Zebra, puffin and toucan crossings

The four major types of crossing offered by Cambridgeshire County Council are listed below along with a crossing alternative:

  • Puffin and Toucan crossings are traffic signal controlled and are the most expensive to install and maintain. These type of crossings are only considered when there is a high demand for pedestrians and / or cyclists to cross a busy section of road.
  • Zebra crossings are most common within Cambridgeshire and offer a cheaper alternative. There still needs to be a good demand for pedestrians wanting to cross the road to contribute to its safe operation.
  • Pedestrian Refuge Islands provide no control over passing traffic, but offer a safe half-way point and are the cheapest option when wanting to increase safety for pedestrians.
  • Mobility crossing points offer a good alternative to a crossing and allows users with mobility issues to cross the road more comfortably.

Puffin and Toucan crossings

Puffin crossings use traffic lights to stop vehicle traffic, allowing pedestrians to cross. Pedestrians push a button at the side of the road, and wait for a signal to cross - this is from a standing red man to a walking green man.

Puffin crossings are a modern crossing design which have the pedestrian demand button and pedestrian signal (green/red man) in the same place, on a pole at the near side of the road. The kerbs are dropped at both ends of the crossing with tactile paving where the pavement slopes towards the road.

Puffin crossings have sensors to detect if there are pedestrians waiting at the side of the road to cross. This allows the Puffin crossing to cancel the crossing demand, as it won't be needed if the pedestrians are no longer there. Another sensor is used to extend the crossing time if necessary, by checking/monitoring for pedestrians still in the crossing area.

Puffin crossings are similar to Pelican crossings, which are much older in design and no longer installed in Cambridgeshire. Pelican crossings have the pedestrian signal at the opposite side of the road; do not have any pedestrian sensors; and have a flashing light phase at the end of the crossing time.

Puffin crossings can become Toucan crossings by adding a bicycle symbol to the red/green crossing man, and increasing the crossing width. This means cyclists are allowed to ride across the crossing without having to dismount.

Usability

Puffing crossings reduce the chance of pedestrians feeling uncomfortable while they are crossing, because a red light should always be shown to vehicle users when somebody is crossing, even if they are crossing slowly.

Safety

Compared to Pelican crossings, Puffin crossings are safer to use because they do not have a phase where the amber light flashes to vehicle users, and green man flashes to pedestrians. This phase causes confusion to both vehicle users and pedestrians. Puffin crossings do not use this phase, and show either green or red crossing signals to pedestrians.

It's more difficult to compare Puffin crossings to Zebra crossings because there is less research. It is most likely that Puffin crossings are very similar to Zebra crossings in safety, or Zebra crossings are only marginally less safe.

Advantages of Puffin crossings

  • Pedestrians given a clear signal of when to cross
  • Vehicle users given a clear signal of when to stop for pedestrians
  • Crossing times are automatically extended for slower pedestrians - e.g. elderly or disabled people
  • Vehicle users should never have to stop when nobody is using the crossing
  • Pedestrians never have to wait too long to cross
  • Can help maintain vehicle traffic flow in busy pedestrian areas where a Zebra crossing would cause traffic delays

Disadvantages of a Puffin crossing

  • Puffin crossings are the most expensive type of crossing
  • Pedestrians must wait for the signal before crossing, whereas it may take considerably less time to cross at a Zebra crossing
  • Pedestrians may walk into the road when the signal changes without checking vehicle traffic has come to a complete stop
  • May be less attractive than other crossing types, which are less obtrusive in smaller streets with narrow pavements
  • Other pedestrians may obscure the view of the pedestrian crossing light located on the nearside of the road
  • Expensive to install and maintain

Restrictions

  • Puffin crossings cannot be installed within 20 metres of a junction or roundabout
  • Traffic light signals must be visible to approaching vehicles
  • The beeping sound heard at Puffin crossings may cause a noise problem for any nearby houses. However, the beeping noise can work to a timer, and only operate at certain hours of the day.
  • This scheme requires a Traffic Regulation Order and a Road Safety Audit

Cost of installation

Equipment = £12,00 - £18,000
Works = £25,000 - £60,000
Traffic Regulation Order = £1,500
Road Safety Audit = £2,000
Power Connections = £2,000 - £5,000
Commuted Sums = £35,000
Total cost = £77,500 - £121,500

Zebra crossing

Zebra crossings help pedestrians cross from one side of the road to the other. They have white strips painted onto the road in the crossing area, with flashing yellow lights at both sides of the road on black and white striped poles. The kerbs are dropped at both ends of the crossing with tactile paving where the pavement slopes towards the road. White zig-zag lines are painted on the approach to the crossing to signify the controlled zone where vehicles must not stop to ensure maximum visibility between pedestrians and approaching drivers. Stopping within the limits of a zebra crossing controlled area is an offence enforced by the Police. 

