Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Traffic Arrows

Look at the photo below.  Go ahead, take a long and healthy look at it.  The text of this post will wait...

Traffic arrow in Dublin
Which way?
Clearly some kind of street marking.  Looks like an arrow of some kind.  These markings are on many city streets, usually at road-merging locations like the one in the photo.  "What's the big deal?"  One might ask.  The big deal is in the direction, not the marking.

So we all know that traffic moves on the left side here in Ireland, The U.K., and a few other countries.  Pedestrians here have to get used to looking for oncoming traffic on the correct side, especially if they want to be bold jaywalkers ignoring crosswalk lights.  No problem there, as most corners with crossings are marked with paint on the street with warnings to "LOOK LEFT" and "LOOK RIGHT."  I am only guessing this is for the convenience and safety of visitors from Continental Europe and North America- who are all used to traffic moving up to run them down on the right side.

But what about that marking above?  We were utterly confused our first week here when we saw these "arrows" on the street, because cars always drove from the narrow point to the wide side of the arrow- making this not really an arrow at all... A reverse arrow?  Sort of...?

In The States, traffic arrows dictate the traveler go from the wide end to the narrow point, like an arrow from an archer's bow.  The point is the direction.  These markings look a bit like a pointing arrow, but traffic moves the other way.

Totally unresearched guess:  Going from the point to the wide side the symbol, if one really makes a stretch, looks like it is spilling or pushing out onto the street.  Can anyone else see that?  It takes some time.  Going from point to wide has an almost inviting visual connotation, as if the symbol is opening up in the merging lane to welcome and admit visiting cars to the new road- which may or may not be marked with a sign.

Does that mean that all direction sign arrows are reversed like this?  Well... no.

Again one will ask, "What's the big deal?  Why does this little minor difference that clearly works for these people warrant a (getting longer and longer) blog post?"

...I guess it doesn't, but it's fun to think now, after six months in Dublin, about all the little confusions, unanswered questions, and subtle-but-tangible differences we were experiencing.  I would point to this as a warning to foreign visitors driving in Dublin, but chances a foreign (American) driver in Dublin City will have much larger worries than simple little hollow arrows pointing the wrong way. 


  1. Any triangular Road sign or marking indicates you need to yield/give way, same way any octagonal sign is a stop sign.

    1. Aha, that makes sense. I'll watch for that. Those little left turn lanes seem like they reduce some traffic backup if they can skip the light. Goodness knows there are some parts of the city that get backed up during rush hour!

    2. that's why I love public transportation. Like the old Greyground bus commercials, "leave the driving to us".

    3. Speaking of Greyhounds, Ireland does have a very good public transport system- at least compared to what was available in Iowa. We have used Bus Eireann for all of our cross-country trips. Their prices are reasonable and they have convenient schedules, express buses to larger cities, etc. I saw in Cork that B.E. operates their city bus system as well- maybe it's the same where you're heading? We have not yet used Irish Rail because the buses have been a bit cheaper for our travels so far.

      Dublin Bus has great coverage of Dublin City and some surrounding suburbs, but the fares are a bit pricey (in my opinion) and most buses don't have stop announcements installed in them yet, so it's up to the passenger to know when her stop is approaching and request the stop.


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