The problem with (British) zebra crossings

Zebra crossings are, in principle, the ideal way for pedestrians to cross the road. They give pedestrians priority, and mean they can cross without delay.

But there are a number of regulatory difficulties which make them rather less than ideal. The first is the absurd requirement that every single zebra crossing has to have two Belisha beacons at either end of it, to make it ‘visible’ to drivers. Trying to implement Dutch-style infrastructure under UK rules would result in a complete forest of these beacons – amply demonstrated by the TRL trial of a Dutch roundabout.

Spot the zebra crossing

Spot the zebra crossing

European countries are quite capable of implementing zebras without these ugly poles. In France –

DSCN9736In Switzerland –

DSCN9989

And of course in the Netherlands –

DSCN9180Simple crossings that consist of nothing more than paint.

These continental zebras also do not have the ‘zig-zag’ markings on either side of the crossing, that are compulsory in the UK. This ‘extra’ marking not only uglifies the street, like the Belisha beacon – it also presents practical difficulties.

The minimum requirement is just two zig-zags – a ‘zig’ and a ‘zag’. Even this means that zebra crossings will inevitably be displaced from desire lines. Unlike in the French and Swiss examples, above, where the crossing goes from corner to corner, UK zebras have to be set back from junction mouths. Nor, on main roads, can they be placed by junctions with side roads, meaning extra delay and inconvenience for pedestrians.

About the best we can do - two 'zig-zags' back

About the best we can do – two ‘zig-zags’ back from the junction

And, from a cycling perspective, this ‘zig-zag’ rule is also inconvenient. It means that  crossings for cycling cannot be placed directly adjacent to zebra crossings, either across main roads, or across side roads.

blah

Main road crossing, with zebra

blah

Side road crossing, with zebra

Under the current rules, placing cycle tracks and zebras around the perimeter of a roundabout means that the zebra crossing is significantly displaced from the natural desire lines, as shown in this mock-up for the Cycling Embassy of a legal perimeter track.

So these rules about zebras really need to be simplified, so we can have straightforward crossings without all the paraphernalia of beacons and markings.

The other serious problem with zebras involves the rules governing their use. Here’s the relevant passage from the Highway Code, with what I consider to be an unhelpful rule underlined.

Relevant excerpt from the Highway Code

Highway Code Rule 193

That is, drivers have to give way only after the pedestrian has moved onto the crossing, not before – not, for instance, when the pedestrian is waiting to cross.

What does this mean in practice? To give an example from just yesterday, I watched an elderly lady waiting to cross a road, standing on the pavement at a zebra. Because she didn’t step out onto the crossing, no driver stopped. About five cars passed, despite her clearly waiting to cross, as I approached.

As someone who cycles in traffic on a day-to-day basis, naturally I had no qualms about striding out straight onto the crossing the lady was waiting at (it helps if you have a bicycle with you, to wheel out in front of you), commanding, or rather daring, the oncoming drivers to stop, which they did – just about. She didn’t follow me, however.

But this is the problem with Rule 193. Because priority only arrives after you step onto the crossing, Rule 193 expects people waiting to cross the road on a zebra to effectively play chicken with approaching motor vehicles. This is not something people are willing to do. Given the choice between just waiting for a gap in traffic to materialise, and stepping out in front of a driver and hoping they will stop, I suspect most will simply wait for a gap, as the elderly lady did yesterday. Indeed, this (quite rational) preference is reinforced by official advice.

‘Never assume traffic will stop’ (or rather ‘never assume drivers will stop’) means zebras only effectively become useful when there are gaps in traffic. People simply don’t want to chance it. They wait on the pavement – and that means no driver has to yield for them.

Rule 19 in the Highway Code effectively encapsulates this gaping hole in the rules.

Wait until all traffic has stopped before you step onto the crossing, But traffic doesn't have stop until you step on the crossing. Right...

The gloriously contradictory Rule 19

Wait until all traffic has stopped before you step onto the crossing. But traffic doesn’t have stop until you step on the crossing. Right… that makes sense.

It’s not surprising therefore that, as I understand it, pelican or toucan crossings are preferred by the general public, because while delay is  involved, the signals give a degree of certainty that drivers will stop – albeit a certainty that is often misplaced.

So, in essence,  Britain’s traffic rules have managed to seriously wound a sensible and straightforward way of crossing the road. I suppose we should pat ourselves on the back.

This entry was posted in Infrastructure, Walking, Zebra crossings. Bookmark the permalink.

101 Responses to The problem with (British) zebra crossings

  1. bz2 says:

    For the record, the Dutch rule says something like ‘Vehicle operators must yield to pedestrians […] who are crossing at a designated pedestrian crossing, or are apparently about to do so.’
    The German StVO says much the same thing, as does the Belgian Wegcode/Code de la Rue.

    • Sarah says:

      What I particularly like about being a pedestrian in Germany is the way motorists turning into or out of side roads yield to pedestrians proceeding in the direction of the main road, in law and largely also in practice. Giving straight-on pedestrians priority as a default cuts out the need for a lot of zebras and signal-controlled crossings. Where signal-controlled pedestrian crossings ARE installed where side roads join main roads, their purpose is not actually to facilitate pedestrians crossing at all, but to remove priority from pedestrians (the red-man phase) in order to create gaps in the stream of crossing pedestrians through which motorists can advance.

      Cyclists benefit because motorists have to hesitate before making turns for long enough to determine whether pedestrians at street corners are about to cross the road or merely loitering, having a chat with their neighbours or otherwise contributing to the life of the street.

      • pm says:

        Interesting, in that does sound like a difference in culture more than law. Aren’t drivers _supposed_ to do that here in the UK? Only the difference is, they don’t, and as a pedestrian I’m very aware of the fact they don’t.

