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  • May 01, 2024 3 min read

    A White Arrow on a Blue Background.  What is it Telling You?


    I recently acquired some old copies of Progress dating back to 1989 and have been skimming through them.   The following article by IAM Examiner, Jon Taylor, caught my attention.   Jon has kindly consented to it being published again.  Although it dates back to June 2003 it seemed, to me anyway, to still be relevant today.

    May I take this opportunity to bring to the attention of Observers and Associates as well as Members to a particular traffic sign that some seem to forget about or pay only scant attention to, and that is the white arrow on a blue background bordered by a white circle. They are often used on more complex junctions. 



     Figure 1 - This photo shows a junction where the junction is staggered.

    Not wishing to teach Grandmothers to suck eggs etc. I’m sure that if asked almost anyone within this group, and especially Observers, what this sign meant, they would all respond with the answer “you must travel in the direction indicated by the arrow”.   Quite right, but, when following a number of riders recently, fortunately only one of them was on test at the time the meaning of this sign seems to have been lost in memory. 

    In the photograph the junction is controlled by traffic lights with the direction arrows painted on the road and the signing as shown.   Now in normal circumstances WITHOUT the presence of the signs, a rider encountering traffic queuing back from the stop line in the nearside lane would, if conditions permit, probably make his or her way safely to the front of the right-turning lane so that when the lights changed they would be able to move off quickly without affecting traffic in the nearside lane.   Although not acceptable for a car, a motorcycle can easily get away with such a manoeuvre if done appropriately.   However, if you cut back into the nearside lane causing traffic to have to take some sort of action to avoid you then this would be tantamount to Driving Without Reasonable Consideration.

    Providing this manoeuvre was done sensibly I, and I’ve no doubt most Examiners, would have no problem with this.   HOWEVER, on the junction in question the offside lane has a white arrow on a blue background which, as we all know, means you have to travel in the direction indicated by the arrow.   So, in this circumstance, to travel straight ahead is now committing a moving traffic offence!

    So, faced with a long tail-back of traffic in the nearside lane, what is one meant to do?   Well, I would argue just that just sitting in the queue of traffic some way back is failing to take advantage of the situation by not using the benefits of size and acceleration that a bike possesses.   Therefore I would say that to use the offside lane to overtake the traffic safely and filter back into the nearside lane, BEFORE actually reaching the stop line would, in my opinion be perfectly satisfactory, providing there was a safe opportunity to do so.   Also, if there was a sufficiently large space or gap in the traffic in the nearside lane, then to move up to a position behind the lead vehicle would also, in my opinion, be fine.   But to cross the stop line in the offside lane would amount to an offence.

    So, to those unfortunate enough to be taking their test with me be warned, you may come across this situation somewhere en route!   If you disagree with any of what I’ve said, please write back and give me your views.


    Jon invited comment at the end of his article but I can’t see that anyone did.   Or, if they did, it wasn’t published!   What do you think?   Clear advice?   It’s what you do anyway?   Something you’ve never thought about?  Please note that the article has been slightly edited from the original and the photo was taken many miles from the test route. If you have any thoughts or comments then why drop our Editor an email?


    Trevor Ambrose.

    Group Secretary. (reprinted from May 21)

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