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One Way Signs: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How can One Way Signs contribute to improving road safety?

A.
  • - Pedestrian Safety: One-Way Signs offer more safety for pedestrians crossing the road as they need to look for traffic in only one direction rather than two.
  • - Unidirectional Flow: These signs are proven to improve the flow of traffic in congested areas. Traffic moves at regulated speeds with less stop-and-go driving. 
  • - Smooth Traffic: One Way Signs ensure smoother-moving traffic in one direction preventing cut-through traffic.
  • - Parking Lots Safety: Signs improve safety in parking lots by directing drivers which way they should take to get to a parking space or to leave a parking lot.

Q. What are the common problems drivers face on one-way streets

A.
  • - One-way streets can increase the travel distances of motorists.
  • - Backtracking or circuitous travel increases with one-ways, as the most direct route to a destination, is often made unavailable.
  • - Newcomers to a one way street who are unfamiliar with the local road network often get lost.
  • - Higher average vehicle speeds tend to make entering and exiting the street more difficult, as reaction times or gaps in traffic flow tend to be lesser.

Q. What are the disadvantages of converting two-way streets to one-way?

A.

Though conversion of two-way streets to one-way streets was very popular as it was a low-cost way to move high volumes of traffic through busy downtown quickly, there are various disadvantages in doing so. 

  • In most cases, the conversion results in higher speeds, increasing the chances of crashes.
  • Motorists can violate traffic laws by traveling the “wrong way” on a one-way street, particularly if the distance is short or there is a lesser threat of being “caught.” 
  • Due to high speed,the number of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users may decline. The street can be perceived as unsafe for non-motorists, walkers or bicyclists.
  • Residents do not prefer one way streets as they are “high-speed, hostile, and noisy” and property values along one-ways are much lower than along similar two-way streets.
  • Due to lower storefront exposure, businesses are affected as one direction of travel (and the exposure of the lost direction) is eliminated. Due to high speed on one way street, motorists have less time to “read” a storefront or sign.

If a two-way street is converted to one-way, it should be evaluated to see if additional changes are required, especially if the streets are overly wide. Also, traffic circulation in the broader area must be carefully considered.

Q. Are One Way Signs regulatory? What is the MUTCD size requirement for One Way Signs?

A.

Yes. One Way Signs are regulatory. Regulatory signs shall be used to inform road users of selected traffic laws or regulations and indicate the applicability of the legal requirements.

The MUTCD R6-1 One Way Sign (where one way is printed inside the arrow) must at least be 36” x 12” on single-lane conventional roads and 54” x 18” on multi lanes, expressways and freeways. 

The other R6-2 One Way Sign (where the arrow is printed below the text - One Way) must be at least 24” x 30” on single-lane conventional roads, 30” x 36” on multi lanes, 36” x 48” on expressways and 48” x 60” on freeways. The minimum size for this design can be 18” x 24”.


These are the minimum size requirement as per MUTCD Section 2B.03. In practice, we suggest you use bigger signs because a bigger sign can be seen from a greater distance and over large trucks and SUVs too. Every state can have its own requirement on sign size and sign mounting height too. So it is advisable to check with your local traffic laws before deciding on the right size.

Q. What are the MUTCD guidelines for installing One Way Signs?

A.

One Way Sign regulates traffic on streets or roadways where only unidirectional traffic is allowed to move. As per MUTCD guidelines, One Way Signs should be placed in particular areas according to the kind of intersections these are used on.Section 2B.37 of MUTCD states that-

  • - A One Way Sign should be placed where divided highways are parted at an intersection by median width of 9 m (30 ft) or more. These One Way Signs should be clearly visible to each crossroad approach and installed on the far left and near right corners of each intersection with directional roadways.
  • - One Way Signs at unsignalized intersections should be mounted on the far left and near the right corners. These signs should face traffic that is crossing or entering a one way street.
  • - One Way Signs, at signalized intersections, should be installed either on the traffic signal poles, near the appropriate signal faces, on the span or mast arm holding the signals or at locations designated for unsignalized intersections.

Q. What is the color and shape required for a MUTCD One Way Sign?

A.

The MUTCD R6-1 One Way Sign must be a horizontal rectangular black sign with a white border. The words "ONE WAY" in black are superimposed on a large white arrow.

A MUTCD R6-2 One Way Sign must be a vertical rectangular white sign with a black border and the words "ONE WAY" in black on two lines above a black arrow.

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