The importance of signs in car park management

Signage is one of the key contributors to achieving effective car park management. Here’s everything you need to know…

Car park signs enable you to notify drivers of specific terms and conditions to improve usage, increase revenue, reduce acts of unauthorised parking.

When a driver enters your car park, they also enter into an agreement with you, or the car park management company overseeing the site, to abide by the car park’s terms and conditions. Drivers should be able to easily find or see what your terms and conditions are and be made aware of them from the start.

There are many different things to consider when creating signage, including complying with all relevant statutory/regulatory requirements and ensuring the correct usage of the car park through clear and unambiguous terminology.

In the UK, all parking signs on private land should follow the code of practice laid out by an Accredited Trade Association (ATA) like the British Parking Association (BPA), as well as Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

What are the key signs on any car park?

Entrance signs: the signs displayed at the entrance to a car park play a vital role in initiating a parking contract between yourself, the car park owner and the driver. They also help to deter unauthorised parking. They must state that the car park is managed and there are terms and conditions drivers should be aware of. Entrance signs should also be in a standard format and the size of sign should take into account the expected speed of vehicles approaching the car park. Entrance signs should clearly show the type of park and if, when and how the driver should make a payment for the use of the car park.

Specific parking terms signs: these signs inform the driver of your terms and conditions, including the relevant parking charges. This type of signage needs to be situated throughout your car park, so that drivers can read the terms and conditions before they park or shortly after leaving their vehicle. Note: signs showing your detailed terms and conditions must be at least 450mm x 450mm.

What do I need to consider when creating car park signs?

As mentioned, there are a number of things you should consider when creating your signs to ensure the smooth management of your car park. It’s important that all signs:

1. Are concise and clear

All signs should be as concise and clear as possible. They need to convey key facts as quickly and effectively as possible – in a small amount of space. All opening times and applicable charges should be included on parking signs. You will also need to convey all the restrictions that apply to that car park at any given time.

You must include at least one item but no more than three items from Group 1. This text should be more prominent than text from Group 2.

Group 1

  • Pay and display [except/free for blue badge holders]
  • [X minutes’/hour’s/hours’] free parking [for (business name’s) customers only]
  • Pay on exit
  • Pay [on foot/at machine] when leaving
  • Parking for [business name] customers only
  • Permit holders only

Group 2

  • Charges apply [after this][after X minutes/hours]
  • Private land
  • Terms and conditions apply
  • See the notice[s] [in the car park] for details

2. Include directions, as well as restrictions

Along with the necessary restrictions, good signage will also include strong directional information. This might be clear directions to the nearest pay machine or instructions on how to pay by phone.

It might include directions to specific areas of the car park for specific users, or it may include information on other more suitable car parks in the vicinity, to improve overall usage. You may want to include branding on your signs too, to showcase your company logo and the space you own.

3. Clearly identify restricted areas and dedicated spaces

It’s also important that signs clearly indicate any restricted areas and dedicated parking spaces to make the management of your car park as efficiently as possible.

This might mean separate signs to mark:

  • Disabled bays
  • Parent and child parking
  • Motorcycle parking
  • Restricted/no parking zones
  • Access areas that must be kept clear at all times

4. Are weatherproof

This point is often overlooked. Given the wonderful Great British weather, it’s vital that all UK car parking signs are completely weatherproof. They should be able to withstand years of heavy rain, wind, snow and sunshine because any damage to signage could make parking charges null and void.

If you have warden parking enforcement onsite, then your signs should be regularly checked by them.

5. Are positioned correctly

It’s also essential that signs are positioned correctly, at the entrance to any car park and throughout. Signs can be easily missed or covered up if they’re not located in the right places.

You should also check the positioning of any signs during nearby construction work, to ensure that temporary fences or structures do not obscure or hide your signage.

6. Prominently stand out

It should be a given that since parking signs are so important, they should also stand out. But in many cases, they don’t. There needs to be enough colour contrast between the text and its background – both should be a single solid colour.

Car parks are usually accessible during the day and night, and so you’ll need to use direct lighting, indirect lighting or a retro-reflective material to ensure signs are readable during hours of darkness or dusk.

In some instances, you may need to draw extra attention to special parking signs, i.e. for dedicated disabled parking spaces for users who have electric wheelchairs and need extra space for ramps.

7. Are BPA compliant

All signage on privately-managed car parks must be compliant with all the relevant regulations and codes of practice. If your sign isn’t BPA compliant (or compliant with another Associated Trade Association), parking charges can be easily challenged in court.

You should display the BPA’s AOS logo at all of your car park sites to indicate to car park users you are a legitimate operator and your site is run following BPA regulations.

8. Do not use the term ‘penalty charge’

Finally, you must never use the term ‘penalty charge’ on any document or on any signs in your car park. The term ‘parking charge’ should be used.

Need a helping hand?

As Creative Car Park is a member of the British Parking Association, all the car parks we manage and signs we install adhere to its code of practice.

If you need our expertise in this often complex area, you can request a free, no-obligation audit of your car park by completing the short form below.

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