Should we allow exemptions to No Entry signs? A lesson from Ireland.

One of the big problems with restricted lengths of road that only allow certain classes of traffic is how to convey this meaning to other drivers.

Take Manchester as an example, where unlawful incursions onto the off-street running sections of Metrolink is a frequent problem. Originally off-street sections used the conventional Dia. 953 variant “trams only” sign (see Google: 2015). These were proven to be inadequate as drivers were still ending up on the line, although given the amount of advance direction signs I believe bad driving was the real problem here. In 2016 they were all converted to use Dia. 616 “No Entry” with a supplementary plate (see Google: 2016).

I personally have an objection to the use of supplementary plates with No Entry signs. Not because of the concept, for example the old method of  only being able to have a contraflow cycle lane if you had a wide traffic island (purely for holding a sign on) at the entry to the contraflow section was ridiculous, but because of the devaluation of one of the most safety critical signs there is. However, given the glacial pace of change in the corridors of power, anyone taking the time arguing this point would have meant the view was taken to keep the status quo and we’d still need Dia. 619 “No Motor Vehicles” sign, a traffic island, and then a Dia. 616 “No Entry” sign.

Instead, whilst not perfect, at least we can now just use Dia. 616 with a supplementary plate stating “Except Cycles”.  This was deemed to be clearer than just using the Dia. 619 “No Motor Vehicles” sign as drivers are more prone to ignore that sign (enforcement is never seen as a possibility is it?). This is of course the root of my objection.

Drivers ignore signs when they deem them “unreasonable”. There are varying degrees here, some drivers think being told what to do in any capacity is preposterous, and others just see a 50 metre modal-shift enabling cycle only plug as a challenge. As Dia. 619 is usually only used at locations where a driver ignoring it would not create an immediate safety hazard such as driving the wrong way against one-way flow, it is seen as a sign that can be ignored by the lesser behaved drivers. A soon as drivers realise that some Dia. 616 locations are similar (e.g. contraflow cycle lanes), it’s going to open a floodgate of contraventions down one-way streets from these types.

Over in Ireland, where the No Entry sign never followed the European accepted convention, they have now decided that the solution to this problem in Ireland is to create two types of sign. They have retained their own sign, and adopted the standard white bar in a red circle sign we use everywhere else in Europe. Say hello to No Entry, and No Straight Ahead, taken from the Traffic Signs Manual over there: NoStraightAhead (PDF file).


Prior to 2015 this sign in Ireland meant “No Entry” for all purposes. Now, it is only used if an exemption applies on an otherwise one-way road; e.g.  contraflow buses only (Picture credit:

This distinction is, in my view, subtle but superb. Whilst the name (No Straight Ahead) is rubbish, at least it is obvious what it means.

So, would this sign work in the UK? Quite possibly, although unlike in Ireland, we already have a series of ‘positive’ instruction signs for restricted road lengths like this. It appears, even though the redundant supplementary “Only” plates are now not required that drivers still ignore these where possible. We also can use negative instruction signs to Dia. 618 and Dia. 619. All of these signs reflect tiny, and inconsequential to the end user, variations in different ways of restricting moving traffic.

Take, for example, wanting to provide a contraflow bus lane that also allows cyclists and taxis. Your potential (unless you don’t care and do whatever you want, which is sadly how some sign designers operate) options sign-wise are:

  • Dia. 953: positive instruction. The preferred sign, it is crystal clear (but routinely ignored), and does not require supplementary plates. This should be the first port of call. Cities moving towards civil bus lane enforcement are adopting this approach en masse for consistency purposes.
  • Dia. 619: negative instruction. This is the second best option, because it means No Motor Vehicles, and therefore prohibited classes of traffic are left in no doubt. Cyclists are automatically exempt from this sign, which means they don’t need putting on an exemption plate. This has been done in Manchester where bus gates are subject to a time period and have a host of exemptions that “and authorised vehicles” was not considered sufficiently informative for general traffic and was substituted for “permit holders”. Oddly, Newcastle-upon-Tyne got an authorisation for “and authorised vehicles” with Dia. 953, but Manchester either didn’t bother with one or felt this way was more robust.
  • Dia. 618: negative instruction. This is arguably the ‘nuclear option’ as even bicycles are prohibited from such roads, unless you exempt them. However if you do that then you may as well just use a Dia. 619 plate instead. You can, however, find this sign on the Runcorn Busway network, which is restricted entirely to local scheduled service buses only and is thus correctly used in that context.
  • Dia. 616: negative instruction. This is the most understood and robust sign, but it will most likely not be authorised unless you have a serious safety case for it (see Metrolink in Manchester). You often see off-highway application such as at bus stations.


The four options (not all sensible or all prescribed) that exist to sign the same restriction.


The No Straight Ahead variant removes the three different negative instruction signs telling you the same thing.  Also by using symbols instead of worded supplementary plates those who don’t speak English as their first language are catered for.

Yes, I know it wouldn’t happen that someone would use all four variants, indeed you shouldn’t actually be able to.

So the next question is, would you want to go down Irish route and abolish the positive instruction signs entirely, keep the no straight ahead in tandem with the positive instruction signs, or just have the status quo? Maybe you disagree with me entirely and see no issue with No Entry signs being subject to exemptions?

Feel free to drop a comment in below.



3 thoughts on “Should we allow exemptions to No Entry signs? A lesson from Ireland.

  1. NI threw the towel in and uses 616 with supplementary plate because it’s unambiguous and both 619 and 953 were consistently ignored.

    I think the reason is they thought you could get away with ignoring 619 and 653 (don’t start me on 618) but not with ignoring 616.


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