        Mind you, yesterday I had a red-light-jumping driver sternly wag his finger at me for my presumptiousness as I was attempting to cross at a light-controlled crossing during the green-man phase. Apparently drivers think they have priority even when jumping the red. I suspect like many such drivers he wasn’t even aware he was doing it, as such “the lights have only just changed” RLJing has become second-nature to him as it has to so many, and he genuinely believed it was the naughty pedestrian who was in the wrong.

    • Paul M says:

      I’m not sure what the rules say in France, Spain or Italy but whatever they say, the sad fact is that motorists are even less likely to yield to pedestrians there than they are in the UK. Unless you step out into the road and make eye-contact with the driver you are likely to be ignored. They will happily drive past without slowing down, but they will NOT risk running you down because, of course, all those countries have a form of strict liability for claims by vulnerable road users against drivers, and some have a rather less indulgent view on the criminality of hurting pedestrians.

      • Angus H says:

        Most certainly true of France. More Zebras than here, but not respected in the slightest.

        Push button crossings are slower than Zebras, but drivers tend to respect them as they can be camera enforced. Zebras presently cannot – though given that camera & image-recognition tech is now good enough to drive a car(!!) it should be perfectly capable of enforcing fines on a zebra crossing.

  2. The gloriously contradictory Rule 19…. The Highway Code, not for for purpose?

    Well, giving pedestrians contradictory advice is just as effective as instituting pedestrian crossing rules that make it impossible to follow desire-lines, *if* your purpose is to suppress walking as a method of transport.

    Given the work that’s gone into painting ‘cycle-paths’ that DfT cycletraining tells you to treat as likely to kill or obstruct you, the weird idea that this same process of suppressing things by ‘providing’ for them included an effort to suppress *walking* should perhaps be taken seriously. Remember the Pedway?

  3. platinum says:

    I remember as a child going on holiday to the continent and being amazed that there were zebra crossings simply everywhere, in line with the pavement you’re walking along, and cars always gave way. Making it easy and pleasant to walk around without having to wait for lights. Then you come home and you’re back to walking along race tracks on your way to school… all the time knowing there are better ways of doing things. If I could figure it out when I was 10 years old, why can’t paid professionals see it too!

  4. paulc says:

    the problem with British laws are that they are drawn up by lawyers who never believe in removing or changing a law that is no longer applicable. Everything new is bolted on to the existing regulations as new law which leaves the old stuff in place.

    Belisha beacons actually came first before the Zebra markings as beforehand, pedestrian crossings were simply marked by metal studs across the road. Yes, they were hard to see and the beacons were an improvement, but obviously the manufactures didn’t want to see their cash cow go when the black and white markings were introduced later. Plus it’s incredibly difficult to get laws abolished or reworded in Britain…

    The zig-zags came much later to demark the extent of the Zebra crossing in law for the no parking rules… and they are difficult to get removed as by law they have to be on both sides of the crossing… a right royal pain…

    PS. Apparently our parliament is about to give MPs even more time off as there aren’t enough acts currently passing through Parliament at the moment. Which makes it all the more difficult to understand how on earth it can be so difficult to get an act into Parliament for debate when they keep claiming that Parliamentary time is limited!!!

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  6. In Kent requests for zebras are very common, particularly outside schools, but are almost always turned down because of ‘lack of a serious crash record’ (i.e. no kids run over yet) but also on cost grounds. Compared to London they are few and far between. Removing the beacons and associated electrical work would certainly lower the costs. But the yellow globes are visible to motorists when paint in the roads is not i.e. when there’s snow. It is certainly time the DfT reviewed zebras because I think the current rules are at least 20 years old.

    • T.Foxglove says:

      “the yellow globes are visible to motorists when paint in the roads is not i.e. when there’s snow.”

      Excellent point.

      • Tim says:

        “Excellent point.”
        Is it really that big a deal though? On the rare occasions when snow is covering the full width of the road I would hope that drivers wouldn’t be hammering around at 30mph anyway. Perhaps I’m naive.

        We don’t seem to have to provide raised lit markers for other road markings (with the exception of the arrow bollards on islands in junctions). It seems more likely the reasons for belishas are historical as suggested elsewhere, and I’d prefer to see the distinction made with a raised table, which would provide added incentive for drivers to slow down or stop.

      • A Finn says:

        Greetings from a Finn living in the North-East. Don’t you take snow for an excuse to have the beacons indicating a zebra crossing! In countries (unlike the UK) with heavy, regular snow fall during the winter, the roads are ploughed clean of it. Besides, the traffic signs still tell the motorist there is a zebra crossing ahead.
        It is impossible to walk my children to school if I only had to use Zeebra crossings. This means, every morning in the busiest traffic, I have to jump in front of cars to make my 9 and 10 year olds room to cross the road. One of these days they will loose a mum. You should allow the painting only crossings. I admire the British motorist for always stopping at the Beacons, but then again you have so few of them, it is not a problem of any kind!

        In general the British have very polite manners in the traffic, which I give you a big credit.
        Thank you for your lightening blog post!

    • The continent has signs that make it very clear where there is an unsignalized pedestrian crossing where pedestrians have priority. They are what are used instead of belisha beacons. Of course those beacons can be used if they are really needed, but most locations do not need this. http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_faEyN3bqJL8/TPD6dJgc37I/AAAAAAAAAyI/ZTXKcmHtHV8/s200/ZebraCrossing.png is the European sign for zebra crossings.

  7. T.Foxglove says:

    I agree Belisha Beacons are messy but they were introduced as cars weren’t spotting the ‘zebra crossing’ markings on the road, weren’t stopping for pedestrians and causing accidents. Zig-zags were introduced to stop cars parking next to the crossing and reducing the visibility of small people/children on the crossing. The road to hell is paved with good intentions after all.

    “drivers have to give way only after the pedestrian has moved onto the crossing” & “Never assume traffic will stop”

    I was taught as a child to put one foot on the crossing, wait for the cars coming from the right to stop and then begin crossing; at the middle, ensure the cars coming from the left have stopped and then carry on.

