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The Pelican

The Beginners Guide to Navigating a Pelican Crossing

Did you know that pelican crossings haven’t always been called that. Were you aware that each crossing is fitted with non-visual indicators for visually impaired pedestrians? What about the fact that while the amber light flashes, the green person flashes too for the pedestrian?

Pedestrian crossings are everywhere. Your route to work, your drive to the supermarket, your trip to the seaside. They are simple in principal for both pedestrians and motorists, but many fail to follow the basic rules.

For drivers, they are a simple traffic light system, but to safely navigate them you will have to pay attention to your surroundings and the potential dangers. Learning to master this common crossing will give you the confidence to drive worry free anywhere in the UK. It’s essential to stay vigilant as a motorist when approaching one of these crossings.

Which One is a Pelican Crossing?

There are a number of different crossings. Crossings called puffin, toucan and zebra are all crossings that are used across the UK. In 2016 the pelican crossing was actually removed from the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, meaning that no new pelican crossings can be installed on public UK highways. The preference is now for puffin crossings, which have more intuitive sensors and often combine cycling and walking notices.

Pelican crossings are signified by traffic lights for drivers and a 'WAIT' sign and button for pedestrians to press. They must wait for the green person before they start crossing, and drivers must stop until all pedestrians have completed their crossing.

How to Approach a Pelican Crossing

As you will find when studying for both the theory and practical driving tests, you should always be wary of traffic lights that have stayed green for a while. Even if you cannot see someone waiting at a pelican crossing, the lights may still flick to amber and then red before you know it.

When you approach a pelican crossing it is important to exercise caution. Maintain your speed to keep up with the flow of traffic, but take your foot a little off the accelerator to improve your reaction to the potential change of circumstance.

As a driver, all you need to do is wait for the green light, but you will see the flashing amber lights first. The latter lights mean that you can proceed with caution, but only if the crossing is clear.

What if I can't stop in time?

To navigate every pedestrian crossing with ease, you will need to be aware of two integral elements: the traffic behind you (and how close it is), and the pedestrians potentially waiting to cross. These two factors will influence your decision when approaching a crossing.

If you are approaching a pedestrian crossing with traffic lights, you will sometimes find that the amber light comes too late. You are well within your rights to continue, but only if it is safer to do so rather than come to a stop.

The best way to proceed if you can't stop in time before any pedestrian crossing is to slow down regardless. The seconds that you spend waiting for the green light are preferable to potentially causing an accident.

How to Tackle Any Pedestrian Crossing

Your guide to all pedestrian crossings is to be aware. You may need to follow two instructions at once at some junctions. If your vehicle is straddling the crossing, you may find yourself in hot water – pedestrians will then have to walk around your vehicle, making it more dangerous from them to cross.

Learning to drive is all about understanding your surroundings, and empathy is a skill that will improve your driving and make every journey safer. When approaching a pedestrian crossing, you may find that elderly, disabled or visually impaired pedestrians are using the crossing. Always ensure that you give them plenty of space and time to complete the crossing, even if the green light has turned on.

Finally, Why is it Called a Pelican Crossing?

When this type of pedestrian was introduced, it was in fact called a pelicon crossing. This was a portmanteau name for 'pedestrian light controlled crossing'. Pelicon evolved into pelican, joining the animal crossings that currently exist across the UK such as zebra, toucan, puffin and pegasus.

Master the Pelican Crossing

With these tips and the understanding of the pelican crossing, you are in the best position to become a safe, confident driver – no matter the crossing you come up against.