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Do you know your Pelicans from your Zebras?

As a pedestrian and a driver, it is vital to know your road crossings.

These exist in a variety of different formats and knowing the differences is an essential part of your road knowledge. It will also come in handy to know the differences if you are a new driver as it will be important for your driving test as well.  And from a pedestrian point of view, well it’s just nice if drivers know the difference and let you cross the road when you should be able to.

More than 2 types of road crossings

Pelicans and Zebras are just two of the different types of road crossing you might encounter - for the interested parties, the other ones which are also named for animals are Puffins, Toucan and Pegasus (or Equestrian). But for the moment let us just concentrate on Pelicans and Zebras!

Pelican Crossings

Image of a Pelican Crossing

Pelican crossings were the first complete pedestrian light controlled crossing in the UK, and have been around since 1969. They replaced the previously experimental panda crossing, which failed as an idea. They are named not for the bird but rather but from the name PELICON which is taken from PEdestrian LIght CONtrolled Crossing.

A Pelican crossing is one with a pair of poles each one with a standard set of traffic lights that face the oncoming traffic. There is a push button and 2 illuminated pictures which face towards the pedestrian on the other side of the road. 1 picture is a red stationary person, indicating it is unsafe to cross, the other is a green walking figure which indicates it is safe to go. Pelican crossings feature non-visual indications such as a beep, vibrating button or tactile rotating cone to assist visually impaired pedestrians.

Zebra Crossings

The Zebra crossing has been in existence since 1949, and is used in many countries all over the world. With broad white stripes painted on the road to denote the crossing it is easy to see how they got their name. The crossing is marked with Belisha Beacons, flashing amber globes on black and white poles, there is no button to stop the traffic, typically a zebra crossing gives right of way to pedestrians.  Pictured is the famous Zebra crossing on Abbey Road which featured on the Beatles album cover, and which many people re-enact on a daily basis, much to the annoyance of drivers!

Famous Abbey Road Zebra Crossing

Drivers who fail to give way to pedestrians at Zebra crossings can incur a £100 fine and 3 penalty points on their licence, or if the zebra crossing is manned by a school crossing patrol (Lollypop person) the penalty can be £1000 and a minimum of 3 licence points.

What is the difference between the two road crossings?

So, whilst they are both crossings, they are also both very different. One, the Pelican crossing, relies on the pedestrian stopping the flow of traffic by pushing a button and waiting for the appropriate signal. The Zebra crossing on the other hand relies on drivers stopping and giving way to pedestrians with no prompting from traffic lights. Both serve a very useful purpose in controlling the flow of both pedestrians and vehicles.

Now you know more about the different crossings, you’re more likely to remember how they help when you next come across them.