City drivers angered by confusing road signs

Motorists are fed up with not being able to read road signs easily because there are too many in one spot or the signs are parallel to the road.

In the first nine months of last year the Transport Advisory Committee received 74 complaints or suggestions concerning road signs, up 17 per cent on the previous corresponding period.

'Hong Kong is famous for having a lot of roadside signs and sometimes they are confusing,' said Lai Ming-hung, chairman of the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group. He said most complaints from members of his group were about too many roadside signs at the same spot.

Another complaint was about signs being erected parallel to the road, where oncoming drivers could not see them until they drove past.

This is exactly what is happening on Broadway Street in Mei Foo, where nine signs have been erected parallel to the road, instead of facing drivers, outside the a fast food shop on the Mei Foo Sun Chuen estate. Drivers only have a matter of seconds to read the multiple signs as they drive past them.

And this is not an isolated case. There are 130,000 road signs on 93,000 posts in Hong Kong.

The South China Morning Post identified six spots that are either problematic or confusing. The Transport Department said it would rectify three, including Mei Foo.

A department spokeswoman said the signs in Mei Foo were located on a private road owned by the estate, and the department would ask the estate management to help resolve this situation.

She also said there was a need to restructure the seven signs, including four overlapping 'no entry' signs, at the junction of Pek Ho Street and Hoi Tan Street in Sham Shui Po.

Lai said sometimes the 'no entry' signs were obstructed by other signs and this meant motorists ended up driving into prohibited zones and then being fined.

'I understand that in some places there is a need to erect a lot of signs, but sometimes the workers erecting them do not notice some signs are overlapping,' he said.

A 'no entry' sign near Tung Chau Street in Lai Chi Kok, can still be seen by confused drivers, despite the fact the road it applied to has been removed to make way for a new estate. The spokeswoman said the sign would go as soon as possible.

Commenting on the road sign at the end of a highway in Prince Edward Road East outside Cognitio College that points away from the direction of the traffic, the spokeswoman said it was all right if it faced outward as it was prohibiting the entry of pedestrians and bicycles to the highway.

Meanwhile, a traffic light sign erected close to a traffic light in Kowloon Tong at the junction of Boundary Street and Waterloo Road could have the opposite effect to its intention - it obscures the lights.

The spokeswoman said 'due to vision limitation' the sign should be moved to warn drivers of the traffic lights ahead.

At many spots at the San Tin Interchange, there are more than seven road signs, but the spokeswoman said they all provided important information to drivers.

Ringo Lee Yiu-pui, chairman of the Institute of the Motor Industry Association, said new drivers and those unfamiliar with the roads were most affected by too many signs.

'Hong Kong is an international city,' he said. 'There are people from other countries, [and] the mainland, driving on the roads. This problem should not happen here.'

The veteran driver said such problems arose as roads in Hong Kong were too narrow and short, and had too many junctions.

'In the worst case scenario, this could create congestion or even traffic accidents,' he said.

The department's transport planning and design manual stated that a single post could hold three signs at most, but it did not state the maximum number of posts that could be erected at one spot.

Lee said the optimum number of road signs at any one point was three and he encouraged the department to review the manual.

The spokeswoman said the manual was reviewed regularly and the last review was in December.

Legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo, chairman of Legco's transport panel, urged the department to check all the road signs in the city.

'Representatives from the department should drive along all the roads taking a user's perspective and review all the signs,' he said. 'Very often they are not designed from a user's point of view.'