Pedestrian Crossings

Do you know how many different types of pedestrian crossing there are? I imagine. You can probably name a few – Zebra and Pelican I guess – and maybe Puffin and Toucan? But do you know about Pegasus and Tiger crossings?

This blog post is designed to help you distinguish between them and also to know a bit more about how they operate.

Let’s start with the oldest of them all:

Zebra Crossings


pedestrian crossing

These are identified easily by the black and white stripes across the road and the Belisha beacons on the pavement.

These days ALL pedestrian crossings have the zig-zag markings either side – but do you know what TWO things you are not supposed to do within these markings?

You cannot:

  1. Park on the markings
  2. Overtake the LEAD car

If someone is waiting to cross do you have to stop? No! But I think if I was a pedestrian I would be a bit miffed if a driver didn’t (and I know some don’t) – so we always teach our learners to be scanning the pavements on either side looking for someone likely to approach the crossing so we are ready to stop if it’s safe to do so. However, if a pedestrian has stepped on to the crossing then a driver must stop.

And did you know that you should wait until a pedestrian has completely cleared the crossing before moving off?

Pelican Crosssings

pedestrian crossing

Pelican is meant to stand for ‘PEdestrian LIght CONtrolled crossing – so maybe it ought to be called a Pelicon Crossing?

These were the first of the more ‘intelligent’ crossings to be introduced (back in 1969!). As with all of the more modern crossings, these are controlled by traffic lights. The sequence of lights however is slightly different to the usual traffic light sequence. After the red light and before green the amber light flashes on its own. This means a driver may proceed if the crossing is clear.

There are few pelican crossings left – certainly all the pelican crossings in Exeter have now been replaced by more modern crossings – mostly either Puffin or Toucan crossings.

A couple of drawbacks of these crossings is that the time to cross is fixed – so anyone who cannot walk very fast might find impatient drivers wanting to get going before they have crossed the road. Also once someone presses the button to cross the lights will change to red regardless of whether that person is still waiting or not.

Puffin Crossing


pedestrian crossing

As with pelican crossings the word puffin is a form of ‘Pedestrian User Friendly Intelligent’ crossing – with one F missing! These work in the same way as Toucan crossings – both are traffic light controlled with the usual sequence of traffic lights as seen at junctions, etc. They are more sophisticated than pelican crossings as they have sensors that pick up a pedestrian waiting at the side of the road and also as they cross. Until the pedestrian is out of range of the sensor the lights will not change from red then to amber and back to green.


pedestrian crossing

Also, there is a buzzer on the underneath of the box where the button is for blind people to know when the lights have gone red.

Toucan Crossings

pedestrian crossing

This is an amalgamation of ‘TWO CAN’ cross – pedestrians and cyclists, hence ‘Toucan’. This means cyclists do not have to dismount and can cycle across – however, when do you ever see a cyclist dismount and walk across any crossing?!


Tiger Crossings

pedestrian crossing

These are a relatively new type of crossing and are designed for where a cycle path or track crosses a road. They are a combination of a zebra and cycle path. Early versions had yellow stripes across the road (hence the tiger) but now they are more conventional black and white stripes. As with toucan crossings they are designed for cyclist to be able to ride across but now with a separate space from pedestrians.

Pegasus Crossings

pedestrian crossing

These are named after the horse from Greek mythology. Similar to a toucan crossing, they allow horses and riders to cross alongside pedestrians. They operate in the same way as puffin and toucan crossings but also have an extra box with button higher up to allow a horse rider to reach it. There are no pegasus crossings anywhere near our area!

So, hopefully, that has given you a bit more information about all the types of pedestrian crossings in the UK! Your driving instructor will cover all of these during your driving lessons. You will find more guidance contained within the Highway Code.

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