What are The Different Types of Pedestrian Crossings?

Pedestrian Crossing

In the UK, pedestrian crossings are not a one-size-fits-all affair. They come in different types, each with unique symbols, rules, and even sounds. There are five main types of pedestrian crossings, and a few additional variants, each with a distinctive name – often named after animals.

If you’re either learning to drive or simply brushing up on your road knowledge, it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with these various crossings. Understanding the differences can help ensure safety for both pedestrians and drivers on the road. Let’s dive into the main types and their unique characteristics.

Zebra Crossing

Features of Zebra Crossings

The Zebra Crossing is easily identifiable by its distinctive black and white stripes on the road, resembling a zebra’s coat. These crossings are marked by their characteristic flashing yellow Belisha beacons, making them noticeable from a distance. Additionally, the approach to a Zebra Crossing is indicated by white zigzag lines on the road.

Belisha beacon means: ‘in the UK, a post with a flashing orange light on top that shows where cars must stop to allow people to walk across a road’

Source: Cambridge Dictionary

Zebra crossing

Image source: Open Government Licence v3.0

As a Driver:

  • Give Way to Pedestrians: It’s a legal requirement to yield to pedestrians who are already on the crossing.
  • Stay Alert: Always be vigilant for pedestrians approaching or waiting to cross.
  • No Parking on Zigzag Lines: Parking on the zigzag lines near a Zebra Crossing is strictly prohibited, as it obstructs visibility for both drivers and pedestrians.

As a Pedestrian:

  • Make Eye Contact: Try to make eye contact with drivers to ensure they’ve seen you before stepping onto the crossing.
  • Stay Within the Lines: Keep within the striped area of the crossing for your safety.
  • Be Cautious in Bad Weather: In wet or slippery conditions, be mindful that vehicles may need more distance to stop safely.

Adding to these points, both drivers and pedestrians must understand that Zebra Crossings do not have traffic lights. This means the responsibility for safety largely depends on mutual awareness and courtesy.

Drivers should approach these crossings at a controlled speed, anticipating the need to stop. Pedestrians, on the other hand, should not assume that vehicles can stop instantly and should wait until cars have come to a complete halt before crossing.

Pelican Crossing

Features of Pelican Crossings

Pelican Crossings are a more advanced type of pedestrian crossing, equipped with traffic lights, activation buttons, and even audio signals for the visually impaired.

The term ‘Pelican’ is an abbreviation for ‘Pedestrian Light Controlled Crossing‘. Pedestrians can activate the crossing by pressing the button, thereby controlling the flow of traffic.

Pelican Crossing

Image source: Open Government Licence v3.0

Unique to Pelican Crossings is the sequence of lights: after the red light, there’s a flashing amber light, which isn’t present in most other traffic light systems. The traditional red and green figures for pedestrians are usually situated across the road, adjacent to the lights.

As a Driver:

  • Early Light Anticipation: Be alert to upcoming traffic lights and prepare to stop if necessary.
  • Watch for Early Crossers: Be aware that pedestrians may start crossing before the green man appears.
  • Respect the Flashing Amber: If the amber light is flashing and pedestrians are still on the crossing, you must yield to them. Only proceed when the crossing is clear.
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As a Pedestrian:

  • Wait for Green: Always wait for the green signal before crossing; don’t take unnecessary risks.
  • Beware of Cars: Be aware that some drivers may try to cross even when the light is red.
  • Cross Efficiently: Don’t linger on the crossing; move across quickly and safely.

In addition to these points, both drivers and pedestrians should note that Pelican Crossings are designed to balance traffic flow with pedestrian safety. For drivers, this means being prepared to stop and wait, particularly in busy areas.

Pedestrians should use the crossings responsibly, understanding that the timing of the lights is set to ensure their safety while minimising disruption to traffic. It’s also important for pedestrians to be aware that some Pelican Crossings have a countdown timer, indicating how much time is left to safely cross the road.

