GET LOST ! That seems to be the national and local official response to demands for adequate sign-posting of our highways and byways. I spoke of this before but it was back in the headlines again last week and this with the cries of help from the befuddled and bewildered motoring public seeking to use/negotiate the infamous Red Cow/Mad Cow Roundabout in Dublin, mainly due to lack of adequate or confusing signage.
It must be a national malady or genetic flaw in the Celtic gene that renders us pathologically incapable of indication. We have previously commented on another virulent strain of this syndrome in the way we refuse to use our car indicators. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Micro- Socio-biologists have identified a linkage between that lack of motor indicativeness and our general unwillingness to reveal which way we vote at elections. We promise them all a number one and likewise at roundabouts and junctions appear to be going in every direction. Or is it simply the ancient and deeply embedded ‘cute hoor’ gene? Keep the feckers quessing as the less they know about your business the better! Why should we tell the nosy so ‘n’ so’s which way and when you are going to turn?
The next thing they will want to know is why you are turning that way as opposed to the other way as you usually do. Before you know it there would be talk of a police state and actually having to pay tax. You know you can’t be too careful. Be the reason physical, psychological, political or poppycockological we will not be moved – to indicate. Maybe it was declared a ‘mortaller’ back in the middle of the last century when they were banning everything in sight or rather, as in this case, keeping out of sight. Maybe it was due to the popularisation of the personal motor car.
Previously the people could be kept on the right tracks (as in Railway ones) or at least on the bus lanes. But heaven forbid that the hoi poloi be let loose to motor where they wish, that could scarcely be tolerated – there lay the road to perdition, loosening of morals, self-knowledge (dodgy!). It was so different when only the Gentry and the Toffs and of course the Parish Priest had cars – a different class of affairs altogether. So the very progenitor itself of Irish solutions to Irish problems was implanted in the mind of some senior civil servant and untouched by human hand and was made flesh and revealed unto the relevant Minister of the day of Highways and Byways. Beautiful in its simplicity – minimal sign posting and when possible be pointless. That would surely keep the upstarts in their place. They might want to get somewhere, worse still, get there!
Yes, my dear readers, I am still probing the nature of the psyche that would so render our world pointless. All this sounds heavy and philosophical, even downright daft, when all I really want to know is why we are so pathetic in sign posting our roads, streets and even the estates where so many people live. I just want to know why we are so allergic to doing the obvious by having a reasonable system of a consistent standard of sign posting which will easily guide people to where the want to go.
What brought on such ponderings, you may well ask.? Well the Mad Cow is not the only place to suffer from this Signage Syndrome – we have no shortage of examples to literally drive you around the bend, indeed lots of bends and dead ends. Well recently, though not for the first time I needed to call on an address previously unknown to me in the innards of a local estate , one of many off the Dunmore Road. Before lay a bewildering mazes of mews, closes. dells, havens, brooks, meadows, riversides, lakesides, woods, gates, walks, parks, avenues, drives and of course, lots of groovy groves. But no system of sign posting and a paltry use of house numbers to guide the ‘where the hell is it weary! The best on offer were lumps or blocks of limestone which varied hugely in terms of legibility.
It got me wondering what if my task in hand was urgent and time was of the essence or worse still searching in poor weather or darkness – doctor call outs are usually during the night. It must be total pain in the butt to delivery people or any other unfamiliar visitor.
Some time ago, I decided to check out every housing estate off the Dunmore Road to see how they rate in our sign language test. (Do I hear some one cry Get a Life!) I’ve no doubt that the story would be broadly similar throughout the city and I dare say, the country as I’ve said it seems to be a national affliction – SLDS – Signal Linguistics Deficiency Syndrome. What each had in common is a total failure to point the way forward.
As one travels from town, that desire for anonymity first reveals itself – nowhere does Park Road indicate its existence nor Waterside., nor Water Street, nor does Newtown show itself. And, believe it or not nowhere but nowhere is there a single sighting of a sign that one is having the singular pleasure of travelling along (or should that read crawling along?) the suburban and sylvan delights of the dear old DUNMORE ROAD! It would seem that street and road nomenclature in Waterford is matter of orally transmitted tradition. Aagh, now I have it , this national non-signage syndrome has its roots in a nationalistic conspired conspiracy during our 800 years of occupation by foreign powers. So it seems it would have been unpatriotic to show anybody how to get to anywhere and thereby the Pats kept ahead of the posse! You see, I am still searching for understanding.
So, travelling out the Road With No Name there is not a single example of a finger type signpost along its entire length indicating the name of the estate. Most have some kind of name etched on slaps of limestone mainly at the very entrance itself. Some like Glenville have no signs at all or at least none that I could see. Grange Cove has a kind of gold script and only one knows what it says not really legible from an address-seeking vehicle. Go out further and one would risk crashing at an already funny roundabout trying to read the name of Grantstown Park visible only as one negotiates the bends here.
Where is Booterstown? No indication whatsoever. One has to be sharp to spot the signage shrub plot for Riverview and again nothing to show the way to Knockboy Heights. Maybe it is reserved sin to tell people how to get to places – I’m still trying to work it out. Maybe it could be my specialist topic for Mastermind! Take all the estates along this road – remember there are 11,000 people in its precincts – there should be a legal requirement to have a clear and legible signpost in advance of each estate in turn and a finger post at the junction thereto.
Space does not permit me bring a full report on each estate I tried to find my way around or search out a hidden mystic mews or two. I would suggest that every resident association in the area should carry out a review of the clarity of signage within their estates and insist that each house be clearly numbered – council bylaws should require this -and the number range of a row or road of houses be clearly shown. I would strongly suggest that the black metallic type of finger posts in use about the city centre be placed throughout all the estates and that an estate map be posted near the entrance of larger ones. So don’t get lost on me now! Maybe we will all need to use those new Sat-Nav thingies!
Go seachtain eile, slán.