    I think it would be pretty unworkable requiring vehicles to stop if a pedestrian was in the vicinity of a crossing on the off-chance they may want to cross.

    Having said that, bz2 says: “For the record, the Dutch rule says something like…”, I’d be interested in how the dutch legislation for crossings works with regards to bikes. My experience was that cars did anticipate the bike entering the crossing and slowed accordingly, meaning I didn’t have to. With the faster speed of bikes a similar rule to the UK (ie place your wheel on the crossing, wait for traffic to stop & then carry on) would be unworkable.

    • Re: the Zig zags – it’s because the law seems to be backwards here – the zig zags are preventing other road features from being next to the crossing, but the other feature would prevent parking anway, which is what the zig zags were intended to do! The law relating to zig zags could presumably be amended to take this into account – i.e. required only if nothing there already to prevent parking.

    • “I was taught as a child to put one foot on the crossing, wait for the cars coming from the right to stop and then begin crossing; at the middle, ensure the cars coming from the left have stopped and then carry on.”

      I was taught as a learner driver to slow down if there was a pedestrian in the vicinity of the crossing, and be prepared to stop.

      “I think it would be pretty unworkable requiring vehicles to stop if a pedestrian was in the vicinity of a crossing on the off-chance they may want to cross.”

      Completely disagree. By their nature zebras are normally installed on single carriageway in urban environments, where drivers should be alert to pedestrians and travelling slowly anyway. It’s even more workable with increasingly widespread use of 20mph zones.

      • Simon Still says:

        “I was taught as a learner driver to slow down if there was a pedestrian in the vicinity of the crossing, and be prepared to stop.”

        Yes – treat as amber light.

        • No the requirement on an amber light is that a vehicle MUST stop unless it has already passed the stop line or it would be unsafe to stop. A vehicle that speeds up, the old style amber gamblers, to pass an amber is committing an offence, doubly so if in doing so that the light turns to red and the car still continues through.

    • Tim says:

      “I think it would be pretty unworkable requiring vehicles to stop if a pedestrian was in the vicinity of a crossing on the off-chance they may want to cross.”

      Really?! As a driver that’s what I do, and it’s always worked for me. At the very least I slow down until intentions are clear. Surely that’s the only way it can work?

      Admittedly I now feel slightly sheepish about my ignorance of the exact highway code wording, but in my defence that’s because the wording is – as this blog post explains – stark raving catch-22 madness. The old lady has to wait for the cars to stop, but the cars don’t have to stop. Bad luck old lady…

    • T.Foxglove says:

      Sure I observe the person near the crossing & am prepared to stop but I don’t stop unless they go to use the crossing.

      What was being suggested was cars had to stop on the off chance the pedestrian wanted to use the crossing, completely different & unworkable.

      • Tim says:

        So you’re quite happy that it’s up to the old lady to step out in front of you and make the first move? You don’t see any reason that maybe it should be up to the person responsible for the big powerful metal box to have the greater responsibility for double-checking? That’s nice.

        If someone looks like they might be trying to cross, then I will stop and see if they move, because to me to do anything else would be acting like a dick and throwing my weight around. Even if the law does disagree.

        • T.Foxglove says:

          “So you’re quite happy that it’s up to the old lady to step out in front of you and make the first move?”

          To an extent, as said above I was taught that to ‘activate’ the crossing you put a foot on it & waited for cars to stop and then began to cross. Which is completely different to “stepping out in front of traffic”.

          “If someone looks like they might be trying to cross then I will stop and see if they move”

          What do you mean? If someone assumes the classic position of trying to cross the road, ie stood at the kerb looking at oncoming traffic I’ll also stop. But if I see people walking in the vicinity of the crossing or stood chatting, while I’m prepared to stop if they begin to cross, there is no way I’d stop on the off chance that they will.

          • Tim says:

            “If someone assumes the classic position of trying to cross the road, ie stood at the kerb looking at oncoming traffic I’ll also stop.”

            Yes, that’s all I mean. I just don’t like the idea that the small fragile person has to step out in front of lorries and buses (for example) to indicate they wish to cross and the lorries need to stop (even if the lorry drivers have slowed a bit to allow for that eventuality).

            Like presumed liability, the onus should be on the user with the greatest potential for harm, in order to offset that potential (to some degree). As a driver I would far rather stop just in case and then discover I didn’t need to.

    • Brandur says:

      In the UK a bicycle is a vehicle and is not allowed to ridden across a zebra pedestrian crossing.

  8. bicycledutch says:

    In the Netherlands the law goes a bit further indeed: “Drivers must give way at all times to pedestrians and drivers of invalid carriages who are crossing, or obviously waiting to cross at a pedestrian crossing.” (Road Traffic Act 1994 (WVW 1994) Section 2.19 Pedestrians Article 49.2). When you learn how to drive you are taught that you have to give way to any pedestrian who obviously has the intention to cross and if the pedestrian is just walking towards it, that would already be enough to know about that intention. But in reality it is not so rosy: I would not expect drivers to stop even in the Netherlands!

    • Har Davids says:

      Bicycledutch, only this morning I walked through downtown Rotterdam at around 8 o’clock and on several occasions motorists yielded while I was still a distance away from the curb. And it’s not just early in the morning I’ve had this experience. What I usually do when approacing the curb is extending my arm a bit and it works most of the time; it’s a trick I picked up when visiting Canada. It seemed to be a sort of official signal for pedestrians about to cross the road; there were even signs for it on the side-walk.