Puffin Crossing

Features of Puffin Crossings

The Puffin Crossing is an evolution of the Pelican Crossing, offering enhanced features for pedestrian safety and convenience. The term ‘Puffin’ stands for ‘Pedestrian User-Friendly Intelligent Crossing‘.

These crossings are equipped not only with activation buttons but also with sensors that detect when pedestrians are on the crossing. This technology ensures that the traffic lights change at the most appropriate times.

Puffin Crossing

Image source: Open Government Licence v3.0

Unlike Pelican Crossings, the red and green man symbols at Puffin Crossings are located at the side of the crossing, making them easier to see for those waiting to cross.

As a Driver:

  • Follow Pelican Crossing Rules: The basic principles of stopping for red lights and giving way to pedestrians apply here as well.
  • Sensor-Responsive: Thanks to the intelligent sensors, traffic lights at Puffin Crossings typically won’t change until pedestrians have safely crossed. This means you might sometimes wait a bit longer at a red light, ensuring pedestrian safety.

As a Pedestrian:

  • Look for the Signals Nearby: The green and red man symbols will be located right beside you, usually above the activation button, making it easier to know when it’s safe to cross.

Adding to these points, both drivers and pedestrians should appreciate the advanced technology of Puffin Crossings. For drivers, this means being patient and understanding that the crossing is designed to optimise safety.

Pedestrians, on the other hand, can feel more secure knowing that the crossing is responsive to their presence. Pedestrians need to activate the crossing and wait for the green man signal, trusting that the system is designed to allow enough time for a safe crossing.

In essence, Puffin Crossings represent a significant step towards safer and more intelligent road crossing systems.

Toucan Crossing

Catering to Pedestrians and Cyclists

Toucan Crossings are specially designed to accommodate both pedestrians and cyclists, hence the name ‘Toucan’ (‘two-can’ cross). These crossings are generally wider than Pelican and Puffin crossings, providing ample space for both pedestrians and cyclists to cross safely.

Toucan crossing

Image source: Open Government Licence v3.0

You’ll often find Toucan Crossings near parks, cycle lanes, and other areas where pedestrian and bicycle traffic is heavy.

As a Driver

  • Stop Before the Line: It’s crucial to stop before the white line at Toucan Crossings. This gives enough space for both cyclists and pedestrians to cross. Remember, failing to stop before the stop line can lead to a failure in your driving test.
  • Watch for Cyclists: Cyclists may approach the crossing quicker than pedestrians and might try to cross at the last moment. Always be vigilant for cyclists as well as pedestrians when approaching a Toucan Crossing.
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As a Pedestrian

  • Share the Space: Be mindful of the shared nature of Toucan Crossings. Stick to one side of the crossing to ensure there’s room for cyclists to cross alongside you.

In addition to these points, both drivers and pedestrians should understand the importance of mutual respect and awareness at Toucan Crossings. Drivers should approach these crossings with caution, prepared to stop for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Pedestrians should be aware of their surroundings, especially of approaching cyclists who may be moving at a faster pace. By following these guidelines, Toucan Crossings can effectively serve its purpose of safely managing mixed traffic flows, ensuring a safer crossing experience for everyone involved.

Pegasus (or Equestrian) Crossing

Accommodating Horses, Pedestrians, and Cyclists

Pegasus Crossings, also known as Equestrian Crossings, are specially designed to facilitate safe road crossing for horses, along with pedestrians and cyclists.

Equestrian crossing

Image source: Open Government Licence v3.0

A notable feature of these crossings is the placement of the control buttons, which are positioned higher than usual to be within easy reach of horse riders.

Driving Near Pegasus Crossings

  • Be Considerate of Horses: When near Pegasus Crossings, avoid revving your engine or making sudden movements with your vehicle, as horses can easily be startled.
  • Give Space: Horses might be near or on the road, so it’s important to provide ample room for them to cross safely.

