11 Facts About UK Roads That Will Fuel Your Interest
Fasten your seatbelt… We’re about to embark you on a trip around the UK’s roads with 11 pit stops along the way that are sure to fuel your interest with an extraordinary discovery at every stop…
Ready? Let’s get going and see where our facts about Roads takes us…
1. What is the real reason behind why we drive on the left side of the road?
Because it was easier to joust and fight in battle!
For right-handed people (sorry left-handers), it was more practical to ride horseback on the left and attack the enemy on the right. When roads started to be built, this layout remained the most natural.
In the 18th century, to combat severe congestion, it was introduced by law that people must drive on the left side of London Bridge only. Then in 1835, the Highway Act came into effect which meant left side driving was compulsory on all roads throughout the UK.
Well, there is one exception. Yes, that’s right. Quite literally.
If you set wheels on the Savoy Court into London’s Savoy Hotel, there is a rule that vehicles must drive on the right, which passed as an Act of Parliament in 1902.
2. Where did catseyes on roads really come from?
Not your pet cat’s eyes. We’re talking about the reflective dots you see on the roads gleaming when a car drives past. They’re actually known as road studs, but the name has stuck thanks to how it is suggested they were invented, due to the inventor’s car headlights reflecting in a (feline) cat’s eyes at the side of a road at night on a drive home.
According to information on the website of the company that Percy Shaw, the inventor of the catseyes (road studs) started back in 1935. He and others would often drive home from the Old Dolphin public house situated in Queensbury village, in West Yorkshire and due to its elevation of 1100 feet above sea level, it was often prone to bad weather and fog which was only made worse in the evenings.
Up until the early 1930s, trams were still a very popular form of transport across the UK and the tramlines themselves were helpful to motorists like Percy Shaw at night, as their car’s headlights would reflect from the shiny tramlines. However, by 1933 with buses taking over from trams across Halifax, these tramlines were deemed surplus to requirement and began to be removed from the roads.
This wasn’t a problem for Percy Shaw and others like him who owned motor vehicles, until one fateful night on the way home from the pub when he found himself driving through some particularly foggy conditions through the village of Queensbury on his way to his home in Boothstown. During the descent on a bendy part of the road, he noticed something had reflected his headlights back in his direction.
Wondering what had caused this, he stopped his car momentarily to take a look to see what it was. It was at this time, that he encountered a cat on the opposite side of the road looking back at him and noticed how its eyes had reflected in his car’s headlights back at him. Not only had it caused him to slow down and stop his car, but he also realised he had also been driving down the hill on the wrong side of the road and had very nearly driven off the side of the hill.
Realising how pivotal the tramlines had been to these nighttime drives, he spent his spare time focusing his efforts on designing a product that would help him and other drivers to safely use these unlit roads overnight without coming to harm. After many trials and failures, he eventually took out a patent for “Improvements Relating to Blocks for Road Surface Marking” in 1935 and on 15th March 1935 the company of Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd was incorporated with Percy Shaw as Managing Director. A year later in 1936, he followed this with another patent for “Improvements Relating to Blocks for Road Surface Marking“.
It’s suggested that he may not have entirely taken inspiration from tramlines and cat’s eye, with an earlier invention and patent in 1927 for “Light-Reflecting Device or Unit” by Richard Hollins Murray from Manchester, using a similar idea for a reflective glass lens. Percy Shaw himself also gave a different version of events to Alan Whicker in 1968, suggesting that the idea had in fact come from reflecting road signs on one of these foggy nighttime drives home from Queensbury village. So he ‘pinched’ two or three of the devices to better understand how they worked as he thought they were going to be more useful down on the roads and the rest as they say, is history…
Whatever the reason, millions of car drivers around the World still benefit from his invention today.
3. Sleeping policemen are to blame for slow traffic
No, we’re not referring to policemen falling asleep and causing traffic.
Sleeping policeman is just another term for a speed bump or speed ramp. They all have the same purpose – to slow down traffic.
The speed reduction measure was first introduced in 1906 in US town, Chatham, where they used flagstones and cobbles to raise crosswalks by five inches. The community was that impressed by the notion that onlookers bought popcorn and sat down on pavements to watch unwary drivers uneasily pass over the unexpected obstacle.
By 1953, speed bumps were becoming increasingly popular, when Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Arthur Holly Compton, designed a speed bump that is mostly the same design that is adopted worldwide. But the UK was far behind in implementing the traffic measure and did not jump on board until the 1980s.
4. What do a zebra, pelican and toucan all have in common?
No, we’re not taking you through the jungle.