  9. Jitensha Oni says:

    I completely agree with the message that regulatory difficulties are preventing progress to an unnecessary degree, and that Rule 19 is an abomination. A couple of “buts” on the details though (mostly with regard to the combination with cycle paths):

    While multiple belishas may appear absurd, you may end up with a similar number of traffic lights in some circumstances (e.g. toucan crossings). Anyway a forest of poles is maybe the least of one’s concerns – I wouldn’t mind cycling in the forest if the infra was like this:
    http://goo.gl/maps/jVTXL

    While cycle crossings can’t be paired with zebras as the rules stand, they can be paired with other types, and in those cases you don’t appear to need the zig-zags at all. The key seems to be to just ditch the white paint. For example:
    http://goo.gl/maps/dPHnG
    http://goo.gl/maps/oDMTp

    “Nor, on main roads, can they be placed by junctions with side roads, meaning extra delay and inconvenience for pedestrians.” I may be misunderstanding this, but what about :
    http://goo.gl/maps/WIhqH

    From what paulc says, the simplest answer might be to define a new type of crossing in law based on a rule which says if you pair a cycle path and zebra crossing the zig-zags should be outside both (though to echo Michael J I’m not sure why other ornamentation such as double yellow lines is not sufficient). I suggest calling it a “winged pig” crossing.

    • Matthew.W says:

      “I’m not sure why other ornamentation such as double yellow lines is not sufficient”
      Because on double yellows, “Loading” is allowed and “blue badge” holders can park for three hours.

    • Tim says:

      Matthew W beat me to it. In Manchester drivers are given 5 minutes to move their car from a double yellow, even if the driver has left the car and the double yellow is on a mandatory cycle lane (during its stated period of operation).

      Perhaps that’s why the test roundabout shown has double reds, which are stricter but only exist in the capital and the West Midlands. In most places motor vehicles can stop where they like with impunity.

      • T.Foxglove says:

        Zig zags are awesome, we should have them everywhere.

        Pause on zig zags for seven seconds to let a child out of your vehicle, while the crossing is being used & you get fined:

        Park on double yellows for half a day with a rear door open as you are ‘unloading’ and it is fine:

  10. Patrick O'Riordan says:

    Pelican and toucan crossings effectively mean the pedestrian or cyclist is asking permission to cross the road while at least with zebra crossing the option is there to assert your right (if you are brave enough…)

    I also have the suspicion that timings on pelican and toucan crossings are set so not to disrupt the flow of traffic (meaning cars) too much while the pedestrian needs to wait.

  11. We’ve been told (in Cambridge) that the change to allow the bike crossing to be adjacent to the Zebra should be in law sometime early next year. I think from what I’ve seen though that the zig-zags will still be required- “outside” the combined crossing. Baby steps, not the revolution we so sorely need.
    Can’t help but feel that tighter European standards on road markings, signals and signs would be a good idea, as long as the UK did not take a lead and was forced to comply!

    • Andy R says:

      It’s supposed to be in the new TSRGD…but cannot be used before then (you can future-proof zebras)..’early’ next year may be optimistic.

  12. Although remember the driver has a MUST, backed up by statute, where as the advice to pedestrians is advisory.

  13. Does anyone have any recollection or record of Bill Boakes, recurrent Parliamentary candidate and road safety campaigner in the 1960s? His main modus operandi, apart from losing his deposit, was to get a very old perambulator, fill it with rubble, and wait by a local zebra crossing at the side of Wimbledon Common. When he saw a car coming, in his opinion, too fast (which usually didn’t take long), he’d push the pram out while staying just out of danger himself. Results included quite a lot of local publicity.

  14. Joel C says:

    Zig-zags aside, how difficult would it be to put “give way” markings immediately prior to any zebra? Would that not obviate the need for the yellow beacon things?

    Also, surely one way to ensure driver compliance (on side-roads entering a main road at least) would be to raise the crossing onto a table?

  15. Ben Harris says:

    The TRL example there has more Belisha beacons than are required by the Regulations. The Regulations only require one beacon at each end of the crossing, and none on centre islands or central reservations. The Cycling Embassy diagram similarly has an unnecessary beacon on the central reservation.

    • Tim says:

      If that is the case perhaps you might consider updating the wikipedia article on Belisha Beacons which seems to entirely contradict you? It even states “a single central beacon is a valid defence for a motorist charged with violation of the crossing regulations”, since (according to the article) a centre island breaks the crossing in two and therefore requires two further beacons, not just one.

      • Ben Harris says:

        Since that statement (like the rest of the article) had no cited source, I’ve deleted it.

        • Tim says:

          Meanwhile I noticed that you had linked to the regs in your comment and realised I shouldn’t have been so lazy and I updated it myself (clashing with your own edits all the while)! Cheers.

  16. I feel quite protective of zebra crossings as the last bastion of civilisation on the roads – the only instance where pedestrians (at least in theory) have priority and have the chance to cross at a time of their choosing (not having to wait until the lights). I confess that i had never read rule 19 so this does confuse matters for me. But i too was taught to drive in a manner that accommodates pedestrians crossing by slowing or watching pedestrians around crossings who might potentially cross, so that i would always be able to stop as per the highway code – the moment they step onto the crossing.

    With regards to visibility, i would be a bit cautious about chucking out all the markings etc. and considering what might be a happy medium for visibility. It may be of interest that Luton Airport has been fined by the HSE for having what you suggest (black and white stripes) but with none of the stop lines, beacons and studs that a full zebra has, following a death on site. The implications of this is that the whole caboodle may turn up more frequently on private land as well as public highway, e.g. supermarket car parks.

  17. rdrf says:

    Richard Keatinge: Ah yes, the glorious Bill Boakes. He wa a wonderful campaigner against motor violence, and also – in the 1950s – a campaigner for equal pay for women. I can go on about the various other things he did – timing motorists speeding with a stop watch by the side of the road, with a sign saying “Speeding Motorists: I have your number!”, for example.

    Only thing about his “Road Safety party” was the “Monarchist, White Resident” bit,,,

    Also: “Patrick O’Riordan says: Pelican and toucan crossings effectively mean the pedestrian or cyclist is asking permission to cross the road while at least with zebra crossing the option is there to assert your right (if you are brave enough…). SPOT ON.

    In fact pedestrians very often WANT ZEBRAS RATHER THAN PELICANS/TOUCANS because you have more fredom about when to cross.

