[Article] Special Roads

 Sometimes I’ve seen signs on dual carriageways and motorways that seem to specify a speed limit that’s the same as the national speed limit (i.e. 60 or 70 mph for most vehicles, depending on the type of road), which seem a bit… pointless? Today I learned why they’re there, and figured I’d share with you!

Google Street View photo from the A1 East of Edinburgh, showing a blue "No motor cycles under 50cc, moped,s invalid carriages and animals" sign alongside a 70mph sign.
The first time I saw this sign, on the A1 near Edinburgh, I wondered why it wasn’t just a national speed limit/derestriction sign. Now I know.

To get there, we need a history lesson.

As early as the 1930s, it was becoming clear that Britain might one day need a network of high-speed, motor-vehicle-only roads: motorways. The first experimental part of this network would be the Preston By-pass1.

Monochome photograph showing construction of bridge support pillars.
Construction halted on several occasions owing to heavy rain, and only six weeks after opening the road needed to be closed for resurfacing after the discovery that water had penetrated the material.

Construction wouldn’t actually begin until the 1950s, and it wasn’t just the Second World War that got in the way: there was a legislative challenge too.

When the Preston By-pass was first conceived, there was no legal recognition for roads that restricted the types of traffic that were permitted to drive on them. If a public highway were built, it would have to allow pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians, which would doubtless undermine the point of the exercise! Before it could be built, the government needed to pass the Special Roads Act 1949, which enabled the designation of public roads as “special roads”, to which entry could be limited to certain classes of vehicles2.

Monochrome photograph showing a sign at the entrance to the Preston By-pass, reading: 'Motorway. NO L-drivers, mopeds, motorcycles under 50cc., invalid-carriages, pedal-cycles, pedestrians, animals'.
The original motorways had to spell out the regulations at their junctions.

If you don’t check your sources carefully when you research the history of special roads, you might be taken in by articles that state that special roads are “now known as motorways”, which isn’t quite true. All motorways are special roads, by definition, but not all special roads are motorways.

There’s maybe a dozen or more non-motorway special roads, based on research by Pathetic Motorways (whose site was amazingly informative on this entire subject). They tend to be used in places where something is like a motorway, but can’t quite be a motorway. In Manchester, a couple of the A57(M)’s sliproads have pedestrian crossings and so have to be designated special roads rather than motorways, for example3.

1968 Manchester City Council planning document showing their proposed new special roads.
“…is hereby varied by adding Class IX of the Classes of Traffic set out in Schedule 4 to the Highways Act 1980 as a class of traffic permitted to use those lengths of the special roads described in the Schedule to this Scheme and which…” /snoring sounds intensify/

Now we know what special roads are, that we might find them all over the place, and that they can superficially look like motorways, let’s talk about speed limits.

The Road Traffic Act 1934 introduced the concept of a 30mph “national speed limit” in built-up areas, which is still in force today. But outside of urban areas there was no speed limit. Perhaps there didn’t need to be, while cars were still relatively slow, but automobiles became increasingly powerful. The fastest speed ever legally achieved on a British motorway came in 1964 during a test by AC Cars, when driver Jack Sears reached 185mph.

Cyclists alongside a 'motorway' river bridge lane.
The “M48” Severn Bridge is another example of a special road that appears to be part of a motorway. The cycle lane and footpath (which is not separated from the main carriageway by more than a fence) is the giveaway that it’s not truly a “motorway” but a general-case special road.

In the late 1960s an experiment was run in setting a speed limit on motorways of 70mph. Then the experiment was extended. Then the regulation was made permanent.

There’ve been changes since then, e.g. to prohibit HGVs from going faster than 60mph, but fundamentally this is where Britain’s national speed limit on motorways comes from.

The Motorways Traffic (Speed Limit) (England) Regulations 1967, highlighting "3. No person shall drive a motor vehicle on a motorway at a speed greater than 70 miles per hour".
I assume that it relates to the devolution of transport policy or to the separation of legislation that it replaces, but separate-but-fundamentally-identical acts were passed for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

You’ve probably spotted the quirk already. When “special roads” were created, they didn’t have a speed limit. Some “special roads” were categorised as “motorways”, and “motorways” later had a speed limit imposed. But there are still a few non-motorway “special roads”!

Putting a national speed limit sign on a special road would be meaningless, because these roads have no centrally-legislated speed limit. So they need a speed limit sign, even if that sign, confusingly, might specify a speed limit that matches what you’d have expected on such a road4. That’s the (usual) reason why you sometimes see these surprising signs.

As to why this kind of road are much more-common in Scotland and Wales than they are anywhere else in the UK: that’s a much deeper-dive that I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader.

Footnotes

1 The Preston By-pass lives on, broadly speaking, as the M6 junctions 29 through 32.

2 There’s little to stop a local authority using the powers of the Special Roads Act and its successors to declare a special road accessible to some strange and exotic permutation of vehicle classes if they really wanted: e.g. a road could be designated for cyclists and horses but forbidden to motor vehicles and pedestrians, for example! (I’m moderately confident this has never happened.)

