Wednesday, 14 July 2010

HAVING recently got lost on the M42, I still feel this was not my fault – it’s all down to inadequate signposts which are impossible to understand.

At one point during Saturday’s trip I saw a notice which said ‘North’ and ‘London’ which, given that I was north of Birmingham, I found extremely confusing. North is north, and London is south, so how can they both be in the same direction?

And talking of directions, why can’t they have more signs which mention a town, a city or a point of reference that I am familiar with?

I’m fine with things like Birmingham, Coventry or the NEC. Even places further afield are easy enough to find if they are named.

But why this mania for merely giving a geographic area – the South West, for example, is not helpful if you are looking for Worcester. Is the city on the way to the South West, or am I travelling in the wrong direction?

Worse still is when a point of the compass is appended to a motorway name. Faced with a junction and a choice between M5 E or M5 W how am I supposed to know where I am going?

Off the motorway things get even more tricky. Take those ridiculous markings at major junctions, which seem designed to make ensure you lose your way.

For a start, directions are written on the road surface. This means in heavy traffic (which seems to be all the time), you cannot actually see them. As you inch along, peering around for some clue to indicate the correct way, all you get are glimpses of the odd letter or number.

In addition, wear and tear from weather and wheels means signs fade, or go patchy. Therefore, even if there is no traffic, they are almost impossible to decipher.

And, since the signs are spread across several lanes, if you are in the wrong one, there is no easy way to locate the right one, still less to take corrective action.

And it doesn’t get any better. A barrage of conventional roadside signs offers equally bewildering choices.

'City Centre’, for example. Which city? If I follow that, where will I end up? And what about ‘Ring Road’? Does that actually lead somewhere, or does it just circle round and round? (Speaking from personal experience, I am convinced that escape from the ring roads in Coventry or Sheffield is well-nigh impossible).

Finally, there’s ‘Any Other Route’ which, generally speaking, seems to mean any route other than the one I want.

Before anyone suggests a good map, I have one. But perhaps the time has come to invest in a SatNav.

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