    One point: Mark, can you tell us where the TfL instruction drawing to (presumably child) pedestrians comes from?

    • I think this is quite right on the question whether ‘pedestrians’ want Zebras or Pelicans.

      but is that the right question? Given Mark’s post on ‘the problem with the word ‘cyclist”, I wonder whether the discussion of this point about zebras, both here and on twitter, invites Mark to write a blog post on ‘the problem with the word ‘pedestrian”.

      My behaviour, as pedestrian, is not the behaviour of my mother, and not the behaviour of my sister with her three young children. ‘Pedestrians’ might prefer, for freedom’s sake, a zebra crossing more closely attuned to a desire line. ‘Pedestrians’ might also prefer, for freedom’s sake, a pelican crossing. That might be the very same road these ‘Pedestrians’ are crossing. Only, one of them has a buggy, and is not confident in the ability of all her children to correctly judge whether a lorry will or will not give way to them. ‘Pedestrians’ are not one group, and they differ in assertiveness, speed and obligingness towards other members of their accompanying family or group.

      This, I thought, was one issue Mark was trying to draw our attention to, by mentioning the old lady waiting, -waiting mind you- at the zebra crossing.

  18. awavey says:

    the folks in Cromer have started experimenting with a new style pedestrian crossing minus the usual street furniture, and some of the comments in the article do highlight the problem where people insist on the automatic precedence of cars over pedestrians simply because they are bigger, which is often a view borne out by cars towards cyclists as well.

    http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/video_watch_what_motorists_and_pedestrians_make_of_cromer_s_controversial_new_crossing_1_3415049

  19. rdrf says:

    Yes, David Robjant and Andy R, I take and agree with the point – it depends which kind of pedestrians: some want the greater freedom of zebras, others feel the need to rely on signalled crossings.

    Just to broaden this out, there are some crossings which are even less secure than zebras – basically carriageway raised to level of footway, operating on a shared space principal.

    To go even further, some of us actually want to be able to cross where there are no crossings – even these new type shared space crossing areas. Think of all the places where there is no, and never will be, any kind of official crossing. But for this you are going to be told by officialdom that you will end up in hospital if you do so – see my piece on TfL and D

    fT’s leaflet here http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/16/cross-here-for-a-e-victim-blaming-of-pedestrians/ .(BTW I clicked the link on the TfL pic above so see where it comes from)

    • paulc says:

      “shared space” doesn’t work in the UK… there’s no presumed liability on the faster/heavier vehicle.. They are doing a shared space section in Gloucester but everyone who is trying to cross the road as a pedestrian hates it as the motor traffic fails to yield… visually handicapped people especially hate it. And I’m surprised the experiment is still in progress considering how much it violates our disability discrimination laws. here used to be a lights controlled crossing at this place, but now it’s total chaos…

    • I like your way of putting it, Robert Davis :
      “some of us actually want to be able to cross where there are no crossings”
      -that certainly describes me.
      Whose street is it? Roads weren’t built for cars… (were they C.Reid?)

    • Simon Still says:

      I find that TFL ad shocking.

      Implication is that a third of pedestrian deaths ARE on crossing where peds are supposed to be completely safe and have priority. That’s a huge issue.

  20. Andrea says:

    There is another pernicious effect of removing zebras and replacing them with lights.

    As I discuss here:

    http://www.visionzerolondon.org/2014/03/site-visit-euston-station.html

    the waiting times are often ridiculous for pedestrians. The result is virtually zero compliance. That should tell LAs that the system is broken; instead they are happy to leave it like that, so that they can blame the victims when things go wrong.

    Very British, I am afraid.

    • Andy R says:

      Have you spoken to the Local Authority (TfL?) about this. Signalised ped crossings are there for a reason, and non-compliance on the part of peds waiting to cross the road due to frustration at long waiting times is a serious safety issue. The crossing may as well not exist.
      I really would recommend anyone concerned about long waiting times to write to their local highway authority – at the very least you should be able to find out if this actually is some council policy or just a problem with the set-up at a particular crossing. The latter is eminently fixable, the former…

    • pm says:

      The waiting times are indeed often absurd.

      And the other downside of that, is that you press the button, give up waiting after several minutes and cross in a break in traffic, but then the lights change behind you when you are several minutes down the road, meaning cars then have to stop even though there’s no longer anyone there waiting to cross! Its inefficient for everyone involved. I don’t understand what they are thinking of when they put these things in.

      • pm says:

        Edit – that wasn’t in reference to the particular junction referenced in Andrea’s link – which appears to see heavy pedestrian use.

  21. RichardL says:

    Despite the rules (written, presumably, by motorists) I have always decided to assume that a pedestrian who looks like they are about to enter a zebra crossing has the right of way. I shall continue to assume this, to set the example I wish others to live by (I write this as a cyclist).

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  23. It’s always been quite clear to me that you put one foot (the tip of a walking stick, front end of bicycle wheel etc.) into the gutter… That is the sign to the traffic that you are intending to use the crossing… Without that sign there will be accidents because drivers will start breaking for anyone who is just standing about anywhere near the crossing. I actually find that rule very sensible. However I agree completely about the beacons and the silly zig zags….

    • I do not follow. What accidents would result from drivers obeying the rules as published in the Code and taught by instructors, rather than the rules you invent to sound ‘very sensible’? Can you please point out an example of an accident that resulted from following the law?

      • My apologise profusely – I misunderstood. I now see you are recommending rule 195, so what you say is ‘in accord’ with the Code. It’s just rule 19 you are recommending we ignore. But then, it’s impossible for you to recommend we obey both 19 and 195. Which is the point. The Highway Code isn’t in accord with itself.

        • The highway code will generally recommend everyone considers everything that can go wrong. It’s best practice. You could draw a parallel with rule 67 which says you should cycle wide of parked cars, and Rule 239 which says you MUST ensure you don’t hit anyone when you open the door. It’s no contradiction, it’s advising you to be aware that some people don’t obey the law. However again, the rule for the driver is statute, the rule for the pedestrian or cyclist is advice. They do not have equal weight.

