Pedestrian crossings


Roughly 20% of all road accidents involving pedestrians happen on or near pedestrian crossings. It is every driver's nightmare to knock down a pedestrian. These crossings by there very nature are dangerous places, usually situated in densely populated areas.

For safety and to help pedestrians move about the streets easily, different kinds of crossings can be installed usually near junctions or busy crossing points and in locations with a specific history of pedestrian accidents. These crossings provide a safe route from A to B. Drivers need to take extra care when approaching pedestrian crossing as they are often used by the most vulnerable in society.

Watch out for Vulnerable Pedestrians

  • Children, the elderly and the disabled.
  • Children tend to have their minds elsewhere. Their natural excitement and enthusiasm can overtake their ability to judge how distant or how fast a vehicle is travelling. Pay particular attention when driving past school buildings.
  • Elderly and Disabled pedestrians may also have difficulty in assessing the speed or distance of oncoming traffic. They tend to move more slowly with the visually or hearing impaired pedestrians facing greater difficulties while using these crossings.
  • Some pelican crossings have a beeper to let the partially sighted and blind pedestrians know when it is safe to cross the road.

Pedestrians often don't realise that while they may be able to stop dead in their tracks, a car needs time to come to a halt and even a split-second can make the difference between life-and-death.  The unpredictable nature of the pedestrian adds to the danger when drivers approach crossings. It is important that a driver adheres to the local speed limit and further slows down when approaching these crossings.

School Crossings (Lollypop Crossing)

School crossing patrols are not just for children.   Patrol officers may help anyone who seeks their help in crossing the road. When you see a School Crossing Patrol Officer step into the road ahead of you displaying this sign you must stop to allow people to cross the road. (Rule 87 of the Highway Code).   It is an offence under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 if you do not stop when signalled to do so by a school crossing patrol.

If you do not stop, the penalties include:

  • a fine of up to a £1000
  • three penalty points
  • disqualification

You should always stop a safe distance away from the crossing patrol. After people have crossed the road, you must not move off until the patrol officer has returned to the pavement and signalled you to do so.

You should take special care when driving near schools, even if there is no crossing patrol in operation. Rule 184 of the Highway Code says: NEAR SCHOOLS. Drive slowly and be particularly aware of young cyclists and pedestrians. In some places, there may be a flashing amber signal below the 'School' warning sign which tells you there may be children crossing the road ahead. Drive slowly until you are clear of the area.

If there is a lollipop person overseeing children crossing the road, be sure to leave plenty of space when parking. Slow down and be aware of having to stop if necessary, particularly in poor weather.

Zebra crossing

The Zebra crossing is the oldest established form of controlled pedestrian crossing. It has distinctive black-and-white road stripes and flashing orange globe beacons mounted on a black-and-white striped pole. Because this crossing relies on drivers stopping when they see a pedestrian waiting to cross, its usefulness has declined in busy areas, or where visibility is poor.  Although the pedestrian has the right of way once their foot is on the crossing, they should check that all traffic has stopped before crossing and should continue to look and listen as they cross.

Zigzag markings are laid on both the approaches and the exits to the crossing. The zigzag lines ban waiting or parking and prohibit vehicles from overtaking one another.

The Pelican Crossing

Pelican crossings have the usual traffic light sequence of red, amber and green. The lights are controlled by the pedestrian pressing the button on the WAIT box. Some push-button units are also fitted with a tactile knob under the unit which rotates when the green man is illuminated.

Traffic lights stop the traffic and Pedestrians should only cross when the green man lights up and all the traffic has stopped. Sometimes there is a bleeper to help blind or partially sighted people know when it is safe to cross. Pedestrians at Pelican crossings only have priority to cross while their signal is on steady green but do have 'right of precedence' to complete their crossing during the flashing green (flashing amber to vehicles) stage. Pedestrians should not start to cross if the green man is flashing. A red man signal shows when not to cross.

Zigzag markings are laid on both the approaches and the exits to the crossing. The zigzag lines ban waiting or parking and prohibit vehicles from overtaking one another.

The Toucan Crossing

The Toucan (two can cross) crossing is designed to be a shared crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. Usually situated at sites where cycle routes cross busy roads. They are similar to a Puffin with the crossing operated by a push-button on the WAIT box. Toucans also have sensors to detect pedestrians using the crossing.

On a Toucan there is a green and red cycle signal as well as the more familiar red and green man. The main advantage for cyclists is that they do not have to dismount to cross. Pedestrians and cyclists should only cross when the green man/green cycle is illuminated and all the traffic has stopped. There may also be a bleeping sound to help the visually impaired.

Zigzag markings are laid on both the approaches and the exits to the crossing. The zigzag lines ban waiting or parking and prohibit vehicles from overtaking one another.

The Puffin Crossing

The Puffin Crossing (Pedestrian User-Friendly Intelligent Crossing) is a development of the Pelican crossing and is planned to replace the Pelican type as the standard stand-alone pedestrian crossing. One of the main differences is the red and green man signals are just above the WAIT box and not on the other side of the road. Puffins do not have a flashing green man for pedestrians.

It has automatic detection of pedestrians to extend or reduce the all-red period as needed to suit the crossing speed of the pedestrian. As well as on-crossing detectors, kerbside detectors can cancel a pedestrian demand if the pedestrian walks away from the crossing point, perhaps having crossed the road in a gap in traffic. They have the usual red and green traffic lights, but no amber. You should stop at the crossing if the lights are red, and wait for them to turn green before driving off.

Zigzag markings are laid on both the approaches and the exits to the crossing. The zigzag lines ban waiting or parking and prohibit vehicles from overtaking one another.

The Pegasus Crossing

The Pegasus is like a Toucan crossing but for Horses and Pedestrians. It is a light-controlled system where a bridleway crosses a main road. The push-button control is 2m from the ground and the little green man light is replaced by a little green horse and rider! The push-button control is set back from the road so horses are further away from cars than normal. If the crossing is to be used by pedestrians and cyclists too, then a parallel toucan crossing is placed next to the Pegasus crossing.

Pedestrian refuges (traffic Islands)

Situated in locations where a pedestrian crossing cannot be justified, a pedestrian refuge may be placed. These narrow the road and allow pedestrians to cross in two halves with a safe place to wait in the middle. Pedestrians should cross with care as drivers have priority at traffic islands.

Pedestrian crossings - Tips and Advice - Article No 49 RoadDriver 2010

Pedestrian crossings Pedestrian crossings Pedestrian crossings

For more information and a printable version to pass on to friends and family, click the link below.

Download PDF (128.17 Kb)