Unravelling hieroglyphs : urban traffic signs and the league of nations

F. Schipper

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    Abstract

    This article discusses road traffic signs in the Interwar years. The article first sketches the often difficult relationship between the car and the city and society at large. It proposes road signs were introduced in part to mitigate this antagonistic relation. On the eve of the First World War thousands of signs already adorned European roads. After the war the new League of Nations managed to seize discussions on road signs in the early 1920s, and started to work on specifically urban road signs from 1926 onwards. The European Conference on Road Traffic in 1931 formed the apex of this development. The system has not fundamentally changed since. Contrary to the proposal of urban representatives, the League did not, however, become the supreme arbiter of traffic signs. The article concludes by nuancing a 1931 qualification of traffic signs as ‘hieroglyphs’ by the French journalist Baudry de Saunier.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-100
    Number of pages35
    JournalMétropoles
    Volume6
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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