Median signs, the often colourful and attractive mini billboards sited within short intervals mostly in road reservations or medians, have, for some time now, become the means by which advertisers reach out to the public.
Businesses and their advertising advisory firms consider median signs more effective to achieve their visibility goals, and for the assemblies that grant the permits for their erection, it is a good revenue source.
However, the Department of Urban Roads (DUR) is raising the red flags over the phenomenon, saying median advertising poses a danger to motorists and other road users, as it is distractive.
The DUR’s worry comes after similar complaints by the Advertisers Association of Ghana (AAG), the National Road Safety Authority (NRSA), driver unions and some motorists, all of whom have expressed concern over median advertising and asked for something to be done about it.
The concerns are not only over the boards in the medians but also the many billboards mounted at major intersections, bends and in walkways.
In the view of the DUR, the billboards did not only pose visibility challenges, particularly at junctions, but also “de-value the beauty of the environment due to sign clutter and poor maintenance”.
It said they were also against advertisement placement regulations.
The department, therefore, appealed to the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Henry Quartey, to get the assemblies in the region to comply with the standards for advertisement placement within road reservations and help remove the threats off the roads, after calls from the DUR to get the assemblies to comply had been ignored.
A letter signed by the acting Director of the DUR, James Amoo-Gottfried, and addressed to the Greater Accra Regional Minister, said if that was not done, the flouting of the standard for advertisement would add up to driver distraction, which could also increase the rate of road crashes.
“A series of engagements have been done for the assemblies, particularly the technical officers, and yet no progress has been made to get them to comply with the Standards of Advertising Specification for Outdoor Signs, gazetted by the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA),” the letter said.
“By a copy of this letter, we shall be grateful if you kindly use your good offices to request the assemblies in Greater Accra to comply with the standards,” it added.
Road Traffic Regulations
Section 188 (1) (2) (3) of the Road Traffic Regulations 2012, (L.I. 2180) says that an outdoor advertising sign placed on a road or related facility shall be placed in a manner that does not interfere or obscure a traffic sign, device or signal to render the use of the road or facility unsafe to a motorist.
It again says the placement of outdoor advertising sign shall be in consultation with the road authority and the relevant body and in conformity with standards and regulations prescribed by the GSA.
“A person who contravenes the above regulations commits an offence and is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine of not less than 25 penalty units and not more than 50 penalty units or to a term of imprisonment of not more than three months or to both,” it said, among other things.
According to the GSA Advertisement Specifications for Outdoor Signs (GS 847:2019), signs in the median fell under prohibitions.
Paragraph 5.2.6 of the standard describes signs in the road median as “signs which are mounted in a manner as to wholly cover any premises or facades or elevation of an existing edifice”.
Paragraph 5.2.7 adds that they are “signs that are mounted on a proposed right of way of metropolitan, municipal or district assembly (MMDA) engineering infrastructure services and its ancillaries”, while Paragraph 5.2.8 further prohibits “signs whose location may hinder the installation or maintenance of MMDA engineering system/facility or infrastructure”.
In spite of these regulations, the medians seem to have become the turf for competition to grab the attention of the public, as it has been lined with signs mounted by institutions, including banks, media organisations, churches, educational institutions, health facilities, companies and individuals.
Aside from advertising products, the signages are also used for direction to institutions, church programmes, among other things.
Some of the areas where the medians have been cluttered with the signs are the Liberation Road, the National Theatre area, the Ako Adjei underpass or Ring Road Central, the Nima Highway, the Graphic Road, the Mallam-Kasoa Highway, the Hilla Limann Highway (Kanda Highway), Adentan, the Awoshie-Pokuase Road, the Ridge Roundabout, the Dr Busia Highway and the Spintex Road.
The Daily Graphic team that visited some of the locations observed that some of the median signs and billboards had long out-served their purposes, while many of them were unkempt and overgrown by weeds or are falling off.
At some of the junctions, the billboards are so cluttered and almost getting into the way that they block the way for safe turning by motorists.
Responding to the situation, the Executive Director of the AAG, Francis Dadzie, said the medians were not supposed to be used for advertising purposes.
He also referred to Section 188 of L.I. 2180, the Road Traffic Regulations Act, and said outdoor advertising done on road reservations must be in conformity with the standards.
“The GSA standards say that medians should not be used for advertising purposes. The reason is that the medians also have municipal power lines for the traffic lights which have been abused by unscrupulous people,” he said.
He added that the assemblies, which were supposed to deal with the problem, were being handicapped by political pressure.
The Executive Secretary of the AAG cited the Liberation Road, where the medians were cleared by the Ayawaso West Wuogon Assembly in December last year, thereby paving the way for the DUR to fix the street lights on the stretch from the University of Ghana, Legon to the 37 Military Hospital.
“All of a sudden, the signs have come back. When the assembly tried to do it again, it was prevented by some political actors, so if you go on that stretch, you will see that there are some places where even trees have been cut down because they blocked the adverts,” he observed.
The Head of Works at the Ga South Municipal Assembly (GSMA), Felix Ofosu Teye, told the Daily Graphic that most of the signages in the median in the municipality did not have permits.
“We will not allow people to mount signages in the median and very soon we will clear all the signages there,” he said.
For his part, the Head of Estates in charge of Signage at the Weija-Gbawe Municipal Assembly (WGMA), James Foli, said the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Henry Quartey, about two months ago directed that the assembly liaise with the GSMA to remove all the median signs.
Mr Foli said the assembly had data on all the billboards in the municipality, including the smaller ones, adding that they were a source of revenue for the assembly.
Last year, for instance, the WGMA was able to mobilise over GH¢280,000 from billboards alone, he said, adding that there had been an improvement in revenue collection over the last four years.
The Head of Physical Planning of the Korle Klottey Municipal Assembly (KoKMA), Patience Osei-Nyarko Puorideme, said the assembly, which was carved out of the AMA, inherited data on 244 billboards from the AMA in December last year.
Regarding median signs, she said the assembly had not granted permission for any, and that people were doing their own thing regarding median advertising.
“We have not permitted median signs to be there. Whatever is happening there, people are doing their own thing,” she said, adding: “We know people are using the median signs for advertisement purposes but they are doing it without permission.”
Asked why the assembly was not pulling the signages down, Ms Puorideme said as an assembly that came out of another, it knew advertisement facilities such as billboards had permits from the AMA.
“If there is a median sign, our assumption is that maybe it was permitted by the AMA. We are doing validation work but we have not touched median signs. But in the course of time, we know new ones have sprung up,” she said.
She said the KoKMA was yet to take a decision to clear them.
The Head of Regulations, Inspection and Compliance at the NRSA, Kwame Atuahene, said there had been a series of engagements with stakeholders on the matter.
About a month ago, he said, the authority held discussions with the President of the AAG on the issue, saying: “We are planning to have an action on billboard-related obstructions.”
Following that, he said, he would meet with some of the assemblies which were in charge of the issuance of permits to road regulatory agencies such as the Ghana Highway Authority and thereafter take further steps, including issuing a public notice to that effect and pushing for enforcement.
Mr Atuahene said the assemblies had, either out of ignorance or disregard for the standards, issued permits and “so we need to point out to them that in as much as they want revenue, we need to respect our laws”.