There are basically two kinds of pedestrian crossings, the zebra crossing and those controlled by lights (pelican, toucan & puffin). Although there are some needlessly confusing and differing rules between different types of crossing, all have white zigzag markings on the approach to them. You must not park within this area, or overtake a moving motor vehicle.
You’ll no doubt know what a zebra crossing looks like, but what do you need to know as a driver?
- Firstly, approach at a speed which allows you to stop comfortably should you need to
- If there are pedestrians on the nearby pavements, be aware that they may suddenly turn onto the crossing
- You should stop and allow pedestrians (and wheelchair users) to cross if they’re waiting
- You MUST give way to anyone who has moved onto the crossing
- Where there is a zebra crossing with a central reservation, treat this as two separate crossings – you only need to stop for people on your side of the road
Be particularly careful when it’s busy, and traffic is queuing over a crossing. People can sometimes be hidden and may step out from between the cars.
Pelican crossings are controlled by lights and you should approach them in the same way you would for normal traffic lights. There are a couple of differences here though; the lights will normally only change after someone has pressed the button, and there is no red & amber phase.
Instead of the red & amber there’s a flashing amber light; this means that you must give way to anyone who is still on the crossing, but otherwise you may drive on.
If you see a pelican crossing and there are people waiting, then you can be sure that someone has pushed the button and the lights could be about to change; so check mirrors and ease off the gas.
A word of warning here; don’t presume that the lights will stay on green just because there’s no-one there. They may already have pressed the button and crossed before you arrived!
Unlike zebra crossings, if a pelican is in two straight parts with a central reservation, you must treat this as one crossing and wait for anyone coming from the other side on flashing amber.
These are similar to the pelican crossing but they’re also shared by cyclists. You’ll find them where cycle tracks cross the road. There is no flashing amber phase however; the light sequence here will be the same as normal traffic lights with red & amber showing together.
I have no idea why the toucan crossing lacks the flashing amber light, or why the rule for a straight zebra crossing differs from the rule of a straight pelican. It would be simpler and safer if rules were standardised. I’m certain that many of the people who make the rules of our roads have never been drivers themselves!
These ‘pedestrian user friendly’ crossings again work like normal traffic light signals. The only difference is that sensors will hold the lights on red until pedestrians have safely reached the other side.