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In Great Britain (and perhaps Ireland too), road directions are often written on the road. When it points to a place, this is often abbreviated. For example, at this location on Google Streetview, there are lanes for L'don (London) and B'stoke (Basingstoke), and here has R'dg (Reading) and W'dly (Woodley). When my attention is already concentrated at a busy roundabout trying to read text which is most of the time obscured by traffic, I find that I'm having to divert yet a bit more attention to deciphering those abbreviations. Preparation would help. Is there an official list of abbreviations used on British roads?


Why I care?

Within 5 minutes of my first ever drive in the UK, I did three loops on this roundabout trying to get on A66W, but the first two times I found myself in the inner lane unable to get out, as this sign tells me to start in the rightmost/innermost lane, but if I stay in the innermost lane then I can't safely exit as by the time I get here the innermost lane has become A66E rather than A66W; essential lane changes within the roundabout are indicated only by writing on the road.

  • I doubt it, as I've seen different abbreivations for the same place on subsequent signs. – CMaster Jul 8 '18 at 21:11
  • Fuller names were already on the direction signs before you reached here. These road markings are additional hints. – Weather Vane Jul 8 '18 at 21:23
  • Such as this shown also on the road. I could not find the exact spot you posted - were you too busy looking at satnav to notice the huge direction signs? – Weather Vane Jul 8 '18 at 21:30
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    I misunderstood some of that: to be clear, if you start in the innermost lane as signed (most near the centre) you most certainly won't exit to any direction by staying there. Please consider a roundabout to be like a spiral, as you go round you move outwards (left) as your exit approaches. The innermost lane is signed if you want to turn right. – Weather Vane Jul 8 '18 at 22:53
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    @gerrit In the A66 example, you should stay in the same lane as defined by the markings - If you started in the A66W lane and didn't cross any lane markings, you'd leave by the A66W - at each exit a new lane appears on the right hand side, firstly for M6N, then for A66E, and the existing lanes spiral out by one. – Nick C Jul 9 '18 at 8:53
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No there isn't.

Or at least in the forty years since I started driving in Britain I have never heard of one. One of the reasons is that the number of letters that will fit in the road varies, so for every town there might be several abbreviations of different lengths.

The good news is that these abbreviations are almost never used on street signs, only on road lanes. This means that the worst that can happen if you get one wrong is that you end up in the wrong lane, not going the wrong way. (If you aren't able to change lanes fast enough you might end up going the wrong way briefly, but you usually realize and can go back around and be in the right lane).

These abbreviations are used to indicate a general direction. So you should be aware that 'Reading' is in the direction you want to go. You can be pretty confident that it doesn't mean another town beginning with R, even if you don't get the abbreviation exactly.

  • I did think: is it going to Woodley or Whitley? The d gives it away but that requires me to think of the spelling. – gerrit Jul 8 '18 at 23:11

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