Skip to content
The article is more than 7 years old

After years of strict regulation, authorities finally permit temporary roadside signs

Starting in July, the fifteen regional ELY centres that implement central government programmes in Finland will finally give their blessing to ad hoc roadside signs, after years of strict policies that required members of the public who wished to erect advertisements or event reminders to apply for a permit beforehand. If they failed to do so, they faced a fine. Despite this new-found trust in the public’s judgement, the centres say they still plan to keep their eye on roadside signage to make sure it is up to spec. 

Hauskat opasteet saattelevat tilalle.
Image: Markku Lähdetluoma / Yle

Unofficial roadside signage will be allowed in Finland as of July 2016, after years of strict government regulation. Members of the public who wish to erect signs along motorways will still be required to apply for permission ahead of time with their regional ELY centre, however.

Until the new policy comes into force, placing a sign without permission along the road is still subject to a fine. For decades the central government authorities at the centre discouraged informal roadside advertisements, citing the fear that it would distract travellers from observing official traffic signage. But as of this July, the authorities are willing to trust in the public’s own discretion.

“New legislation allows people to erect temporary signage for a few hours or up to week without official permission. Permits are still required for signage along the motorways, however,” confirms Aleksi Haapavaara of the Pirkanmaa ELY Centre.

Haapavaara says the new relaxation of the rules is a boon for organisers of small events in Finland, as they no longer need to come up with the money for permit fees.

“We couldn’t be happier with the change. There’s nothing wrong with dismantling old norms if it makes sense. I don’t think there’s much of a risk that there will be any dramatic changes on the road,” says Haapavaara, who administers the centre’s permit operations. 

Rule-breaking signs will still be removed

One of the main rules in Finland with regard to unofficial signage is that the signs and notices may not be attached to existing traffic signs or light posts. The signs must also be sturdy, with good support, and not too large. Subcontractors for the regional ELY centres monitor that signage confirms to the norms as they carry out their other duties. Signs that aren’t up to spec or are in other ways unsuitable are removed.

“Usually signs that are removed have been attached to traffic signs. This isn’t permitted, as it has been proven to weaken the readability of traffic signals, speed limit signs and other road signs. This has been the biggest problem, not that the notices would have had inappropriate content,” says Haapavaara.

Haapavaara can’t say whether the centre’s subcontractors will be saddled with more work, due to the change. The penalty for faulty signage will also be lessened moving forward: in place of a fee, a sign that is judged to be unsatisfactory will simply be removed.

“It’s not in anyone’s interests that the roadsides are full of ads and notices posted at people’s whim. Now that permits will no longer be required, we just have to trust that people will erect solid, appropriate signs,” he says.

Haapavaara says that compared to countries in Eastern Europe, for example, roadside signage in Finland is on the whole tasteful and legitimate.

Latest: paketissa on 10 artikkelia

A political historian told Uutissuomalainen that men in Finland tend to be more right-leaning politically.