The Department of Transport said that the signs are to be used in “‘public realm’ space” in urban areas and only where the speed limit is 30km/h or 20km/h.
The new signs seem to have no new legal backing other than their inclusion in a Department of Transport circular.
The signs will likely attract further criticism from sections of the public already annoyed about the growing amount of street clutter on many Irish streets.
The Department of Transport makes further annoyance more likely by stating that: “While the top panel on its own may be used as a repeater in the area it is recommended that the combination sign is used and is the more prominent sign erected. Under no circumstances must the text-only part of this combination sign be erected on its own. It MUST only be erected in combination with the blue top panel.”
Other countries often use similar signage without text, and international guidance on road signage recommends avoiding text on signs. The Department of Transport in Ireland follows a mix of European, North American and Australian styles, and has resisted following UN conventions on signs.
The new signs will be much larger than the simpler circular signs installed recently on South William Street by Dublin City Council:
The Department said that councils that use the signs without redesigning the streets first will be asked to remove the signs. The Department said the signs “are NOT to be used to supplement a standard 30 km/h Special Speed Limit where the public realm has not been enhanced to facilitate vulnerable road users. Local Authorities will be asked to remove these signs in these cases.“
In a press release, Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton said: “The shared space signage highlight to drivers that the area they are entering is a shared space and they should react by driving very slowly so that pedestrians feel that they can move freely anywhere. The signs will play an important part in enhancing road safety in these areas and ensure that pedestrians are prioritised.”
In a circular to councils, the Department of Transport said: “As Shared Space/Public Realm/DMURS projects are now becoming more popular, it was noted that specific signage to supplement aspects of these projects did not exist or were not catered for in the Traffic Signs Manual. It was also introduced to reinforce the need for a reduced speed limit in these areas and as such these signs, at vehicular entry points, can only be erected when the speed limit is reduced by Local Authority Special Speed Limit Bye-laws. These signs alert all road users that the environment they are approaching will be substantially different from normal built-up areas.”