Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Road signs

There are a lot of road signs in Spain. Most of them are pretty standard and give orders, warnings or advice in the way that road signs do all across the world. Some of them though, particularly speed restriction signs can be really difficult to work out.

In general there are fixed speed limits on roads which do not need to be signed. They are the default. They vary for different types of vehicles so I'll limit myself to cars. On motorways the speed limit is 120k/h, on roads with a wide hard shoulder it's 100, on standard two lane roads it's 90 and in towns it's 50k/h. All of these speed limits can be amended by the usual round sign with a red border and the black number on a white background. I didn't realise till I was checking details for this post that there is also a general minimum speed limit which is half the maximum. So you could be fined for going faster than 120k/h or slower than 60k/h on a motorway.

There is also an interesting exception to the 90k/h rule. Where there are no signs on a normal two way road you can exceed the speed limit by 20k/h during an overtaking manoeuvre.

Speed limit signs and no overtaking signs are everywhere on Spanish roads. I often wonder if someone powerful has a brother in law who makes road signs because, at times, the proliferation of them seems so excessive. It's very normal for instance to count down from the open road as you approach a town or a hazard such as a roundabout. 80k/h, twenty metres, 70k/h, twenty metres, 40k/h.

One of the key places where there are no overtaking signs and speed restrictions on what would normally be considered "the open road" is around a junction. These signs are usually backed up by changing the central road markings to single continuous white lines. These signs can be odd. Often there will, for instance, be a 60k/h sign a couple of hundred metres before a junction but, after the junction there will be nothing to say that the restriction has been lifted. Sometimes there are signs to mark the end of the no overtaking rule which I always take as showing that you can speed up again but, often, you seem to have to presume that once the hazard has been passed you are back to the general speed limit. In the case of a T junction this can mean that there are different speed limits on the opposite sides of the road because the hazard is only important on the side of the road where the junction is.

Another interseting one is where the sign is more descriptive. For instance there is an 80k/h limit on the way through a wide spot in the road outside Pinoso called Casas Ibañez. A few metres inside the 80 zone is a second sign which says 50k/h in the crossing. A few hundred metres later there is a second 80k/h sign. So I know where the 50k/h restrction ends but I have no idea where it starts.

And then, there are the completely contradictory signs. In the photo at the top of this entry the 20k/h sign is obvious but, on the road, the markings say 30k/h. Actually I understand that the cycle way marked in red is actually at variance with the rules for bikes which says that they should keep as close to the edge of the road as possible and means that cyclists using the track could actually be fined.

Hey, ho!

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