Thursday, 23 September 2010

The best sort of prohibition signs

In his blog, Travelling in No Direction, Ray Robinson describes how, as a schoolboy, he used to cycle along the towpaths of the north Birmingham canals. He tells of his feeling of sadness at today's occasional conflict between the various users of canals and their towpaths, made more acute, he says, because of the upgrading of towpaths to be cycleways.

That's by way of introduction to a photograph of Ray's which caught my eye.


(I hope you don't mind me borrowing it, Ray)

At first glance, from a distance, it's a standard prohibition sign: NO CYCLES. But get closer, and you see in smaller print the reason for the ban.

SWING - BRIDGE

NO CYCLES

TO BE CHAINED HERE
(In a tug-of-war between the bridge and your bike, the
bridge will usually win)

In the early days, just as the canals were built for boats (and not wildlife or anglers), so the towpaths were built for animals* or horses to tow the boats (not built for cyclists).


As this sign at Carreghofa Locks on the Montgomery Canal shows, the canal company only reluctantly allowed people not on canal business to use the towpath - and strictly forbade cycling. What a turn round today!


The sign reads

SHROPSHIRE UNION RAILWAYS
& CANAL COMPANY
NOTICE
THIS PATH ON SUFFERANCE ONLY

CYCLING ON THE COMPANYS TOWING
PATH IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED
3. 1901                          BY ORDER

(Apostrophe confusion isn't a new phenomenon!)

I like signs which hint that they've been written by a human being. If they display a sense of humour - like Ray's - then that's even better.

Three months ago I posted a photo of a polite sign I came across in Suffolk.


Instead of merely requesting you not to tie your dog to the gate, K. Baldwin suggests an alternative to the "banned" action.

Returning to Ray's photo, I'm sure there must be lots of signs which make you smile on the waterways - can you think of any others?

*animals - another word for donkeys used to tow boats. According to Bradshaw.

1 comment:

Sylvia Signs said...


A great article indeed and a very detailed, realistic and superb analysis, of this issue, very nice write up, Thanks.

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