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Traffic cones often lining streets, construction zones, and event spaces are more than just simple markers. Delving into the statistics and facts surrounding these ubiquitous safety tools reveals a fascinating world of design, functionality and history. Join us as we explore the lesser-known aspects of traffic cones, how many traffic cones are in the UK and their integral role in our daily lives.

What are Traffic Cones?

Colloquially referred to as safety cones or pylons, traffic cones have become an emblematic symbol of safety and order on roads and various other sites. These cone-shaped markers, traditionally constructed from lightweight commercial plastic cone materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), have a broader base that tapers up to a pointed tip, giving them their distinctive shape.

The primary functions of traffic cones are

  • Redirecting Traffic: In areas of road construction, accidents or any other disruptions, these cones serve as guides, helping divert or redirect vehicular and pedestrian traffic safely around the obstruction.
  • Signalling Roadwork: Construction zones often employ these cones as markers to indicate ongoing work, warning drivers to proceed cautiously.
  • Delineating Boundaries: Traffic cones are instrumental in marking specific zones or areas, such as parking spots, no-entry zones, or pedestrian paths, helping in organising space and directing flow.

These cones' vibrant, often fluorescent orange colour plays a crucial role in their efficacy. This colour was chosen specifically because of its high visibility against the myriad backdrops of urban and rural settings, whether the grey of asphalt, the green of grass, or the myriad hues during sunrise or sunset. While orange is the most common colour due to its visibility, traffic cones can sometimes be found in other colours, like lime green or yellow, each with specific significance in certain regions or situations. You can check Street Solutions UK for traffic cones.

History of Traffic Cones

The traffic cone's history dates back to the 1930s. Invented by Charles D. Scanlon, an American painter, the initial purpose was to prevent accidents during road maintenance. Scanlon's design, inspired by the shape of a rubber cone used in foundries, was both durable and easy to notice. Over the decades, the design and materials have evolved, but the core objective remains unchanged: to provide a clear visual cue in guiding and managing traffic. The traffic cone's adaptation worldwide is a testament to its simplicity and efficiency in conveying safety information.

Who Invented Traffic Cones?

The credit for inventing the traffic cone goes to Charles D. Scanlon, an American street painter from the Los Angeles streets department. In the 1940s, Scanlon recognised the need for a safety device to protect his crew during road maintenance and cars from driving over wet paint. Drawing inspiration from a rubber traffic cone used in foundries, he designed the first traffic cone. This innovative creation safeguarded road workers and eventually became an indispensable tool for traffic management and safety worldwide.

What are Traffic Cones Made Of?

Traffic cones are primarily made from flexible thermoplastic materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or rubber. These materials provide the cones with durability, weather resistance, and the ability to revert to their original shape after being compressed or run over. Additionally, traffic cones are often imbued with reflective materials or bands to enhance their visibility, especially in low-light conditions. The choice of these materials ensures the cones' longevity, functionality and effectiveness in various environmental conditions.

Facts About Traffic Cones:

  1. Colour Significance: The orange hue of traffic highway cones is chosen for its high visibility, ensuring they're easily noticeable in low and high light conditions.
  2. Weighted Bases: Most traffic cones have a heavier base to remain stable and upright, especially in windy conditions.
  3. Size Variations: Traffic cones come in various sizes, ranging from a few inches to over 4 feet tall, tailored for different applications.
  4. Global Use: While orange is the predominant colour in many countries, some regions use different coloured cones, like green or yellow, for specific purposes.
  5. Durability: Modern traffic cones are designed to withstand harsh weather, from intense sunlight to freezing temperatures.
  6. Special Cones: Some traffic cones are equipped with lights or reflective bands to increase their visibility during nighttime or in low-light situations.
  7. Eco-friendly Variants: Recent advancements have produced traffic cones made from recycled materials, emphasising environmental consciousness.
  8. Pop Culture Icon: Traffic cones have become popular, often symbolising construction, roadwork, or obstacles in movies, cartoons, and video games.
  9. Safety Standards: Traffic cones must meet specific safety standards in many countries, ensuring they provide effective visibility and durability for their intended use.
  10. Temporary Solutions: Apart from managing highway traffic, cones are also used in parking lots, sports events, training exercises, and even in schools for various activities.


While seemingly mundane, traffic cones play an essential role in our daily lives. From their historical origin to their modern-day applications, these unassuming tools ensure safety, order, and efficient traffic management. The nuances and intricacies behind their design, materials, and global usage highlight the significance of these ubiquitous markers. As we navigate our roads and communities, it's worth taking a moment to appreciate the silent guardians that are experimental plastic traffic cones, standing firm and guiding us every step of the way.

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