Basic Skills

All you need to know about pedestrian crossings

6 min read • Oct 25, 2018
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There are six different types of pedestrian crossings that you might encounter when you’re out-and-about on your driving lessons. Knowing how to correctly react to each type can be the difference between passing and failing your driving test, so make sure that you’re comfortable with each kind of pedestrian crossing.

Types of pedestrian crossings

School crossing

As the name suggests, school crossings are found in the areas surrounding schools. They sometimes have amber flashing lights to warn motorists that children may be in the road and they are manned by crossing patrol officers (commonly known as lollipop ladies/men). It is against the Highway Code to fail to stop when signalled by a lollipop person. Not stopping can land you with three penalty points, a £1000 fine or perhaps even disqualification from driving.

When you see school crossing signs, drive carefully and slowly, paying extra attention for children emerging into the road from between parked cars or from other obscured areas. Always stop when instructed to by a lollipop person and don’t proceed until all children are out of the road. The lollipop person will instruct you that you’re clear to go.

Zebra crossing

Zebra crossings are identified by the black and white stripes forming a path across the road, a set of black and white striped poles topped with flashing amber beacons and zig zag road markings on the approach. You will also notice that these pedestrian crossings have no traffic lights.

When approaching a zebra crossing, slow down and look out for people who are waiting to cross. Don’t forget to make sure that you stop before the white dotted line; stopping after the line in a driving test could result in a fail. It’s also advisable to keep an eye on your mirrors to make sure that the traffic behind you has also noticed the crossing and is slowing down appropriately.

If anyone has stepped onto the zebra crossing, you’re obliged to let them cross. Do not proceed over the crossing until all the pedestrians are off the road and you’re sure that nobody else intends to cross.

Pelican crossing

Pelican crossings feature a pair of traffic lights controlled by a pedestrian-controlled push button. When it is safe for pedestrians to cross, a symbol of a green man walking will be illuminated. When it is not safe, a symbol of a red stationary man will be illuminated. You will notice zig zag road markings when approaching a pelican crossing and many crossings have metal railings nearby to prevent pedestrians from crossing at the wrong place.

When approaching a pelican crossing, take care to look out for pedestrians waiting to cross and don’t forget to keep an eye on the traffic lights. If the lights turn red, follow the usual rules for traffic lights and be aware that people could dash out at the last minute. Always make sure the crossing is clear before moving off.

Puffin crossing

The puffin crossing is essentially a more sophisticated version of a pelican crossing, which they are steadily replacing. Just like the pelican crossing, the puffin crossing features zig zag markings on the approach, a pair of traffic lights and a control panel allowing pedestrians to activate the lights.

The main differences between pelican and puffin crossings are:

  • The red and green man symbols are located on the control panel rather than the traffic lights.
  • The puffin crossing controls the traffic lights with sensors which detect pedestrians crossing. The pelican crossing relies on a simple timer.
  • The puffin crossing detects if a pedestrian moves away from the crossing or crosses prematurely, it then cancels the request to cross, preventing unnecessary delays to traffic.

The difference between puffin and pelican crossings may come up on your theory test. In your practical test, you should treat them the same.

Toucan crossing

The toucan crossing was named because ‘two can’ cross, meaning both pedestrians and cyclists can use the crossing. The toucan crossing is almost twice as wide as the puffin and pelican crossings, so it should be easy to spot. Like the puffin crossing, the toucan crossing has zig zag markings on the approach, a set of traffic lights and a control panel. The panel on shows green and red bicycle symbols in addition to the iconic red and green man symbols.

Follow the usual rules for pedestrian crossings when using a toucan crossing, but pay extra attention for cyclists in your mirrors. Also keep an eye out for a steady amber light: it means that you have to slow down and prepare to stop on the line.

Pegasus crossing

This magical-sounding crossing is very similar to a puffin crossing, but with an extra control panel positioned high enough for horse riders to be able to reach it. They are also extra-wide, making them easy to spot. You’re most likely to see pegasus crossings in areas where horses are trained and near racecourses.

Follow the general roles for crossings when approaching pegasus crossings and be sure to drive considerately around any horses you may encounter before/after the crossing.

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