We’re still on the road fact journey, where the common denominator is that all three animals have road crossings named after them.
A zebra crossing refers to an area of road painted in black and white stripes – hence zebra! In the UK, it is required by law that drivers must give way to pedestrians who are waiting to cross the road.
A pelican crossing differs from a zebra crossing as the flow of traffic is controlled by traffic lights. Pedestrians are able to press a button that changes the lights to red after a timer.
A toucan crossing is wider and enables pedestrians and cyclists to cross the road at the same time. It got its name as “two-can” cross – witty right?!
5. Are the UK’s roads going to pot?
We all hate them. And they take over our roads in bad weather.
When streets become cracked, water seeps into them. When the temperature drops, the water freezes and then expands which damages the tarmac and causes the crack to increase.
Every time the weather changes, the process recurs and eventually, a pothole is formed.
They’re driving us to distraction. Recent data has revealed that if all of the UK’s potholes were to adjoin, they would form one single hole that would measure 295 square miles. That equates to twice the size of the Isle of Wight!
6. The amber traffic light was non-existent until the 1920s
As you can imagine, this was pretty dangerous for drivers!
With no signal to slow down, there was a large number of accidents happening on the road.
A Police Officer in Detroit added the addition of the amber signal in 1920 to warn drivers in advance to stop.
Although we are not really sure of the reasons behind the colour choice, science adds validation, as red light has a longer wavelength than green, meaning it can be seen from a further distance.
7. Traffic lights are secretly your best friend
It’s likely you’ve never noticed this one because it can often feel like we’re forever stuck at a red light.
But traffic light systems are very intelligent.
Each time new data comes in from traffic management centres, for example when there is an unanticipated large amount of traffic, traffic lights make slight adjustments to the timings of their cycle. They instantly adapt to enable traffic to flow as efficiently as possible.
With recent data stating that the average Brit spends around 99 days of their life spent in traffic, it’s comforting to know our traffic system lends a handing help!
8. The UK’s rudest road sign definitely raises some eyebrows
Here in the UK, we are blessed with many rude road names – but one of the most offensive of all is in Rye in East Sussex, named “Dumb Woman’s Lane”.
There are two versions of this local myth, as to how this small windy road in Rye acquired its rather strange name;
The first is that it used to be a main thoroughfare for smugglers bringing contraband from France into England through the South coast in the 14th century through to the 19th century. Then on one fateful evening, a poor, hapless woman encountered the smugglers hauling the contraband up the lane, and to ensure she wouldn’t tell anybody, they cut out her tongue.
The other story is a little lighter reading, a mute woman used to dispense herbal remedies in the vicinity of where the lane exists today, and the street became known as “Dumb Woman’s Lane”. The “dumb” part refers to the historical meaning of somebody who is mute or unable to speak.
Either way, we’d like to think it was the latter explanation but of course. Of course, today calling somebody “dumb” is extremely derogative, so we’re surprised the name has still stuck all this time!
9. How far does the UK’s first road stretch back to?
Our first ever road dates back to over 5,000 years ago, which spanned from Wiltshire to Berkshire in Ridgeway. It was not until 1902 when the first tarmac road was built in Nottingham.
Somewhat later, motorways then followed, when the M6 Preston Bypass opened in 1958, covering just 8 miles, with two lanes each way.
Within just a few years of being built, motorways covered the whole country, helping to lay the foundations of the road network that our cars and delivery companies now use.
In 2012, the total road length was estimated to be over 245,400 miles. That means, if you were to put all of our roads in a straight line up into space, you would go beyond the moon, which is a sheer 238,855 miles from Earth!
10. In Russia, if your car isn’t kept clean, you’ll be greeted with an on the spot fine
A bit further afield now, we’re sure on your travels around the UK, you’ve probably seen some dirty cars, vans and lorries or your own vehicle could be guilty of being a little dirty too (no point in washing it in the rain right?). Of course, it’s a long day trip, but if you ever wake up one morning and decide to take a drive to say… Russia! We suggest you leave it off the travel list if you hate washing your car because it is actually illegal to drive around in a car that is deemed to be unclean by traffic police.
If you are stopped for committing this dirty offence, you will be given an on the spot fine.
11. Crown Oil delivers White Diesel (DERV) with true nationwide coverage, 365 days a year!
Yes, you read that correctly, it doesn’t matter where you are in the UK or what time you pick up the phone to order your DERV – we are available 24/7. We provide same day and next day white diesel deliveries to ensure your fleet of drivers are always on the road. That means, your DERV could be with you in a matter of hours.