluckily trying to take a right turn onto it. I had to: take a left; make a quasi-legal U-turn using a driveway; wait a long time at a set of lights clearly timed to give priority to the road I had originally been on; take a right kind of against a red because the oncoming traffic wouldn’t let me through even against reds on their side; obstruct a bus because I wanted to take a left but the leftmost lane was a bus lane and the rightmost lane was too jammed to let me in; take a left on spec in the hope the road was the one I wanted; discover that I couldn’t then “undo” that turn because the last segment of the street was one-way to stop people from getting onto the main road from it; drive around back to the poor-priority lights I had been at before (now from the other side); wait quite a while; use the bus lane; finally take a left that turned out, luckily, to be the street I wanted.

If the identity of that street had been clear from the road I was on, it would have saved me about fifteen minutes, possibly more. That’s not a terrible amount of time to lose—but it’s a very irritating amount of time to lose for a reason like “crap signs”.

San Francisco, on the other hand, is rather good. Signs are at the corners, are at almost all corners, are usually the same height, and are relatively prominent. In addition, many streets have signs indicating what the next perpendicular street is, so that you have some warning before taking the turn. And this in a city that’s mostly grid—that is, a city in which the effects of signage problems would be much less than in Dublin, where street layout is rather ad hoc.

I wouldn’t want to change Dublin to a grid city. But really, are signs telling you what the damn street names are too much to ask?

2 Responses to “Irish Signage Complaints”

  1. Radegund Says:

    Forget the bad signage – I want more info on these poo-priority lights of which you speak.

  2. Tadhg Says:

    Radegund: Edited—finally! Given all the other problems, I think that poo-priority lights are the last thing we need., even if as primates we’d likely take to them fairly easily.

Leave a Reply