3 There’s a statutory instrument that makes those Mancunian sliproads possible, if you’re having trouble getting to sleep on a night and need some incredibly dry reading.

4 An interesting side-effect of these roads might be that speed restrictions based on the class of your vehicle and the type of road, e.g. 60mph for lorries on motorways, might not be enforceable on special roads. If you wanna try driving your lorry at 70mph on a motorway-like special road with “70” signs, though, you should do your own research first; don’t rely on some idiot from the Internet. I Am Not A Lawyer etc. etc.

Articles – Dan Q

20 Jun 2024 at 13:52

[Article] ARCC

 In the late ’70s, a shadowy group of British technologists concluded that nuclear war was inevitable and secretly started work on a cutting-edge system designed to help rebuild society. And thanks to Matt Round-and-friends at vole.wtf (who I might have mentioned before), the system they created – ARCC – can now be emulated in your browser.

3D rendering of an ARCC system, by HappyToast.

I’ve been playing with it on-and-off all year, and I’ve (finally) managed to finish exploring pretty-much everything the platform currently has to offer, which makes it pretty damn good value for money for the £6.52 I paid for my ticket (the price started at £2.56 and increases by 2p for every ticket sold). But you can get it cheaper than I did if you score 25+ on one of the emulated games.

ARCC system showing a high score table for M1, with DAN50 (score 13012) at the top.
It gives me more pride than it ought to that I hold the high score for a mostly-unheard-of game for an almost-as-unheard-of computer system.

Most of what I just told you is true. Everything… except the premise. There never was a secretive cabal of engineers who made this whackballs computer system. What vole.wtf emulates is an imaginary system, and playing with that system is like stepping into a bizarre alternate timeline or a weird world. Over several separate days of visits you’ll explore more and more of a beautifully-realised fiction that draws from retrocomputing, Cold War fearmongering, early multi-user networks with dumb terminal interfaces, and aesthetics that straddle the tripoint between VHS, Teletext, and BBS systems. Oh yeah, and it’s also a lot like being in a cult.

Needless to say, therefore, it presses all the right buttons for me.

ARCC terminal in which an email is being written to DAN50.
If you make it onto ARCC – or are already there! – drop me a message. My handle is DAN50.

If you enjoy any of those things, maybe you’d like this too. I can’t begin to explain the amount of work that’s gone into it. If you’re looking for anything more-specific in a recommendation, suffice to say: this is a piece of art worth seeing.

Articles – Dan Q

16 Jun 2024 at 21:31



Refresh complete

ReloadX
Home
(223) All feeds

Last 24 hours
Download OPML
A Very Good Blog by Keenan
*
A Working Library
Alastair Johnston
*
Andy Sylvester's Web
Anna Havron
annie mueller
*
Annie Mueller
*
Apple Annie's Weblog
Artcasting test feed
*
Articles – Dan Q
*
Austin Kleon
*
Baty.net posts
bgfay
Bix Dot Blog
*
Brandon's Journal
Chris Coyier
Chris Lovie-Tyler
Chris McLeod's blog
CJ Chilvers
CJ Eller
Colin Devroe
*
Colin Walker – Daily Feed
Content on Kwon.nyc
*
Dave's famous linkblog
*
daverupert.com
Dino's Journal 📖
dispatches
E L S U A ~ A blog by Luis Suarez
Excursions
Flashing Palely in the Margins
Floating Flinders
For You
*
Frank Meeuwsen
frittiert.es
Hello! on Alan Ralph
*
Human Stuff from Lisa Olivera
inessential.com
*
Interconnected
Into the Book
*
jabel
Jake LaCaze
*
James Van Dyne
*
Jan-Lukas Else
*
Jim Nielsen's Blog
*
Jo's Blog
*
Kev Quirk
lili's musings
*
Live & Learn
Lucy Bellwood
Maggie Appleton
*
Manton Reece
*
Manu's Feed
maya.land
Meadow 🌱
Minutes to Midnight RSS feed
Nicky's Blog
Notes – Dan Q
*
On my Om
*
One Man & His Blog
Own Your Web
Paul's Dev Notes
*
QC RSS
rebeccatoh.co
reverie v. reality
*
Rhoneisms
ribbonfarm
*
Robin Rendle
Robin Rendle
Sara Joy
*
Scripting News
*
Scripting News for email
Sentiers – Blog
Simon Collison | Articles & Stream
strandlines
the dream machine
*
The Marginalian
*
thejaymo
theunderground.blog
tomcritchlow.com
*
Tracy Durnell
*
Winnie Lim
*
yours, tiramisu
Žan Černe's Blog

About Reader


Reader is a public/private RSS & Atom feed reader.


The page is publicly available but all admin and post actions are gated behind login checks. Anyone is welcome to come and have a look at what feeds are listed — the posts visible will be everything within the last week and be unaffected by my read/unread status.


Reader currently updates every six hours.


Close

Search




x
Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog