Routemasters [documentary]

A five-part celebration of some of our most familiar, but unrecognised design classics: the road sign, the white line, the roundabout, the green man and the traffic calmer. Some are regarded as international design classics, others bemuse overseas visitors as eccentric. But as Joe Kerr finds out behind them lie forgotten histories, and fifty years of combined brainpower from typographers, psychologists, engineers and ordinary members of the public.


01The Blue And The Green2004051120050425

In the first programme, Joe meets the woman who was one half of the partnership who in the 1960s came up with the distinctive look of British road signs. Today they are heralded as a triumph of design. And if you've ever wondered who drew the pictures on our signs - this programme reveals all.

02The Roundabout2004051820050426

More British than the red phone box (and a longer survivor) the roundabout is the jewel in the crown of British traffic engineers.

But as this programme reveals - horror of horrors! - it is a French invention which the British made their own.

Joe Kerr visits the site of the very first one which opened in the model town of Letchworth in 1910, and he hears the difficulties the early motorists had in understanding how it worked.

03White Line, Yellow Line2004052520050427

What could be more obvious than a white line down the middle of a road? But while Manchester experimented with them in the 1830s, it wasn't until a Californian doctor had hand-painted one down the centre of her local road, that white and yellow paint started to spread on our streets. Joe Kerr explores why our roads are now so completely covered in markings of all colours.

04Pedestrian Crossings2004060120050428

The motor car and the pedestrian have had an uneasy relationship, from the advent of the belisha beacon crossings in 1934 to the present day. Joe Kerr investigates and tells the story of the ampelmann - the Berlin pedestrian traffic signal that became a cultural icon to East Germans after reunification.

05 LASTThe Road Hump2004060820050429

Love them or hate them, road humps have a secret history, as Joe Kerr uncovers on a journey which takes him from Blackbird Leys council estate near Oxford - where the prototype hump was first tested in Britain - to Delft in the 1960s and the philosophy of the Dutch voonerf as pioneered by Joost Vahl.