Road Open to – The Sign of Our Times

By Alison Holland

Published: June 8, 2021

Have you spotted the new ‘Road Open to…’ signs? And do you know how are they connected to us at Brightwayz? These engaging, positive green signs designed by London cycling advocates, feature various characters walking, cycling or rolling along in a wheelchair.

They are a gentle, fun contrast to the stark red traditional ‘Road Closed’ signs which they often accompany on the planter street filters popping up these days across London and beyond.

More Open Than Ever

The idea is that roads which restrict motor vehicle traffic are not actually closed… they are more open than ever to people walking, cycling, scooting, rolling, skating, horse riding, playing or even pogo-sticking!

Engagement Tool

The official ‘Road Closed’ red signs don’t get across these positive benefits… and promoting positive benefits of street changes is essential if we want to get community acceptance. So these unofficial signs – which are actually a publicity and engagement tool rather than a road sign – are serving that purpose.

The Story Behind the Signs

So where did these clever green signs come from? A group of active travel advocates in London – Simon Still, Rob Johnstone and Sarah Berry came up with the concept earlier this summer during lockdown.

Sarah drew up the original design on Illustrator using Adobe images. Copies were printed off and attached to the new local planters being put in as street filters to give a better message than ‘road closed’. This active travel version of ‘guerilla gardening’ started to spread throughout other parts of London as the design was made freely available and can be used by other advocates in other areas.

Road open shakespeare road.

Brightwayz on Board

The signs were well-received and already gaining popularity when we got involved. For those of you who don’t know us, here at Brightwayz social enterprise we have been working with local authorities and schools for over 17 years to support active travel campaigns with resources and information. (Many know us as Brightkidz).

Community Engagement for Local Authorities

We realised these signs are a perfect way to support active travel too. As the team who came up with the idea are keen to see the signs spread and be adopted by local authorities as a community engagement resource they were keen for us to work with them and use our platform to help make it happen.

Signs for Sale

So we launched the signs as products in our range – in a choice of Correx board or the more durable and reflective foamex version and made them easily available to order online or by purchase order. We have already paid for the extended Adobe licences on the design icons which means we are able to offer the signs for sale.

Sarah said of her design: “For me, the most important thing is that no one is forced to re-invent the wheel. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and other changes to street space are being implemented all across the country, and my hope is that those who support these changes can easily collaborate and help one another. By making these signs available, Brightwayz has made that possible.”

Community Collaboration Product

This product came from the community and is about accessibility and enabling all to safely enjoy our streets. Sarah and her fellow advocates who came up with the idea are not accepting any payment for their efforts. Therefore together we decided it would be appropriate to donate 10% of sales income from the signs to Wheels for Wellbeing charity. (The rest of the income is used to cover costs and should there be any profit it will get ploughed back into Brightwayz as an asset-locked social enterprise to support active travel campaigns).

About Wheels for Wellbeing

Wheels for Wellbeing (WfW) is an award-winning charity supporting disabled people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the benefits of cycling. Director Isabelle Clement who is seen above on her adapted cycle enjoying the benefits of this ‘open street’ said,

“We’d like to give our thanks to the team over at Brightwayz, who are very kindly donating 10% of the “Road Open to…” sign sales proceeds to Wheels for Wellbeing! As an organisation that works alongside cycling campaigners across the UK, advocating for more accessible active travel infrastructure and networks, we’re so pleased to see that Brightwayz has collaborated with the London cyclists who created the sign to enable wider distribution – and all for the benefit of local communities!”

Different Versions of the ‘Road Open to…’ Sign

Looking ahead here at Brightwayz we are already developing the original concept to add more design options to the range we offer. The signs started in London but can be adapted to reflect any environment. As they are campaign engagement tools rather than official road signs this gives them the flexibility for them to be adapted to local needs.

The horses in the photo below are the clues that a ‘countryside’ version is needed too… that’s on the way featuring dog walkers too.

Running is often overlooked as a mode of active travel for an everyday journey. The campaign coalition #RunSome is about inspiring more of us to #RunSome everyday journeys… not fast, just to get there. For them having a runner on a sign will help promote this concept.

Horse and road open sign.

Girls and Boys Come Out to Play

Sometimes streets are ‘closed’, ahem I mean ‘open’, for different reasons. Play Streets are gaining popularity as a way of temporarily giving children and their communities space to play and meet on their own streets, and we are working with PlayMeetStreet North Tyneside, part of the Playing Out movement, to get some foldaway adapted signs ready for their schemes.

Alison Stenning from PlayMeetStreet said “We just love the idea of signalling all the wonderful playful things that can happen for neighbours when roads are closed to cars”.

The Summer of Active Travel

Those of us working or volunteering in the active travel sector sure have been busy this summer. Covid19 lockdown led to many trying cycling for the first time or after a break of decades. By walking and cycling more we are helping overcome the challenges of reduced public transport/car sharing capacity whilst increasing our resilience to illness. Making streets safer for us to do so is key. And helping people realise how the necessary changes to their streets will benefit many is essential… which is what this sign does.

So it really is the ‘sign of our times’.

Road Open signs and Custom Road Open Signs available to purchase from Brightwayz.