          • Highway Code instructions referring to statue or to advice are phrased differently to mark each from the other, and don’t have the same weight in Law. Full Marks for spotting this.

            But mark: I never suggested there was a contradiction in the Law. I observed that there is a contradiction *in the Code*.

            Secondly, it strikes me that the driver’s proper behaviour being delimited in statute rather than advice offers greater protection and clarity to the driver than to the pedestrian, who, as noted, must observe contradictory advice in order to cross a road.

    • Tim says:

      “Without that sign there will be accidents because drivers will start breaking…”

      You’re suggesting that drivers slowing down to assess the situation around potential points of conflict – crossings with pedestrians nearby, junctions, etc – will result in accidents?

      How odd. Seems to me the converse would be the case. And if someone goes into the back of me because I’m braking (rather than “breaking”) then it’s generally considered their fault, not mine. That’s one of the few cases of presumed liability UK law does agree on.

  24. *I* apologise, *My* Apologies, and so forth.

  25. Andrew K says:

    Why is British traffic engineering so horrid though, is it because they’ve never had a singular large review of practises with a single vision of user friendliness and understanding of intuitive aesthetics?

  26. paulc says:

    it’s because rules and regulations and laws get bolted on to others and existing rules, regulations and laws never get revoked… it’s a complete hodgepodge…

  27. theresa mandeel says:

    Sounds good but, certainly in France, the crossing is rarely observed and parking on it or right next to it, or both, happens all the time. Perhaps they DO need some extra zig zags and belisha beacons!

  28. EricD says:

    The photo of the schoolchildren struck me as unusual
    https://aseasyasridingabike.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/dscn9370.jpg?w=640&h=480
    The cycle path has a ‘Cyclepath’ sign !
    In all the others, the cycle path simply is the cyclepath.
    What’s the difference ? Not along a road ? So risk of cars using it ?

  29. EricD says:

    Talking of cycle lanes around the perimeter of roundabouts:

  30. Jim says:

    My tactic at zebra crossings is to stick my foot out a few inches onto the road (i.e. not, in general, far enough that I am actually in danger) and stare hard at any approaching cars. It usually works. Any driver who doesn’t stop gets yelled at.

    When cycling, I will always stop at a crossing for a pedestrian even if they haven’t started to cross. The ones that perplex me are those who seem to think they can only begin crossing once somebody has stopped, even if they could easily have got over beforehand without holding anyone up at all …

  31. SteveP says:

    UK zebra crossings regs are a throwback to the times when the rich drove and the poor walked. They actually favour drivers. I’ve had police cars drive through a zebra crossing with me in it – no lights, no rush – just don’t give a toss.

    In Ontario, Canada. They take pedestrian safety very seriously. All crossings are well marked and lit. There is a large X on the road about 100 metres before the crossing and the law is that anyone wishing to cross the road “waves” (sticks their hand up) while waiting at the crossing. Vehicles closer to the crossing (past the X) may continue. Vehicles further away (before the X) MUST wait.

    Penalties for drivers failing to follow the rules are severe (both in points and financially) and killing a pedestrian in a crossing (which sometimes results in a derisory £200 fine in the UK) is prosecuted as vehicular homicide with multi-year prison sentences possible.

    But then, they take safety seriously. The UK has CCTV and Gatsos to fine drivers for bus lane, yellow box and speeding transgressions. How many people are injured that way? None. How do we police zebra crossings where people (often children) are frequently injured and killed by bad driving? We don’t.

    Because they don’t care. The people that run this country are rich and drive. They drive to work. They drive their kids to school. This is an irrelevant issue to them.

    • paulc says:

      “There is a large X on the road about 100 metres before the crossing and the law is that anyone wishing to cross the road “waves” (sticks their hand up) while waiting at the crossing. Vehicles closer to the crossing (past the X) may continue. Vehicles further away (before the X) MUST wait.”

      what if I can’t wave?

      Anyway, try bringing that in here and you’d never get across the road as motons would simply claim they never saw you…

      • SteveP says:

        Would be a perfect situation to install CCTV which would actually protect lives, instead of just generate revenue. The problem has been that existing enforcement efforts are simply another way for cash-strapped Councils to “tax” motorists. Sad to see that much money is spent on infrastructure and regulations which simply remove annoyances (overstaying parking, driving in bus lanes, blocking the yellow boxes, etc.) and very little on changes that could actually increase safety.

        I suggest CCTV-monitored zebra crossings (c’mon, if they can track cars in and out of London we can certainly figure out how that would work) with BIG fines for transgressors, including the idiotic scooters (and the odd motorcyclist) who think those zig-zags mean “overtake here”.

        • paulc says:

          careful what you wish for here, they may wish to implement compulsory registration (along with number plates) for cyclists so they can fine cyclists who transgress… there would be loads of frothing at the mouth people who would welcome that in return for the CCTV being installed.

          • SteveP says:

            As a cyclist (CTC member) pedestrian and driver in London and outskirts I have no fear of cycle registration. I hear many, many complaints by ordinary Londoners about inconsiderate cyclists – on pavements, in the Royal Parks, etc. It’s not so much the tourists wobbling about on Boris Bikes, or children but rather mostly-male, overly aggressive “outa-my-way” types – you know – ride down the pavement and into a zebra crossing expecting traffic to stop (WTF?) – then through red lights. They ruin it for the rest of us.

            Unfortunately, the police are too busy fighting terrorists to even deal with property crime (let alone “furious cycling”🙂 in London (“Did you say ‘burgled’ or ‘being burgled’ – because we’re busy catching terrorists”). Ideally, these transgressors would be warned and details taken . A second offence would result in a fine, and a subsequent offence would see their cycle confiscated. That might work, but it would require enforcement, and we just aren’t willing to pay for that. So CCTV fits better – it also can dish out fines 24/7 as Councils prefer. If cyclists fail to stop for pedestrians (in a zebra crossing) they should be fined as well. Courtesy goes a long way.

