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Learning to drive

Understanding pedestrian crossings

You’ll finally be behind the wheel of a car. So long to the days of having to walk places. 20 minute trek to Tesco? No thanks, think I’ll drive - see you in 2 minutes Tesco! That's the dream.

But when you’re cruising comfortably along, remember to spare a thought for those poor people still trudging the pavements.

There are a few different types of pedestrian crossings to help them (eventually) get where they’re going, so memorise them now and do your part to help them get there safely.

Controlled crossings

  1. Pelican crossings

    This is your green man, red man type of crossing. Pedestrians push a button and when your traffic light is red, they get a green man to show them that they can go. As you approach, you’ll see traffic lights and there’ll be zigzag lines on the road.

    You’ll know it’s a pelican crossing because before the light turns back to green, the amber light will flash. This means that if the crossing is clear and all the pedestrians have made it to the other side, you can go.

    But if there’s a granny still making her way across, you have to wait until she’s safely on the pavement before you can proceed. You’ll be that granny one day so don’t rush her.

  2. Toucan crossings

    Toucan crossings are made for both pedestrians and cyclists. Think of it as a 'TWO CAN' crossing because 2 types of people can cross. They look much the same as pelican crossings with the traffic lights and zigzag lines on the road, but there’ll also be a cycle route leading up to the crossing.

    They don’t have flashing amber lights like a pelican, just your standard red-amber-green. But if that granny's still only half-way across when your green light shows, wait for her to finish crossing. Part of being a good driver is being considerate.

  3. Puffin crossings

    The puffin crossing is the granny’s best friend. It works with an infra-red scan that holds your light on red for as long as there is someone crossing. I remembered this by thinking of 'no puffing grandparents' - they don’t have to rush because the lights will stay red for them.

    These are your friend as a driver too. You’ll never be stopped at an empty crossing when a pedestrian has already made their way across.
  4. Equestrian crossings

    These are especially for horse riders. They're very similar to the toucan and the puffin crossings but have a handy high button for riders to push while on horseback. I'm laughing just thinking about it. Why did the horse cross the road?

    Remember: when the green light shows you should still pull off slowly and with caution so that you don’t spook the horse.
  5. Uncontrolled crossings

    Zebra crossings

    If you’re approaching a zebra crossing, you’ll see zigzag lines as you approach, and the black and white stripes that make up the crossing (like a zebra - see what they did there?). There will also be flashing yellow beacons on the pavement. At a zebra crossing, the pedestrian has the right of way.

    Start looking to see if you’ll need to stop as soon as possible. If there’s a pedestrian waiting to cross or someone who looks like they’re approaching to cross, you need to stop. If there’s an obstruction and you can’t see whether there’s pedestrians or not, proceed as if you’re going to stop until you can see clearly.

    Remember: even after you pass your test, you’ll still be a pedestrian sometimes. Whether walking, driving or riding we all have to share the roads, so be respectful and show some kindness.

    Check out our guide to traffic lights for more road rules.