Signs of the times.

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Astra, the federal department responsible for roads, has begun a new initiative to combat one of Switzerland's most prolific forms of pollution: the plague of unnecessary signposts that line the nation's thoroughfares. It is estimated that around four million signposts clutter highways and urban landscapes across the Confederation--a figure equating to one sign for every registered private car.

Despite a genuine motive to reduce accidents and confusion among road users, overzealous health-and-safety officials and pressure groups have instead transformed roadsides into a sea of unnecessary and unsightly signage--ultimately undermining their own goals and causing widespread confusion, while at the same time leaving a number of genuine risk-areas unprotected.

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The Astra review will see six types of sign abolished entirely, and the rationalisation of those remaining, cutting overall signage by a fifth. One of the signs to disappear will be the warning of difficult-to--see zebra crossings--the reason being that unsafely positioned crossings have no place on the nation's roads in the...

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