            I’ve also ridden my bike around various EU cities over the years. Some areas, like the Netherlands are amazing. It’s like cycling is normal! No Lycra, no helmets, no idiots. Germany is good, France (even Paris) not bad. I did notice that while most of the Spanish cities I’ve cycled in are good (Seville is excellent) there do seem to be quite a few aggressive riders in Girona cutting up pedestrians. Can’t imagine why – all in Lycra, too. Very nice bikes. Maybe it’s something in the water.

            • pm says:

              I’m not sure if its not deliberate faux-naivity to come on this blog and mention how ‘amazing’ the Netherlands is for cyclists! I mean, well, yeah, there’s a _reason_ why cycling is ‘normal’ there, and it doesn’t involve number plates for bikes!

  32. Tim says:

    Wow. Just discovered this. Enjoy the confusion at London’s favourite zebra crossing in real time. Are the pedestrians waiting to cross? Are the cars and buses going to stop? Who knows!
    http://www.abbeyroad.com/CrossingArchive

  33. Pete says:

    I’m very late to this party – but I didn’t notice anyone mention what I assume to be the real reason cycle lanes/crossings are not paired with zebra crossings in the UK. Under UK law – a mounted bicycle is classed as a road vehicle. As such it is not a pedestrian and has no rights on a zebra crossing. There is no requirement for road users to yield to a mounted cyclist crossing a road on a zebra crossing. Only if the cyclist dismounts do they become a pedestrian and afforded the functional ‘protection’ of a zebra crossing.

    Belisha beacons – as well as signifying a crossing where road paint may be harder to spot (for instance in unbroken heavy traffic, heavy rain, having just come around a corner etc.) also provide an excellent place to site a downlight/spotlight to illuminate pedestrians waiting at a crossing in poor visibility and night time.

    • vlapas1 says:

      In this case I am also relatively late to the party. I have had altercations in the past both as a pedestrian and as a motorist in the UK worth mentioning in this subject. I passed my driving test in the Netherlands in the mid naughties. I have learned a basic rule as a driver that if you’re turning off a road (right) pedestrians you that proceed in the ‘Ahead’ direction and you see the back of, while approaching have right of way. This also applies to incoming pedestrian traffic at a junction where both car traffic and the ped. crossing parallel to you have a green light. It would seem this is the rule from Bucharest, to Amsterdam to NYC(the latter being rather surprising in the endemically mad traffic of that city). When, from muscle memory I do the same as a driver, in the UK I often get honked at for not running the odd old lady or mother with pram over. I got honked at in the same situation but as a pedestrian in a residential area without any markings. In the other case I was driving away in a car park in Glasgow when a middle aged lady wandered in front of me and proceeded to walk in the middle of the road for about 15 yards to her daughter’s car, with me following slowly behind her. After honking at her and asking her why she insists on walking in the middle of the road she blurted out to me:”…in this country pedestrians always have the right of way” to which I replied”…I see you like to live dangerously…” and drove away. Yes… she did notice the left hand drive and foreign plate!
      I passed it off as a simple encounter with a nasty human being and wondered if I could have legally done the same and get out of the car and smoke a cigarette directly in the way of her daughter’s vehicle as it’s my right to loiter in traffic. Having done some research I now see that legislation is very vague and open to interpretation when it comes to vulnerable road users in the UK. Personally I think this will have to be relegated the slew of British oddities such as picture-less driver’s licences (My grandfather’s 1938 licence has a photo on it), no rules when it comes to unmarked intersections, lack of mixed water taps… and so forth…haha..

  34. Pingback: Thomas: Zebra Crossings Are the Answer

  35. Jac says:

    This is just typical of cyclists – demonising car drivers. There are reasons why cars are not required to stop at crossings unless someone has started to cross. Its to keep traffic flowing and to avoid sudden breaking and rear shunts. There’s a reason for zig zags. Its to give greater visability of crossings without parked cars. There’s a reason why crossings aren’t at junctions. Its because it’s damn dangerous to cross there due to turning vehicles as every child is taught when they ate taught the green cross code. Rather than moaning about how crossings are marked in this country perhaps your time would be better spent educating cyclists that the highway code and particularly RED TRAFFIC LIGHTS also apply to them as certainly in Nottingham cyclists regard stopping at red lights as optional!

    • “This is just typical of cyclists – demonising car drivers.’ I’m not demonising anyone. I drive a car myself. I’m pointing out flaws in design; flaws that are absent in equivalent versions of the zebra in other countries. But thanks for the meaningless ‘typical of cyclists’ comment.

      “There are reasons why cars are not required to stop at crossings unless someone has started to cross. Its to keep traffic flowing and to avoid sudden breaking and rear shunts.”
      And yet somehow countries with better safety records than ours do require drivers to stop for people obviously waiting to cross, rather than people actually on the crossing. It’s my opinion, of course, that towns and cities should prioritise the movement of people over and above the movement of motor vehicles. You may think differently.

      “There’s a reason for zig zags. Its to give greater visability of crossings without parked cars. ”
      And yet somehow countries with better safety records than ours manage to do without zig-zags, by enforcing parking with simpler markings.

      “There’s a reason why crossings aren’t at junctions. Its because it’s damn dangerous to cross there due to turning vehicles as every child is taught when they ate taught the green cross code.”
      And yet somehow countries with better safety records than ours manage to place zebra crossings at junctions, where people want to cross.

      “Rather than moaning about how crossings are marked in this country perhaps your time would be better spent educating cyclists that the highway code and particularly RED TRAFFIC LIGHTS also apply to them as certainly in Nottingham cyclists regard stopping at red lights as optional!”

