Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will have undoubtedly seen some of TfGM’s hilarious traffic signs, either in the flesh or online when they’ve gone viral.
They’ve been tweeted and shared by various celebrities, including Gary Lineker and Alan Sugar, as well as a slightly miffed Noel Gallagher when they accidentally put the wrong date for his upcoming gig on one. We’ve even shared a few on here.
The signs are brilliant - they’re fun yet informative and make people smile on their commute - but who is the secret genius behind them all?
Step in Graham Banks, the man behind the mask at Transport for Greater Manchester who’s unofficially responsible for brightening up our days.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about Graham is his official job title isn’t ‘Head of Funny Signs’. He’s actually a Corridor Manager at TfGM’s control centre, which sounds a bit baffling but basically means he manages corridors of traffic in Greater Manchester to reduce congestion and improve journey times.
The 38-year-old moved to Manchester from Carlisle back in 2006, and has been working at TfGM ever since. It was in his previous role as a Control Centre Officer where he first realised the power of the signs, and how humour can encourage people to follow the serious message at the heart of them.
In their original, straight-laced format Graham found the signs repetitive and boring, so he started playing around with them during the World Cup in 2018. Riding the wave of euphoria that was following England’s successful cup run, he went with the simple yet effective: “It’s coming home, make sure you do, don’t drink and drive”.
Following positive feedback from both the public and his bosses, Graham started to grow ‘his baby’. According to him, it only takes a small amount of people practicing the advice on the signs to make a difference, and TfGM data proves they are having a big impact.
Graham says the public response has been ‘very positive’. He told The Manc:
The best feedback we get is when people take a picture of a sign and tweet it, or tag us in it, and it’s even better when whoever is playing the concert retweets it because then you get all the positive messages from their audience.
They’ve now put up signs to mark loads of occasions around Greater Manchester, including the football, a wide range of concerts, a tribute to Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew after his tragic death, as well as jumping on pop culture trends like Love Island.
With two of the world’s biggest teams based in Manchester, football is always a good topic for them, and just last weekend a Man United sign came back to bite them when they lost 2-1 to Crystal Palace in a shock defeat. TfGM got a bit of stick on Twitter, but Graham says it’s all part of the job.
I love that customer interaction when you get things right, and you might get things a little bit wrong but at least you can learn from it and have a bit of banter back. At the end of the day, the way I see it, it’s good customer information but it’s also a bit cheeky, a bit funny, and it’s making people’s journeys a bit better, so if we can do that then happy days.
When asked why he thinks more places don’t do this kind of thing, Graham says he’s not sure, before adding: “I’m proud that we’re the only ones doing it, it’s good that it’s just Manchester, I think if everyone started doing it it’d lose its impact, so I’m really happy and proud we’re doing it.”
As for the future, they’ve got some big things in the pipeline, including some signs for the students returning to the city after summer, more concerts and football, as well as a bigger focus on the other boroughs of Greater Manchester. As Graham says: “Watch this space, there’s loads coming up”.