To: Pat Kenny, RTE, January 2000
I must write to you in the hope of highlighting and perhaps bringing to prominent attention the seemingly time old story of Signposting in Ireland.
I have just spent two week at home on holidays in Castlebar, Co Mayo and during the two weeks I traveled more than 1,000 miles by car.
It is the best part of two and a half years since I actually lived in Ireland and I guess I'd kinda hoped that in that time the situation might have changed somewhat for the better with regard to the appalling state of signposting country wide. However, not unexpectedly I guess, it hasn't changed.
In fact prior to my departure in September of 1997 I wrote a lengthy letter (which I am enclosing) on the subject to the NRA partly out of my own experience of driving around the western part of Ireland as part of my job. I felt I'd made some very valid points at the time which I though might have been followed up on, but I think I might have got a pretty standard reply (after I'd left) giving the usual "policy line" but no real promises (nor real intention) of action.
So as a last ditch policy I am writing to the Pat Kenny show in the hope that you might start a campaign on behalf of the "non local" drivers on the roads of Ireland and perhaps get some answers from the NRA which I have been unable to get.
I use this term "Non Local" because I firmly believe that this is a major indication of where the entire problem lies with regard to sign posting and is also a major influencing factor, that if such a mind set is not discarded, then, I really believe that no progress or advancement can ever be made on the subject. And I cannot emphasise too strongly that this is where I feel the point of any campaign should start.
When I said above that the situation hasn't changed, I neglected to mention that in fact I think it might have gotten worse because signposting on new road developments opened in the last two years sadly and unfortunately follow the same old same old and repeat the same mistakes.
To give an example of this I'd cite the element of consistency in signposting which I mentioned in my letter of 2 and a half years ago to the NRA. One of the most irritating factors in Irish signposting even on main roads is the last of consistency or continuity. One goes so far on a particular route and then the signpost dry up or one comes to a major junctions and there is no signposting of where to go from there.
I can give two examples from last week. I went to a wedding in Dublin. I'm not awful familiar with Dublin though I have driven around it a fair bit. The wedding was in the Portmarnock / Baldoyle area. I was staying near the M50 in South Dublin and the relatively simple instructions were to follow the M50 round to its end past the airport and then follow the signs to Baldoyle. The M50 was okay (not excellent either, but okay) as were the first 3 or four signs afterwards for Baldoyle until we came to some roadwork's and a new roundabout and the signs just dried up. I have a pretty good sense of direction but I still get frustrated as hell when (As in this case I was rushing to get to the wedding and was running late) that I end up wasting time this way (And I dread to think of complete strangers or tourists to Ireland who have no concept of the geography of Dublin or the country who are at the mercy of signposts and maps to help them find their way.)
On the way from Dublin two days later I came to Kinnegad having followed the excellent M4 and other signposts for "The West", "Castlebar", "Westport", etc.
Now I've driven this road many times before prior to the opening of the bypass and one just went thru Kinnegad (Though if you were alternatively headed for Galway you might just miss the turn off to the left in the middle of Kinnegad). This time however I see the new signposts on the by-pass on the approach to the town only seem to warrant Galway and Sligo as worthy of mention (So tough luck if yer headed to any where else in the West) or if you don't know whether Castlebar is on the N5 or the N4 (I still sometimes forget which, and I lived there). The other significant point here is that even if it is marked as N4 or N5 one shouldn't need to have to stop to consider that or consult ones map to ensure. People travel to destinations, not road names (Which in the case of minor roads are still sometimes inconsistent 20 years on from supposed standardization).
I could give loads more examples of this sort of thing on the main artery roads of Ireland particularly in places where tourists are to be found trying to make their way, often unfamiliar with Irish driving conditions, right hand drive cars and manual gear changes. The last additional thing they need is bad signposting. (The signposting on the approach to Shannon Airport from either Limerick or Galway is appalling. "Get in Lane" is the main thing one sees, But which damn lane are you supposed to be in?
The other thing which irritated me in the same manner last week was to notice how temporary signposting seems to adopt the same inconsistency and disregard for "non locals". The signposting for the flooding caused detour outside Longford had all the appearance of something thrown together in five minutes by a schoolkid (When one is driving even at 40 MPH, one needs something with less detail and more clarity than this) Surely with all their experience in flooding over the past few years the affected county councils might have invested in some large official, easy to read signs with the simple word "DETOUR" and an arrow. That is all we need to know. Outside the Shannon Key West Hotel in Rooskey when heading East there wasn't even a sign so one had to guess that one probably should turn right, right? I didn't know but yeah it turned out to be right.
Among the other points I raised in my previous letter to the NRA were the need for some precautionary measures and perhaps a campaign to either prevent or restore to their right bearing, signs which are known by locals to be pointed the wrong way.
Then there is the issue of adequate signposting both on the approach to urban areas as to the direction of the town centre (or "Centre Ville" as the French are so good at attracting visitors to with their signposts) and also the "in city and town" signposting to facilitate ease of egress for motorists (The signposting from both Dublin Port but in particular Dun Laoighre to "The West" is a nightmare)
And finally there is the less urgent but also significant issue of confirmation signposting whereby very soon (<200 metres) after a major junction there are destination (Major town) signposting to confirm that you are indeed headed the right way so as you don't travel 10 miles more and then realize you went the wrong way.
I noticed the new project by the NRA at the moment seem to be paying homage to the governments Road Safety and Anti-Speed campaigns with the erection of the "On the roads of county X in the last four years Y number of people were killed in road traffic accidents". Admittedly it is a good and probably fairly effective campaign but it is still smacks of a PR exercise in appeasing a topical government campaign.
I don't suppose there have ever been figures compiled as to the effect or influence of bad signposting in road accidents in Ireland but I would suggest that they may be a surprisingly high influencing factor in many accidents where people are hesitating or are having to consult maps or brake suddenly to make a turn. It would be very ironic therefore to think of the NRA's current speed signposting campaign when if they put more though and effort into the rest of their signposting it might actually have much more beneficial effects for road safety.