By way of a follow-up to last week’s post about Zebra crossings, and how we manage to mess them up, I thought I’d address a similar common design feature of our streets that is hopelessly confusing – double (and single) yellow lines. And single and double red lines. And double and single yellow kerb markings.
Yes, when it comes to road markings, we’ve managed to create a welter of different ways of permitting waiting, loading and stopping (each subtly different), at different times.
The humble single yellow line prohibits waiting, at certain times of the day.
The double yellow prohibits waiting at all times, when that period is at least four consecutive months.
These double yellow markings no longer need to accompanied by the yellow sign if there is no period of restriction. So feel free to modify the signs, when you see them.
Drivers are permitted to stop to pick up, or set down, passengers on these lines, or to load and unload (where it is not prohibited) – but they are not allowed to ‘wait’.
Simple enough so far, but then it gets more complicated. Holders of disabled blue badges can park (‘wait’) for up to three hours on double yellows, providing they are not causing an obstruction.
Then there are specific loading restrictions that rule out loading on single and double yellow lines. These are marked on the kerb. The single yellow line prohibits loading (either on a single or double yellow line) at the times on accompanying sign.
Already we have a large number of permutations, but if you weren’t confused already, we then have no stopping (as opposed to no waiting) markings, in the form of single red lines, which are time-dependent –
And double red lines, prohibiting stopping at any time.
But do things really have to be this complicated? (Things might even get more complicated if Eric Pickles has his way and allows anyone to park on double yellow lines for 15 minutes.)
Somehow European countries manage to get away without marking their streets with all this clutter, even in the centres of their cities. Paris –
And of course any Dutch city.
So there must be a simpler way!
The principle in these European cities seems be that, rather than using an excess of signs and paint markings to show what you can’t do, it is easier just to mark out only the places where you can park, and leave the rest of the street unmarked.
Can we do this already in the UK?
Perhaps a traffic engineer could supply a definitive answer, but there does seem to be a precedent. ‘Shared space’ streets (to use the catch-all term) are increasingly common, and usually free of unsightly double yellows.
These streets come with signs, on entry, prohibiting waiting, except in marked bays.
And of course Exhibition Road – which I have criticised for other reasons – also sets a useful precedent, in this regard. No need for double yellows, when you have this sign on entry. No waiting – except in signed bays.
Could this principle be extended to our town or city centres as a whole? That is – simply using ‘restricted zone’ signs on all entry routes, prohibiting any waiting, except in marked bays? That would allow us to remove all the unsightly yellow markings and clutter from our streets. It would also simplify the way we mark up roads for cycling.
I don’t see why not, given that this method is already being employed. Just like the humble zebra crossing, we seem to have over-legislated our way into an awful way of doing things – could we find a sensible way out?