      Perhaps I could educate people to stick to the speed limit too? Or not to park on double yellow lines? I am a motorist, after all. Or perhaps it’s simply not my job?

    • The zig zags were a good idea in theory, but they didn’t quite work as they should have. It would be better to prohibit parking or stopping within a certain distance of the crossing, say 10 metres. Using kerb extensions, bulb outs, whatever you call them, to show where the parking ends and the no parking zone begins works well. Cyclists don’t park anyway like cars do, so they don’t need the zig zags. Thus the cycle track thing has some problems.

      Most of the Dutch who are old enough and are medically fit do drive, and most 18+ people have licenses. They may not drive often, but they do drive some of the time. They may drive to work and shop by bicycle or with their family for recreational trips in the evening.

      Pedestrians should get priority by being there for several reasons. A, what makes you think that a few centimetres in difference in location is going to matter that much, B, zebra crossings are only supposed to be placed in areas where cars are likely to yield, no more than a single lane per direction is a good standard to me, and not more than 50 km/h speeds is the maximum speed, 30 is the ideal speed at the crossing. You should also be able to see a pedestrian crossing from some distance away, so that you won’t be rear ended for yielding.

      And there are good reasons why cyclists may run a red light. The signal isn’t responding, it’s taking an absurdly long time, the road is clear and it’s not obvious why a signal was put in place, if it’s a pedestrian crossing, then pedestrians may have cleared the crossing, and there is no reason why left turns around the corner should be prohibited in practice if you are either going to end up in a low volume 30 km/h zone or will end up in a cycle lane or cycle track.

  36. bob says:

    I got done for NOT STOPPING. I slowed down, the woman saw cars coming but was busy admonishing her child – did not cross for a good 5 seconds as traffic just released from some lights, was coming towards her – she was looking down at the child. A police car was behind me – saw me slow down, but still booked me for not stopping. I looked at her, felt I had to keep traffic going. I looked in the highway code and couldnt find anything about having to stop if somebody does not cross or put their foot down. In london, there has been a few times when I have since now stopped at zebra crossing and pedestrians do not cross as they are standing there busy texting or deciding to keep walking off elsewhere….. Nobody says anything about that. Or zebras in front on schools or busy places that now just grind traffic to standstill as lots of people use them yes at high times. Yes people are operating steel boxes as cars but pedestrians also need to use their heads. I have had conversations from some who claim its their right to walking into the path of oncoming car and force them to slow down or stop because they can – No zebra crossing in sight. Islington like a few more areas have reduced speed limits to 20mph – users just use the road and expect cars to give way – what is the use of having PAVEMENTS?????Just because drivers dont want to run such people over. I am also a cyclist, I do obeserve all road signs but have had to brake several times as people have stepped into the road, with their backs to on coming traffic – when this happens in car I have no qualms in knocking some elbow with my wing mirror – if people can be so stupid as not look behind them as the walk in the road off the pavement – as a driver not only have I got to watch for road signs, keep traffic moving, look out for potholes, other stupid drivers (Uber taxi’s), pedestrians, wanting to cross the road, but also look out for the suicidal and brain dead too? It surprising the death toll for such people isnt higher.

    • SteveP says:

      You would probably get off in court if she hadn’t actually entered the crossing, but then you’d have to rely on the police telling the truth. When I was younger, I assumed this was always the case, but then I was a witness in a trial and watched police lie or stretch the truth verrrry far one after the other.

      Please don’t equate the wrath of ignorant motorists with the potential to injure or kill pedestrians. When in doubt – stop. The cost to you and other drivers is but a few seconds. Hard to compare that to a life.

      This situation is avoided in parts of Canada where the law requires pedestrians wishing to use a crossing to stop and point, then wait for cars to stop. There are large Xes in the road about 30 metres (depends on speed limits, no doubt) on either side, and if the car is already past the X it does not have to stop. However, failing to stop if you are before the X is a very serious matter, punished at similar levels to equally dangerous practices like impaired driving or criminal speeding (+50 kph over limit).

      In the UK, failure to yield at a zebra crossing is considered trivial. Scooter riders and motorcyclists frequently use the diagonals for overtaking. Plenty of stories of pedestrians killed in crossings and drivers getting a small fine. Ridiculous. But poor people walk and the rich drive.

  37. Notak says:

    I noticed at the weekend that this pelican by a leisure centre in Bristol has been replaced by a zebra with slight build-outs.
    https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.4604483,-2.5744334,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sVAiq1xGwTHPfZkv7H6oU0w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656
    I’ve only used it four times (that is, twice in each direction) but traffic did stop promptly.

  38. William says:

    Zebra crossings concern me also. I often see cars stop for people who do not put a foot on the crossing. Great, right? Not always. I’ve seen several instances in which, for example, the car nearest to you will stop and there will be a person on the opposite side also intending to cross. Both of you might assume that because one car has stopped then the other car will too, when in actuality the other car doesn’t have to stop unless someone is on the crossing. That or the car won’t stop for fear of being rear-ended. It any case, it’s risky and I agree with the tip about never assuming anyone will stop. Always try to retain eye contact with both drivers to ensure they are aware of your presence. I personally prefer not to use zebra crossings unless I have to even if it means walking further afield. There’s also an awful lot of foreign drivers on the UK’s our roads (including heavy freight vehicles), some of whom are not fully familiar with the country’s driving laws.

  39. William says:

    I just read this from a site:

    ‘Legally speaking, you do not have to stop your car unless a pedestrian has placed a foot onto the crossing, however if there are pedestrians waiting, stop your vehicle just before the broken white line to give way. If on a driving test, failure to give way and stop to a waiting pedestrian will result in a failure.’

    Source: http://www.drivingtesttips.biz/zebra-crossing.html

    This confuses me. If there is no legal basis for refusing to stop for pedestrians “waiting”, then why should you fail? For what reason? I see people refusing to stop all the top for said reason. Could someone more knowledgeable than myself please explain the situation? Thanks.

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