Zebra vs Pelican Crossing Analysis

Traffic Scheme Analysis Programme

Pelican Negatives: Thousands of hours are wasted every year with motorists having to stop unnecessarily at pelican crossings due to lights changing when people have already crossed. As well as wasting our time, this contributes to additional vehicle wear and tear, congestion and pollution. Pelican crossings can lull pedestrians into a false sense of security meaning people are less vigilant when crossing and therefore more vulnerable, leading to death and injury. Pedestrians have no choice but to wait unnecessarily in the pouring rain as nobody stops to let them cross because the lights are green for traffic.

Sufficiently Vigilant: People should be alert when crossing the road at all times, however, people think that Pelican crossings are safe but people are still killed every year as a result of drivers failing to stop at a red light for one reason or another. These accidents could be avoided if pedestrians were being more vigilant. Mostly, there are two main reasons as to why they are not.

Illusion: Pelican crossings can lull people into a false sense of security giving them the illusion that they are absolutely safe because they have the right of way. This can result in a lack of attentiveness which if it were not so, would enable them to take evasive action and save themself from death or injury by being aware and getting out of the way of any vehicle failing to stop.

Same Vigilance: The other factor is that the focus of attention for pedestrians using the crossing is the visual crossing indicators directly in front of them, meaning they are not looking out for possible threats in the direction of traffic from vehicles failing to stop. It would be helpful if pedestrians were encouraged to express the same vigilance when using pedestrian crossings as when they cross the road anywhere else.

Zebra Advantages: Zebra crossings are undoubtedly more efficient than Pelican crossings as motorists generally stop promptly when they see a pedestrian waiting, meaning waiting times for pedestrians are less. Likewise, the waiting time and congestion factor for the motorist is also less.

Zebra Disadvantages: The main disadvantage of Zebra crossings is that they are perhaps not as clear and evident as Pelican crossings. It seems that the flashing amber bowls on a Zebra Crossing have never been quite so prominent, or evident, as traffic lights, which are directly in line of sight, facing the oncoming motorist.

Cannot Be Bettered: However, the basic principle of relying on the inherent intelligence of the human being to control the stopping and starting of traffic rather than an unintelligent timed cycle, cannot be bettered.

Modernised Pedestrian Crossing / Modified Pelican Crossing

The Modified Pelican Crossing is very efficient and still relies on pedestrians and motorists to integrate sensibly but provides an element of protection and clarification of protocol, which is absent from a standard Zebra Crossing.

Best Of Both: The following analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the Zebra crossing and the Pelican / Puffin controlled lighting crossing, suggests an idea to incorporate the best of both systems in a new type of modernised pedestrian crossing or modified pelican crossing with a revised protocol. The MPC.

Human Initiative: The advantages of Zebra crossings are significant, as they utilize human initiative and vehicles will stop very quickly to give way to pedestrians. Pedestrians can be waiting to cross in the pouring rain at a pelican crossing and no one will stop because the traffic lights are green, instructing vehicles to keep going. This situation would never occur at a Zebra crossing as vehicles would stop immediately to allow the pedestrian to cross. This is one aspect where the existing controlled lighting crossings are very inefficient.

Pointless Stopping: Pelican crossings are also highly inefficient due to the pointless and unnecessary stopping and time delays that occur when a pedestrian has pressed the button and crossed during a gap in the traffic flow. Likewise, if a pedestrian is quick to cross, traffic still has to wait for the lights to change. Traffic is also forced to stop pointlessly when mischievous children have pressed the button and walked off. Common situations that cause inefficiency in our road systems and contribute towards an increase in timewasting, congestion and pollution.

Be Vigilant: There can be accidents on Zebra crossings, where pedestrians and motorists have not been seen each other. Unfortunately, this is also true of pelican crossings and pedestrians should always be encouraged to be vigilant and have their wits about them, regardless of where they are crossing, rather than take it for granted that they will be seen by everyone.

Simple Conversion: The modified pelican crossing involves a relatively cheap and simple conversion to existing pelican crossings and incorporates a flashing red light instead of a constant one, or alternatively, an alternating flashing red and amber. The revised protocol means that motorists are required to stop if the lights are flashing and pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross, but if no pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross the motorists can proceed with caution.

Meet In The Middle: This simple adaptation meets somewhere in the middle of the pelican and the zebra crossing incorporating the flexibility and efficiency of the Zebra Crossing, but with the added safety and clarification of the Pelican Crossing. However, it still means the pedestrian has to wait until the lights say they can cross. If traffic has been allowed to flow for 30 seconds or more, the button response to change lights could be immediate, thereby giving the system all the advantages of the Zebra crossing and preventing the chance in busy pedestrian locations of a continuous pedestrian stream.

Very Efficient: This simple conversion makes the crossing very efficient for both pedestrians and motorists alike, helping to keep traffic moving and avoiding the pointless and unnecessary delays that occur when a pedestrian has pressed the button, but crossed during a gap in the traffic flow, or alternatively if mischievous children have pressed the button and walked off.

All Good: This relatively simple conversion will help to ease congestion and remove the inconvenience for the motorist of being made to stop unnecessarily. Stopping and starting unnecessarily adds to pollution and wear and tear on vehicles and in the interest of expediting the traffic flow, making life more comfortable for the motorist and reducing pollution, a good thing to do.

Key Aims

  • Increase efficiency for pedestrians and motorists
  • Reduce time wasting and waiting times for pedestrians and motorists
  • Eliminate unnecessary stopping for motorists
  • Reduce tailback congestion and unnecessary pollution
  • Increase safety for pedestrians
  • Increase public awareness and vigilance

Notice to pedestrians when crossing the road...
Please be vigilant and alert
Make sure traffic has actually stopped
Look both ways when crossing (unless one way traffic)