As somebody with no sense of direction, I rely completely on road signs and, when its working the satnav. When it’s working is the operative word here as, last weekend, I had to use one route I haven’t used for nearly 4 years and then very infrequently and another I’ve never used before.
I’ve been moaning about the first route, Birmingham Airport for years now, not because it’s a really boring journey, once you’re on the A14 followed by the M6 and the M42, even though it is, but because of the hopeless road signs. Unless you are very familiar with, or have a good memory for it, the bit where the M6 splits off into the M42, is the first time you’ll get any indication that Birmingham actually has an airport.
Actually, let me correct that, because if you take the time to look at the photos in the attached PDF, you’ll notice that all that is shown on the road signs is an aeroplane symbol and nothing else. Clearly the Highways Agency didn’t like Birmingham Airport anymore than I do and swore to protect people from its outrageous parking charges, by making all road signs to it vague and unhelpful. The alternative of course, is that once they’d made the signs, they couldn’t fit Birmingham on, next to the little aeroplane, so decided it would okay to let people work it out for themselves, as they charged along their high speed roads, darting from lane to lane, desperately wondering which one they should be in.
They also decided, whilst they were at it, to make those unfamiliar with these hostile roads, guess which direction they should be going in on the M42 north, or south. To achieve this jolly jape, they first signpost M42(S) and then follow this up with a simple M42 on the next signage. This wheeze means that just as the motorist is beginning to panic, thinking that they have somehow switched from the M42(S) to the M42 (neither) and therefore needs to throw their car, complete with passengers, in to the left hand lane, in order to exit the motorway as soon as possible, another sign appears referring to the M42(S) again.
Oh what fun they must have in CCTV control, watching unsuspecting drivers swerving from one side of the motorway to the other as signs confuse, lanes switch and the symbol for Airport appears one overhead gantry too late to avoid the need to swerve across the, ‘Don’t drive on here, on pain of death!’ road hatching.
Finally, in the best practice of contrast and compare – or is the other way around? I can never remember – I included two sample photos, for the route to Stansted Airport. Not only is this well signposted all the way from the A14, M11 and the airport itself, it actually says ‘Stansted’ next to the cute little picture of an aeroplane. Of course this could simply mean that this particular set of roadsign wizards haven’t been to Stansted Airport and therefore do not feel duty bound to protect the travelling public from its horrors!
just in case you can’t contain yourself and need to see what I’m on about, without opening the PDF, the photo below is of the first overhead gantry to acknowledge that Birmingham even has an airport. You can guess what many drivers do if they’re in the right hand lanes when they first spot it.
Incidentally, I’m not so completely sad that I felt the need to construct the attached photo montage for the sake of it, it’s been attached to an email I’ve sent to the Highways Agency this afternoon. Do you think write back telling me to buy a map, or a satnav that works?