- The deepest metro station in the world
- A country with moose, reindeer and polar bear warning signs
- The antisocial action that Madrid has discouraged
A recent study revealed that three quarters of motorists no longer know the meaning of all the road signs on Britain’s roads – so it’s no surprise that some might struggle when confronted with their European counterparts.
Our quiz on European road signs could help you avoid having to claim on your car insurance while on holiday.
If you’ve seen a low-flying aircraft sign in the UK or Denmark, you’re likely to be near a military base or testing facility.
The UK is split into 20 separate low flying areas, three of which are used by the armed forces for tactical reasons and are arguably the three most sparsely populated:
- Central Wales
- Northern Scotland
- The borders area of southern Scotland and northern England
The government publishes a monthly timetable for low flying in these areas.
Both armed forces have speed restrictions on low-flying aircraft. For example, the Danish Tactical Air Command limits aircraft travelling between 500-1000 feet above ground level to 480 knots – but that’s still over 550mph.
Warning signs in Ireland
Ireland is the only European country with diamond-shaped warning signs, but globally they’re joined by Australia and the USA.
Diamond-shaped warning signs were introduced in Ireland in 1956, when the Traffic Signs Regulations were enforced.
The 1956 Traffic Signs Regulations determined how most of the Irish road signs would look, down to the height of the letters.
Caution: fog likely
Fog can affect visibility for drivers in every European country, but there are some countries with areas where fog is such a problem that they’ve had to put up signs.
Slovakia, Greece, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain all have specific fog warning signs.
If you’re unsure what to do if you encounter fog while driving in the UK, our article about how fog affects driving could help.
But the rules for driving in fog will be different in other European countries. If you’re concerned that you might encounter fog while travelling abroad, research the local laws to see how best to stay safe.
European stop signs
Conveniently for English speakers, all but one of the stop signs in Europe say ‘STOP’, and every single one is a red octagon with a white outline. Predictably, ‘DUR’ means ‘STOP’ in Turkish.
Stops signs were invented and popularised by American traffic control pioneer William Phelps Eno at the start of the 20th century.
He wrote the first ever city traffic plan in 1909, entitled ‘Rules of the Road’, for the New York Police Department, which included rules for U-turns, signalling, speed limits and vehicles – including horses.
One passage, for example, reads, ‘no one shall ride or drive a horse not in every respect fit for use and capable of the work upon which it is employed’.
Eno’s rules were adopted by London and Paris shortly after, and many of them still hold true today.
The UK is home to two of the three oldest Metro systems – the oldest, London, and Glasgow, which comes in at third. Budapest, Hungary slips in at number two, a matter of months before Glasgow. All three were opened in the 1890s.
The Milan Metro won Italy’s most prestigious design award, the Compasso d'Oro, in 1964 – the year it was completed. Kiev’s Arsenalna station is the world’s deepest underground station, at 105.5 metres below ground level.
By comparison, the UK’s deepest station is Hampstead, which is 55 metres deep underground.
Watch for wild animals
With this one, the clue is in the animals featured.
Iceland is one of the few places in Europe that is home to indigenous reindeer, while Estonia can name moose among its fauna.
Norway, a country home to deer, reindeer and moose, also has polar bear warning signs in the northern island of Svalbard – the first European warning signs to have a black background and a white image.
The UK is also home to some interesting animal warning signs. See if you can work out which are on the mainland in our UK road signs quiz.
Why Madrid is cracking down on ‘manspreading’
Transport authorities in the Spanish capital are putting up signs that discourage ‘manspreading’ in public transport.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s when a passenger spreads their legs out so wide that it encroaches on the space of the passengers in the seats next to them.
Madrid isn’t the first city to crack down with signs: in the USA, both New York and Philadelphia have hosted campaigns against manspreading.
The rules of the road may not have changed much since they were first written down over 100 years ago, but the signage to depict these rules certainly has. In fact, there are new traffic and transport signs being created in Europe almost every year, as well as existing signs being removed from use.