June is just around the corner. And with it, the new Road Traffic Act will come into force.
It will be a summer full of surprises on the roads for drivers, who may find many new signs while they are behind the wheel. Among them, the one that may be used to impose a minimum speed or to ban the use of studded tyres.
According to the Finnish Transport and Infrastructure Agency (Väylä, in Finnish), around 50 new signs will be taken into use. These newcomers include signs for bicycle streets, charging points and merging of traffic lanes, all of which are also connected to new traffic regulations.
Below you can see a list with the most important and their meanings, according to the explanation provided by the public transport authority.
Road sign for bicycle street. On bicycle streets, motorists must adjust their speed to match that of the bicycle traffic. The principle is that on bicycle streets, cars drive at the speed of the cyclists.
A bicycle street is usually a regular street with pavements, and may also have designated parking spaces.
Charging point. This new sign is used to indicate the place for charging an electric vehicle.
Traffic lanes merging
Traffic lanes merging. According to the zipper principle, the two lanes are driven on up until they end, and at the point where they merge the vehicles in the two lanes should take turns to join the new lane.
This sign can only be used when two lanes are merged into one. It may also be used for temporary traffic arrangements.
Many new signs for cycling
Finnish authorities say the reforms to the Road Transport Act takes into account both current and future transport needs.
In particular, a number of extra cycling-related traffic signs are now available. In addition to the bicycle street mentioned earlier, these new signs include, for example, the bicycle lane sign and the requirement to give way to cyclists at road crossings.
A bicycle lane is one that is reserved for bicycles. Do not stop or park in a bicycle lane.
Give way to cyclists
Obligation to give way to cyclists at a road crossing. This sign can only be used to indicate a structurally raised bicycle path extension.
It could be used, for example, with primary cycling routes where it is not possible to use a give way sign with the intersecting traffic because of other traffic arrangements in place at the location. It is not used together with the give way sign or the STOP sign.
If there is a pedestrian crossing in the same location, both signs are used.
Advance direction for cyclists
The advance direction sign for cyclists is also a newcomer.
Cycling in both directions
The new Road Traffic Act also brings new opportunities. The Act allows, for example, for the use of certain signs to permit cycling in both directions on one-way roads.
These new signs indicate that the one-way traffic rule does not apply to certain kinds of traffic, in this case to cyclists.
This traffic arrangement is also indicated using road markings.
Some signs may be rarely used
Although the new Road Traffic Act introduces quite a wide range of new signs, some of them probably won’t be seen on Finnish roads on a wide scale.
For example, the so-called 'studded tyre ban' sign will not be used on roads at all. It is also unclear where the minimum speed signal will be used.
Access prohibited to motor vehicles with studded tyres.
Minimum speed. Unless traffic conditions require it, the minimum speed indicated on this sign must be maintained on the road section where the sign is used.
Is this sign really new?
The Transport and Infrastructure Agency explains that due to the different calculation methods, it is difficult to give the exact number of new traffic signs.
Several signs have different subversions – are these therefore different signs or the same one? And what about signs that were previously categorised as ‘other traffic control devices’ but now have traffic sign status? These include, for example, the sign for automated traffic control.
The following cases can be interpreted as either new signs, major changes or minor changes.
This label is a subversion of the A20 animal warning sign. Other subversions warn of elk and reindeer.
Automated traffic control
The sign for automated traffic control now received traffic sign status and the colour has been changed at the same time from yellow to blue.
This sign indicates the starting point of the ramp that separates from the motorway or motor-traffic way or other similar exit point for an interchange.
This sign will certainly be familiar to all motorists, but only now did it receive traffic sign status.
A transition period
The transition period for the introduction of the new traffic signs will in most cases last 10 years. This will mean that for a number of years both the new and the old traffic signs will be visible on the roads.
The principle is that signs are replaced when they come to the end of their life-cycle or when traffic arrangements require them to be changed.
There are some exceptions to these rules, however. Under the transition rules for the Act, the following signs must be replaced as soon as the Act enters into force:
A sign prohibiting walking, cycling and driving a moped, and a sign prohibiting cycling and driving a moped.
These signs will be brought onto the roads within a shorter time frame, as previously the signs prohibiting cycling also applied to mopeds.
Now the signs that prohibit the use of mopeds also include the image of moped.
How soon will drivers get used?
In addition to completely new traffic signs, many old traffic signs have also been updated slightly in the new Road Traffic Act.
The experts at the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency believe that, in spite of all the changes, the majority of people will intuitively understand the new signs.
‘I don’t believe that people will be left scratching their heads when they come across a new traffic sign. Of course, it is always worth updating one’s knowledge and reminding oneself of the meaning of the old signs,’ says Tuomas Österman, Road Traffic Control Specialist at the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency.