7 Types of Traffic Signs on BC Highways

A large part of our job here at the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is to make sure that BC’s highway system is safe and reliable for everyone who travels on it – from car poolers to commercial drivers. In order to do that job, we have to communicate information about the road ahead of you quickly and efficiently. While we have developed many ways to communicate road conditions with you (DriveBC, Dynamic Message Signs and Social Media come to mind), it’s the simple traffic sign which does most of the communication for us across the province, often in far less than 140 characters (Twitter plug!).

Traffic signs come in a variety of shapes and colours but the bottom line is that they all have something important to tell you.  They give you directions and tell you about routes, destinations and points of interest along the way. They also identify laws (think speed limits and stopping), and warn of hazards which may not be evident (like avalanche areas). We review our traffic signs regularly to make sure they are still effective and if we find that they are no longer doing the job they were intended to, we will remove them or replace them with improved signage. We try to keep sign usage to a minimum to make sure that motorists are not overwhelmed with information and can focus on the most important task at hand – driving safely.

1. Regulatory Signs – Usually in black and white (but sometimes seen in red and white), these are the Rules of Road, as defined in the Motor Vehicle Act, (aka the law). These are the stop and do not enter signs – the ones which communicate the message with little or no text. You know them, you obey them, and we love them.

Speed Limit Sign2. Warning Signs – These signs are designed to call attention to potentially hazardous/dangerous conditions on or adjacent to a roadway. They say “HEY! WATCH OUT FOR THIS” in not so many words. Warning signs are yellow with black information.

Deer Sign3. Guide Signs – Show you the way home (or how to get away from it all) with route numbers, destinations, direction and distances as well as transportation and emergency services information displayed, usually on a green background with white writing.

Guide Signs4. Information Signs – These signs give you general information, such as points of interest, and geographical or cultural information. They tell you when to pull over for the perfect picture of your road trip, or where you can take a break and have a snack.

Stop of Interest5. Construction Signs – Alert you to construction ahead and how it is impacting the road. They tell you to slow down and be aware of changes to normal traffic patterns. They are fluorescent orange with black information.

Construction Signs6. Service and Attraction Signs – Also in blue and white to complement our information signs, these signs tell you where you might find food, gas, lodging, boat launching areas, Sani-stations as well as tourist attractions, such as: zoos, gardens, museums, artisans , even theme parks!

service and attraction signs7. Supplemental Traffic Signs – If our incredible catalogue of signs doesn’t hold just the right sign for the situation, we have a backup catalogue which includes everything else – such as: scenic routes, wine routes, environmental awareness signs, adopt a highway signs and farmer’s market signs – everything you need to know to make your next trip even better!

supplemental traffic signsSo, there you have it, a quick rundown of how we use traffic signs in BC. Do you have a question about traffic signs that we didn’t cover here? Let us know in the comments below.

67 comments on “7 Types of Traffic Signs on BC Highways”

Leave a Reply to nahriy Cancel reply

      • A intersection warning sign would be good for people turning onto Fishbboat Bay Rd in Shirley , BC . Especially if you are heading North and it is a left hand turn to got onto the road…You are leaving a highway that is narrow and windy…As you apporach the intersection this is the highway’s few location a person can pass….Alot of times a person is signaling to turn left onto Fishboat Bay Rd. and motorist following sometimes mistake this as a gesture for the tailing person to pass…Anyways better signage here to warn motorist that there is an intersection ahead would be very helpfull.

        thanks

        Glen

        Reply
        • Hello Glen – thank you for your comment. We have sent it to our local area traffic engineers and will let you know what we hear back. Stay tuned!

          Reply
          • Thank you …I should have added that eventhough there is only 12 residents on this street there is a public beach at the end of the cul de sac . So there is quite a bit of local and tourist traffic making that left hand turn off the highway..thanks for passing it on

            Glen

          • Hello again Glen – our traffic engineers have let us know that while they don’t have a definitive timeline, they will visit and review the site as soon as possible. Thanks again.

  1. Which government authority is responsible for the change in the highway signs showing the indigenous names over top of the actual municipalities name being done in certain parts of BC. Does it require approval of the geographical names office? Who do I contact to review this within the Organization.

    Reply
    • Good afternoon William and thanks for your message. We shared your question with our engineering staff and they let us know that they would be reaching out with you directly in order to answer your questions. Thanks again for reaching out to us here and if you have any other questions – just let us know.

      Reply
  2. I see along the old highway between Courtenay and Campbell River there are 2 ‘Artisan’ signs (one on each side of the road) that have a ‘Closed’ sign over them. How do I request ‘Artisan’ signs for the Storrie’s Beach area to advertise my pottery studio/gallery?

    Reply
    • Hi Gary – thanks for your message. Please contact the Vancouver Island District Office:

      3rd floor – 2100 Labieux Rd.
      Nanaimo, BC V9T 6E9
      250 751-3246

      Hours of operation:
      8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday

      Reply
  3. Just curious about why some highway regulatory signs that have dashed lines around them, while others have solid black lines. Do the dashed lines mean anything? Are they to signify signs that are just for truck drivers? e.g. RUNAWAY LANE, SCALE, BRAKE CHECK However there are other signs for truck drivers that have solid lines. e.g. STEEP GRADES

    Reply
  4. We have a few old Blue service and attraction signs in the White Rock area on hwy 99 and adjacent roads. They are in bad condition. One has a big section falling off. Some of the advertised businesses do not exist anymore. Who is responsible for removing or replacing them?

    Reply
    • Hello Sue,

      Please contact our Lower Mainland District office at:

      Suite 310 – 1500 Woolridge St.
      Coquitlam, BC V3K 0B8
      604 527-2221

      Hours of operation:
      8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday

      Reply
  5. Is there a standard for regulatory signs, and where can that information be found? Particularly when a new no turn sign is erected at an intersection changing a traffic pattern. Is it required to be in the same location as the street name sign? Size, height, distance from street, or distance grin the street name sign?
    Many thanks.

    Reply
  6. I always follow construction zone speed limits but I often find them posted too far from the actual work. Sometimes I’ve seen them in place and there is no work going on (the crew has gone home), this is very frustrating to some people and they are on your back as you drive through. Is there a standard distance that they are supposed to be placed? Possibly if they were actually closer to the work site drivers would be more inclined to obey the posted speed and workers would not be hurt, (as recently in the north okanagan). Just a suggestion as drivers find it frustrating to keep going around corners slowly only to find out that the work is a km or more away, or whatever the distance is, because the crew has not bothered to move the signs.

    Reply
  7. Coming off a highway onto a secondary road which happens to be a y. There is a yield sign about 40 ft up from the main hwy right in the middle of the island. Who is supposed to yield. I always figured it was the right lane coming off the hwy as if the left lane yielded then you would be blocking the hwy right of way if it was more then one vehicle or a vehicle with a 30ft trailer in tow like me.

    Reply
    • Hi Steve,

      We are having a hard time wrapping our heads around your question. Do you have a particular location in mind so we can look it up on google maps?

      Reply
  8. My question is the yellow speed sign, in the book it says advisory speed. Does this mean suggested but not enforced speed? They have added a 30 in yellow on a street in my neighborhood with a large ” NEW ” over it. So they are suggesting I travel 30 but can continue travelling 50 if I so wish, confusing!

    Reply
    • Hello West,

      We spoke with our traffic engineering department to get the details on this and here is what they had to share with us:

      As with all jurisdictions in North America who follow Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Signing practices, yellow signs are considered warning signs, and black and white signs, for the most part represent government Acts and Regulations whose disobedience is tied to a numerical value.

      We call warning signs Engineering Signs, whose existence and purpose is generally broken into 3 categories of warning signs (see below), and whose placement in the field is tied to engineering analysis and engineers input. Regulatory sign speak to government laws, whereas Warning signs speak to the safe driving and whose placement is by engineers.

      The yellow speed signs on curves represent what is considered the curves safe speed as calculated using engineering techniques. They are called advisory speed signs as they “ADVISE” approaching motorists what the safe speed is, and whose disobedience is to their peril and to others. Most roads are regulated with a speed that represents the design and operating speed of the highway, however local physical conditions along this same highway may require a reduced safe speed to negotiate a curve or other hazard.

      Ultimately, all signs in the BC Motor Vehicle Act are Traffic Control devices whose disobedience are subject to fines. However, I do not know of police enforcement of such signs, likely due to the fact that they apply over short lengths, and their start and end points are not clearly defined. With that said, if the signs are enforced, it will be the result of a post-crash investigation where if loss of control is ascertained due to speed, then the operator of the vehicle would be subject to both Section 125 and 144 of the BC MVA.

      Hope this helps clarify!

      Reply
  9. In order to make the end of zone clear to all motorists could you please add the colour to the back of the sign? I feel that would be an immense improvement. The flashing yellow (solar operated??) lights that are active when zones are in effect make it very easy as well not only to see the signage but to realize (for those of us who do not have kids in school) that it is an official school day.

    Reply
    • Hello Terry – thank you for this suggestion. We have shared it forward with our traffic engineering department for review. You might also want to share your feedback with your local municipality as school zones which aren’t on a provincial highway fall under their jurisdiction and they are responsible for signage there.

      Reply
  10. Crosses and flowers piled high on poles on the side of the highways are becoming a distraction. Does the Dept of Highways have an opinion on these yet further distractions for drivers?

    Reply
    • Hello Mary and thank you for your comment.

      We do have regulations around roadside memorials, which can be found here. Basically, out of respect for grieving family and friends, we allow the placement of roadside memorials within provincial highway rights-of-way at, or near, the accident site. However; roadside memorials must not be a hazard to those using or maintaining a highway. The sole authority to remove a memorial marker resides with the District Manager, Transportation. If the District Manager determines that it is absolutely necessary to remove a memorial marker for safety, construction or maintenance purposes, he or she will attempt to contact the individuals who erected the memorial and facilitate its relocation or removal.

      Reply
  11. Hi There,

    I spent 3 weeks travelling through your beautiful province this July and I was wondering if there was any place to buy road signs that are no longer being used. I am from Ontario and we have a street sign auction in Toronto for anyone who wants to buy old signs. I would love a BC Circle Route sign and was wondering if you guys have anything similar or a location of where I could get one.

    I loved it out there and wanted to commemorate my trip with an awesome souvenir.

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Good afternoon Kelly. Glad to hear you enjoyed our province so much! Our signs are recycled at end of life but you can order a brand new one through our supplier. Here is the suggested contact info:

      Steve Hocaluk
      Sherine Industries Ltd.
      Ph: 1-800-665-0566

      Reply
  12. Hello – I’m wondering who to contact about an unsafe intersection in Cowichan Bay, south of Duncan. (Cowichan Bay Rd @ Cherry Point/Kiksilah).
    It is a 4-way intersection where drivers frequently drive right through without stopping. It is also a couple hundred meters from elementary school and on the bus route, so many children use this intersection as pedestrians.
    Wondering who we contact about installing a flashing light or something else to prevent more accidents?

    Reply
    • Hello Jeannie,

      Thank you for connecting with us and sharing your concern. Please contact our Saanich area office directly:
      Saanich Area
      240 – 4460 Chatterton Way
      Victoria, BC V8X 5J2
      250-952-4506 or 250-952-4515

      Hours of Operation:
      8:30 am to noon
      1 pm to 4:30 pm
      Monday to Friday

      Reply
  13. Hello. We have cabin rentals and campground on the Telegraph Creek Road near Dease Lake, BC and are wondering how to go about getting signage to direct people to our location.

    Reply
    • Hi Jodi,

      Please contact the local area office to initiate this process.

      Dease Lake Area
      Box 148
      Dease Lake, BC V0C 1L0
      250 771-4511

      Thank you!

      Reply
  14. Hello:) We have a brewery in Oliver and are wondering how to go about getting signage to direct people to our location.

    Thank you,
    Danielle

    Reply
  15. I live in a Westbank First nation where it just was found out that our roads are public highways. The developer has posted some silly illegal speed restriction and intersection road signs made out of dark brown wood and yellow non reflective paint they are hardly visible in the dark. What do I do to have them replace these? Also they allow vehicle to park on roads less than the 6 meter required for fire equipment which is a severe safety hazard.

    Reply
    • Hi Pieter,

      Thanks for connecting with us and sharing your concerns about these issues.
      This sounds like a question for our Operations Manager, Graeme Schimpf in our Kamloops regional office. Here is his contact info:

      Graeme.Schimpf@gov.bc.ca
      #127 – 447 Columbia St.
      Kamloops, BC V2C 2T3
      250 828-4002

      Hope that this helps!

      Reply
    • Dear Pieter Spierenburg,

      I have some further information to help address your concerns about signage on WFN roads.

      You will be interested to know that some roads on WFN lands are under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure while others may be private or maintained by WFN. If you could provide the name of the road that you are referring to it will help us to determine who is the appropriate road authority. You can also contact Blake Dixon, who is the Ministry of Transportation Area Manager and he can assist you with your concerns. Blake can be reached at:

      Blake Dixon
      Office: 250-712-3628
      Email: Blake.Dixon@gov.bc.ca

      Reply
  16. Hi there, could you tell me how we get the signage? We are a local Winery/Meadery and would like to have a winery sign directing people to our location.

    Reply
    • Hi Mary,

      Could you please tell me where you are located — i.e. nearest city/town and what highway/road you are on? That way I can refer you to our district office in your area, who would discuss signage with you.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  17. Hi,
    I represent the Kimberley Nordic Club, I have seen what appear to be stardard highway signs of other cross country ski clubs on my travels through BC. We would like to arrange to have some signs for the club put up on the highways outside of Kimberley, would I just go to the ministry office in Cranbrook to do that?

    Reply
    • Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for connecting with us here. Yes, the ministry office in Cranbrook would be your best bet to get the ball rolling on this request.
      Here is the contact info:
      129 – 10th Avenue S.
      Cranbrook, BC V1C 2N1
      250 426-1500

      Reply
  18. My wife and I own Symphony Vineyard on Oldfield Rd in Central Saanich. There’s a blank space on the large brown Wine Route signs on Hwy 17 near the N and S-bound exits relevant to Symphony, and we’re having trouble figuring out who to contact to have Symphony added to both wine route signs; could you suggest someone? We already have secondary signage off the highway, so were just interested in the large highway ones. Thank-you

    Reply
  19. The Ladysmith Maritime Society of Ladysmith, BC operates a Community Marina, Maritime Museum and a Harbour Heritage Centre.

    We are off the main highway #1, at the LADYSMITH HARBOUR. Many tourists visit by boat but many come by land. People are always getting lost and ask why we do not have signs on the highway to south and north. How do we apply for a Marina (blue anchor)sign and the brown MUSEUM sign? Thanks for your help.
    Regards,
    Ladysmith Maritime Society Heritage/Museum Curator and Director
    Shirley Blackstaff

    Reply
    • Hi Shirley,

      Please contact our local area office in Nanaimo to apply for your service and attraction signs. Here is the contact information:

      3rd floor – 2100 Labieux Rd.
      Nanaimo, BC V9T 6E9
      250 751-3246

      Hours of operation:
      8:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday to Friday

      Reply
    • Hi JJ,

      Thank you for connecting with us here. There is no “end of school zone” sign – instead motorists are too identify the back of the sign assembly for the opposite direction of travel terminates the 30 km/h speed zone. Hope that this helps!

      Reply
      • It would be nice if there was a way to make the back side of school zone signs more recognizable to signify the end of the school zone. Perhaps a thin border of the lime green reflective sheeting? Or maybe use the triangular cutoffs from the “roof” of the sign on the back side in a V formation.

        Older signs used to have the backsides painted forest green, the newer signs are often less noticeable from the back once the shine wears off in a year or two.

        Reply
        • Hi Rick,

          Our sign shop manager let us know that the end of a school zone can be identified as the back of the sign on the opposite side of the road or highway, basically where the school zone starts for traffic approaching you in the opposing direction. The school zone signs are not marked on the backside of the sign as the shape of the sign is specific to this one, assisting the motorist in determining the end of the school zone itself. This rule is found in Division 23 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations that describes traffic control devices.

          The backside of all ministry signs were painted green years ago, the real identifier was the shape of the sign – as it is today with the school zone signs. Hope that this helps!

          Reply
  20. Highway signs always show “Watch out for MotorCycles”

    Why not change it up and say “Share the road with Cyclists” or something like this.

    With more and more people training on the sea to sky highway between West Vancouver & Pemberton it would only make sense.

    Reply
  21. Wondering if its possible to have seasonal road weight restriction signs posted a little bit before you turn onto a road, having a 70 percent sign after I’ve turned onto a road puts me in a dangerous position, do I drive on the road illegally, or do I turn around, putting traffic at risk and potentially causing damage to the road doing a tight turn? I almost found myself in this situation turning off of highway 97 onto braeden rd, but managed to get in touch with another driver on the radio who knew that there was a weight restriction in effect.

    Reply
  22. Why is there no standard for dead-end road signs? I’ve seen:
    No Exit
    Dead End
    No Thru Road
    Cul-de-sac (and it’s green/white no-words variant)
    among others.

    Why is there no standard for these signs?

    Reply
    • Hi Brian,
      Our ministry develops highway signs for the highways that are controlled by us. The original manual that we used was the American Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) however, when developing new signs, the ministry looks both to the Canadian MUTCD and American MUTCD.

      Municipalities in BC, for the most part just use the Canadian MUTCD, while some will use some of BC ministry signs. It should be noted that most signs in the Canadian MUTCD, have a history with the American MUTCD, however over the years the Quebec influence is to just use graphics with no language on signs. For example the Canadian MUTCD graphic of the Cul-de-sac that the Ministry added to its book…….. we added the “DEAD END term thinking not everyone would exactly know what the sign meant.

      Since signs in BC come from two sources (the MUTCD Manuals for the most part), there can be an expectation to see a variety of signs. This is much more so in urban areas, as they control the city streets while the Ministry controls the highways.

      Reply