As a Pedestrian

  • Be Horse Aware: Avoid standing close behind horses and refrain from making sudden movements or loud noises that could spook them.

In addition to these guidelines, all road users need to approach Pegasus Crossings with heightened awareness and patience. Drivers should be ready to stop and wait for longer periods, as horses and their riders may take more time to cross the road compared to pedestrians and cyclists.

It’s also crucial for drivers and pedestrians to understand that horses are sensitive animals and can react unpredictably to unfamiliar or startling stimuli.

For riders using these crossings, it’s important to ensure that your horse is accustomed to the sights and sounds of traffic and trained to cross roads safely.

Riders should also be vigilant and considerate of other road users, signalling their intention to cross clearly and ensuring the safety of pedestrians and cyclists sharing the crossing.

Overall, Pegasus Crossings are a vital part of road safety in areas where horses are commonly ridden, helping to bridge the gap between rural and urban road use and ensuring safety for all road users, including those on horseback.

Other Crossings to Consider

School Patrol Crossings

During school hours, typically between 8 am and 5:30 pm, you might encounter a School Patrol Crossing, often managed by a ‘lollipop person‘. These crossings can be located at established crossings like Zebra crossings, or any popular crossing point near schools.

School Patrol Crossing

Image source: Open Government Licence v3.0

School Patrol officers have the authority to stop traffic to allow children to cross safely. As a driver, it’s crucial to comply with their signals and be extra vigilant around schools, as children may cross unexpectedly.

Refuge Islands

Refuge Islands are safe zones provided on large or busy roads, offering pedestrians a secure place to wait while crossing. These islands are particularly helpful on wide roads where it might be challenging to cross in one go.

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When crossings are split by Refuge Islands, it’s advisable to treat each half of the crossing as a separate entity, especially if the two halves are not in direct alignment.

This approach ensures greater safety, as it allows pedestrians to assess and navigate each section of the road independently.

Refuge Island

Image source: Open Government Licence v3.0

In addition to these specific types of crossings, it’s important for all road users to be aware of their surroundings and to respect the different types of crossings and the rules associated with them.

Drivers should approach all crossings with caution, reducing speed and being prepared to stop if necessary. Pedestrians should always ensure they are visible to drivers and wait for the appropriate signals before crossing.

School Patrol Crossings and Refuge Islands play a crucial role in pedestrian safety, especially in areas with high foot traffic or near schools. Understanding and respecting these crossings are essential for maintaining safety and order on the roads.

And, Finally…

Key Considerations at Crossings

The golden rule for both pedestrians and drivers when approaching any type of crossing is to always look and check both ways. People’s actions can sometimes be unpredictable, and external factors like weather, distractions, or urgency can lead to behaviour that doesn’t always align with the official rules.

Developing a mix of instinct and common sense is crucial in navigating crossings safely. This comes with experience and a good understanding of road safety practices.

For drivers, this means being prepared for sudden stops and being aware of pedestrians who may not always cross at designated points. For pedestrians, it involves making sure you’re visible to drivers and not taking unnecessary risks, like crossing against signals.

Beyond the Crossings: Understanding Junctions

Once you’re comfortable with the rules of different crossings, it’s also important to familiarise yourself with other aspects of road navigation, such as junctions. For instance, box junctions, marked by criss-crossed yellow lines, have specific rules designed to keep traffic flowing smoothly without causing gridlock.

Understanding how to navigate box junctions, including when you can enter and how to avoid causing obstruction, is a key part of driving in areas with heavy traffic. These junctions require careful judgement and a clear understanding of the flow of traffic, both oncoming and from other directions.

In conclusion, whether it’s crossing the road as a pedestrian or navigating it as a driver, the key lies in being vigilant, respectful of the rules, and considerate of others.

Combining these practices with a good grasp of the different types of crossings and junctions will go a long way in ensuring a safe and smooth experience on the roads. Remember, road safety is a shared responsibility, and every action counts towards a safer journey for everyone.