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The importance of signs in car park management

  • Jan 17, 2020

Signage is one of the key contributors to achieving effective car park management.

Car park signs enable you to notify drivers of specific terms and conditions to improve usage, increase revenue, reduce problems and 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 to abide by the park 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.

Getting the signage right in your car park isn’t as straightforward as it may seem. 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) and Schedule 4 of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012.

Why is it important to have car park signs?

Entrance signs

Entrance signs play a vital role in initiating a parking contract between yourself, the car park owner and the driver and also help to deter trespassers and 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 signage

Specific parking terms signage informs 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.

Signs showing your detailed terms and conditions must be at least 450mm x 450mm.

Things to consider when creating car park signs

As mentioned above, there are a number of things you should consider when creating your signs to ensure smooth management of your car park. It’s important they;

1. Are concise and clear

Firstly, all signage should be as concise and clear as possible. It needs to get over some essential key facts as quickly and effectively as possible – in a very 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 1 item but no more than 3 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]
    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 & display machine or parking meter, 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 & Child parking
  • Motorcycle parking
  • Restricted zones/no parking
  • Access areas that must be kept clear at all times.

4. Are weatherproof

Often overlooked, given the 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 on-site, then your signs should be regularly checked by them.

5. Are positioned correctly

It’s also important 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 place.

You should also check the positioning of any signs during nearby construction work. At one of our NHS facilities for example, work fences went up overnight in front of an A&E department, covering all the restricted parking signs that were in place.

Thankfully, because the hospital had our parking control management on-site, we were able to respond quickly and erect new signs, to prevent the area becoming an ad-hoc, free for all car parks!

6. 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 both during daylight hours and nighttime hours, therefore, 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 might need to draw extra attention to special parking signs. For example at one NHS hospital, we created dedicated disabled parking spaces for users who have electric wheelchairs and need extra space for ramps.

To make these stand out from the usual blue badge parking bays and prevent incorrect and unauthorised use, we created bold black and yellow signs.

7. Are BPA compliant

All signage on privately managed car parks (and those on public car parks) must be compliant with all the relevant regulations and codes of practice. As we’re a member of the British Parking Association, all the car parks we manage must adhere to their code of practice, if we want to issue PCN’s.

If your sign isn’t BPA compliant (or compliant with another Associated Trade Association), PCN’s can be easily challenged in court. It’s a sure-fire way to lose a lot of revenue.

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’

You must not use the term ‘penalty charge’ on any document or on any signs in your car park.

That’s why, when it comes getting signs correct, you need the expertise of a car park management agency like Creative Parking Solutions.

Get in touch with us today, to see how we can transform the usage, efficiencies and revenue of your car park.