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A clearway (also known as a No Stopping Order) is a special type of Traffic Regulation Order placed on numerous lengths of road in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to prohibit stopping, loading, parking, and waiting. Their use is granted by the powers given in Section 9 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984.

Stopping is defined as the act of halting a motor vehicle for any purpose in any situation other than prevailing traffic conditions (e.g. congestion), a genuine emergency, or if other traffic signs and/or a police officer in uniform commands the driver to do so.

Clearways were first introduced between 1959 and 1960 and initially had a different type of sign to what is used today - [The original clearway sign]. The early experimental lengths were on a number of radial roads leaving London, notably the A12, A20, and A23. The experiment proved successful and the concept of clearways was expanded and made a formal part of the new traffic sign system in 1964, when the familiar symbol still in use today was introduced.

Clearway Timeline

  • 1959-60 - first clearway experiments,
  • 1961 - first use of 'peak hour' clearways on A4 in West London
  • 1961 - use of clearways drastically expanded to cover almost 600 miles of Trunk road,
  • 1964 - TSRGD 1964 replaces experimental clearway sign with current symbol and removes the 'peak hour' option as used on the A4; previous experimental signs to be replaced when funding permits,
  • 1975 - TSRGD 1975 allows the use of urban clearways, replacing the 'peak hour' clearway, and bus stop clearways for the first time,
  • 1991 - Legislation to create red routes in London debated and passed Hansard record
  • 2002 - Traffic Regulation Orders no longer needed for bus stop clearways,
  • 2016 - Red routes prescribed for use without DfT authorisation.

Clearway types

24 hour clearway

The 24 hour clearway sign
Leaving a motorway and entering a Clearway

A 24 hour clearway applies to the main carriageway only of any given road it is placed on. This means that a vehicle may stop and/or park in a designated parking bay (provided it is not part of the main carriageway) or on the verge if an obstruction to the highway is not created. This can be prevented by the use of an additional Traffic Regulation Order that prohibits either waiting or stopping on the verge.

It is sometimes also known as a rural clearway (in particular within the Traffic Signs Manual, as the intention was this would primarily be applied to rural roads. However, the restriction can and is often applied to urban roads without direct frontages as a means to keep traffic flowing. This situation is never referred to as an urban clearway as that is a distinct restriction.

Motorways are subject to far more stringent controls on stopping, and therefore do not require Clearway Orders. This sometimes presents the seemingly daft situation where a motorway ends only to be immediately followed by a Clearway sign. Travelling towards a motorway, it is often possible to see the termination of a clearway sign placed in advance of the start of motorway sign. Strictly speaking such signs are unnecessary, but it is not unlawful to place them.

Urban clearway

The Urban Clearway sign

An urban clearway applies during the times shown on the upright signs, typically the morning and evening peaks during the working week. This restriction varies from the 24 Hour Clearway in so much that the setting down and picking up of passengers is permitted, for instance a licensed hackney carriage collecting a fare. Like yellow line restrictions, but unlike the 24 hour clearway, these apply to the back of the adopted highway, including footways and verges.

As such, they should not be used in conjunction with conventional yellow line systems, unless the times of operation are distinct; so for instance an Urban Clearway may be in operation between 7am and 9:30am, and 4:30pm and 7pm. Between those two time blocks, conventional single yellow lines should be used. This creates a problem in that loading and waiting by blue badge holders may take place unless specific loading restrictions exist outside of the times the Urban Clearway operates. As such, signs and markings can become convoluted and enforcement, particularly following the general trend towards Civil Parking Enforcement, becomes extremely difficult.

In Northern Ireland, they are often placed with additional signs reminding drivers that waiting on the footway or verge is prohibited. This is not done in Great Britain.

These restrictions are often seen as confusing, particularly when used with yellow lines, and have not particularly reduced congestion in the larger urban areas due to confusion about their application and enforcement therefore being sporadic.

Red route

Double red lines

The red route was rolled out across Greater London in the early 1990s as a replacement for the urban clearway. Instead of conventional yellow lines, such routes are marked with red lines, which prohibit stopping for all vehicles except licensed hackney carriages and blue badge holders, who may set down and pick up passengers.

  • Single red lines denote that stopping is prohibited during the times shown on the upright sign, although outside of peak times loading and waiting by blue badge holders may be permitted. Outside of the signed hours no restrictions exist.
  • Double red lines denote that stopping is prohibited at any time without exception.
  • A red bay denotes waiting and/or loading is only permitted during the times shown on the upright sign.

The red route has since been expanded to the Birmingham and Sandwell areas, with trials in Wolverhampton having been abandoned and conventional restrictions reinstated. A further red route has also been added along the A466 near Chepstow. The stringent nature of red routes can result in resentment where local businesses line such a road.

Prior to 2016, the use of red routes required specific authorisation from the Department for Transport, but their general use was prescribed in the new TSRGD that was enacted in that year.

Temporary clearway

A temporary clearway during the 2012 Olympics

Temporary clearways may be put into effect during major events at the discretion of either the Police or Highway Authority. These are often used to assist in the dispersal of traffic during the the lead up to the start and the few hours beyond end of the event. Strict enforcement, including the towing away of vehicles, is often deployed for these events in both terms of security or safety of spectators and traffic flow.

Bus stop clearway

Originally requiring a Traffic Regulation Order, a bus stop clearway could be provided to keep a bus stop free of all other vehicles. Prior to 1994, these were denoted by upright signs and the then unique use of yellow bus stop bays with a thick solid yellow line beside the kerb. In 1994, all bus stops became yellow with the old white bus stop bays falling out of use. By 2002, it was no longer deemed necessary to promote a TRO to have a bus stop clearway - provided that the signs and lines were present, a yellow bus stop without a solid line was for a while permitted but by 2006 these had to be converted to full bus stop clearways or removed entirely.

Northern Ireland's Control Zones

A surviving sign

During the Troubles (1969-98), explosive devices left in unattended vehicles became a significant problem in Northern Ireland. Additional powers were needed to prevent abandoned vehicles containing bombs from causing loss of life and limb, and so the Control Zone was created.

These existed in high profile target areas, such as near police stations and city centres. A vehicle left unattended in a Control Zone was immediately treated as a security risk and dealt with by the British Army, often resulting in a controlled explosion to neutralise any potential device. Sadly, such measures were not always successful and often pushed the problem to less controlled areas, such as Omagh town centre in August 1998 where a car bomb killed nearly thirty people.

As the risk of car bombs has significantly reduced in Northern Ireland following numerous agreements and the IRA standing down most of its operations, the Control Zones have been gradually removed as they present the province in a poor light.

The Longest Clearway

The current longest continual 24 hour clearway in operation is on the A9 between Perth and Inverness, with a sign stating the restriction lasts for 124 miles.

SABRE Forum Discussion

The Great Clearway Hunt

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