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What is a pelican crossing
A pelican crossing is a traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing found in many urban areas. The crossing was introduced as an upgrade to the traditional zebra crossing to help reduce the number of accidents and serious incidents, seen at those particular sections. To operate, a pedestrian simply pushes the control button which starts a timer and after a certain period of time, a red light is shown to vehicles on the road. At this point a green man figure is displayed to pedestrians on both sides of the road, letting them know it is safe to proceed. After a predetermined period of time, the lights will once again change.
Pelican crossing light sequence
The light sequence for motorists is as follows. A red light is followed by a flashing amber light on its own, which is followed by a green light. A flashing amber light allows you to move off if there are no individuals at or near the crossing. A steady amber light appears after a green light and this informs vehicles to slow down as a red light will soon appear. The sequence for pedestrians is as follows. A red man figure is followed by a green man figure, which is then followed by a flashing green man figure. When a flashing green man figure is displayed, pedestrians should not start to cross the road.
Approaching a pedestrian crossing
You need to be extremely cautious when approaching all pedestrian crossings. Look far ahead into the road as you drive because the earlier you spot it, the more time you have to prepare. Once near the crossing, scan both sides for pedestrians at or near it, be prepared to slow down if an amber light appears and use the msm driving routine if you need to stop. If you approach one on your driving test, make sure you drive with restraint, as many learner drivers fail on the day because of errors made on this particular crossing. You will be taught how to navigate all crossings during your driving lessons and you will need to master this particular subject if you want to pass your driving test.
Pelican crossing sensors
These crossings do not automatically detect pedestrians. To cross safely a pedestrian must push the control button and wait for the green man figure to show. The crossing is timed so it changes at the same interval each time the button is pushed. Puffin crossings are able to detect the presence of pedestrians, however, this is not the case with a pelican crossing.
Disadvantages of Pelican Crossings
Although pelican crossings are much safer than uncontrolled zebra crossings, every year there are a number of serious incidents at these crossings and there are a few things that as a driver you need to be aware of when approaching this particular crossing.
Confusing light sequence
It is easy to be confused about the traffic light sequence at these crossings and the meaning of each individual light. The amber light is the cause of most of the confusion and many motorists interpret the light in the wrong way. When a flashing amber light is displayed at the crossing, vehicles are allowed to proceed so long as there are no pedestrians on or at the crossing. A steady amber light means you need to slow down and be prepared to stop.
Difficult for pedestrians with limited mobility
The crossing is controlled by an automatic timer meaning it always takes the same amount of time for the lights to change from red to flashing amber to green. The time is set in accordance with the width of the road, so it takes longer to complete the light sequence on wide roads than it does on narrower roads. This works fine for able-bodied pedestrians, however the elderly and the disabled may find it harder to cross the road if the lights change before they reach the other side.
Doesn’t factor in risky pedestrian behaviour
The rule for pedestrians states that when the green man figure is flashing, as it does when the amber light flashes, pedestrians should not start to cross the road. This rule is in place to reduce instances of pedestrians crossing the road as the lights are about to change as this is very dangerous. Unfortunately, many pedestrians do not observe this rule and such reckless behaviour leads to a number of accidents each year.
Slows down traffic unnecessarily
As the crossing operates on an automatic timer, the moment the control button is pushed, the lights will change after a set period of time. If a pedestrian pushes the button and either cross before the green man signal appears or decides they no longer want to cross the road and walks off, a red light is still displayed to motorists even if there is no pedestrians waiting to cross. This can cause frustration and lead to longer journey times for vehicles held at the lights.
How can pelican crossings be improved?
As these crossings are not fitted with a sensor it is important to make pedestrians aware of how long they have before the lights change. If individuals know when the lights are about to change, they will take fewer risks when crossing and many of the old pelican crossings are being updated to include a countdown timer showing the number of seconds left before the lights change.
Staggered pelican crossings
On busy roads in urban areas, you can often find staggered pelican crossings. A staggered crossing has an island in between the road and they make it easier for pedestrians to cross busy roads. Each section is treated as an independent crossing, so you will need to push the control button in the central refuge to activate the traffic light on the other side of the road. Vehicles can continue with their journey if an individual is crossing the other side of the road and has not yet reached the central refuge.
Things to be aware of
Do not obstruct the zigzag lines
Parking or waiting in and around the zigzag lines is forbidden on this crossing. It is dangerous because it makes it harder for pedestrians to see oncoming traffic.
As with all pedestrians crossings, vehicles are not allowed to overtake one another at the crossing, as the represents a significant danger for any pedestrians about to cross the road.
Steady amber light
A steady amber light requires you to slow down as you approach the crossing as the lights are about to change to red.