Vehicle users are required to stop when they see a pedestrian waiting at the edge of a zebra crossing to allow them to cross the road.

Usability

Compared to locations without crossings, pedestrians are able to cross the road more quickly with Zebra crossings. On busy roads, with a continuous vehicle traffic flow, Zebra crossings could allow crossing when it would be nearly impossible. Children find zebra crossings particularly beneficial because they find it difficult to judge the speed of traffic when crossing on their own without crossing facilities. The elderly also benefit more from zebra crossings because without a crossing the road might require them to move very quickly to cross, and this may be difficult for them.

Compared to locations where there was no crossing, new zebra crossings have a very positive impact on pedestrian's feelings about crossing the road. Pedestrians are more confident, and feel safer when crossing the road.

Safety

Zebra crossings do not introduce any additional danger to the road environment. In comparison to Puffin crossings, it is most likely that Zebra crossings are very similar in safety, or zebra crossings are only marginally less safe. If many pedestrians are already crossing at a certain point on a road (the ‘desire line'), it is likely a zebra crossing will not increase or decrease accidents.

Zebra crossings over three or more lanes of traffic will increase collisions. This may be because at roads with two lanes in the same direction, pedestrians can be invisible to motorists in the outside lane when a car on the inside lane is stopping at the zebra crossing.

Advantages of a Zebra crossing

  • Pedestrians should only have to wait for a very short period of time to cross the road. The first car to see the pedestrian that can stop safely should stop and let the pedestrian cross.
  • Typically half the price of a traffic light (puffin) crossing
  • Can look more attractive than a traffic light (puffin) crossing, which could be too obtrusive on smaller streets with narrow pavements
  • Lower maintenance cost

Disadvantages of a Zebra crossing

  • If a pedestrian crossing the road is expecting a driver to stop, but they fail to do so, there may be a collision. Many pedestrians wait for cars to stop before they walk into the road.
  • Sometimes, drivers do not stop when they see a pedestrian waiting at the side of the road
  • Blind or partially blind people find Zebra crossings harder to use than traffic light crossings
  • A Zebra crossing which includes a hump or narrowing of the road will require water drainage works, which could be very costly
  • The restrictions on parking either side may add pressure to on-street parking capacity
  • Majority of schemes will require surfacing the approaches to the crossing to achieve suitable skid resistance

Restrictions

  • Zebra crossings must be installed in locations where vehicle users have good visibility of waiting pedestrians. There must be no obstacles (e.g. trees) on the pavement to block the view of pedestrians. The location should not have tight corners or steep hills.
  • Cannot be installed within 5 metres of a junction or roundabout
  • The pavement must be wide enough to make it clear to motor vehicle drivers that pedestrians are waiting at the edge of the road to cross
  • This scheme requires a Traffic Regulation Order and a Road Safety Audit
  • If a suitable location is found but the work requires a large number of ground workers to install, costs could potentially increase

Cost of installation

Equipment = £4,000 - £10.000
Works = £5,000 - £30,000
Traffic Regulation Order = £1,500
Road Safety Audit = £2,000
Power Connections = £2,000 - £5,000
Commuted Sums = £3,500 - £5,000
Total cost = £18,000 - £53,000

Pedestrian Refuge Island

A pedestrian refuge island is a raised section of pavement between two lanes of traffic moving in opposite directions.

The islands normally have yellow and white plastic bollards with a blue arrow to remind motorists to keep left. Kerbs are dropped at both sides of the road, usually with tactile paving where the pavement slopes towards the road.

Refuge Islands allow pedestrians to stop in the centre of the road, so they can split the crossing into two stages for each direction of traffic.

Effectiveness

Pedestrian refuges are very effective at increasing safety for pedestrians crossing the road. On a road where pedestrians often cross without a crossing facility, a refuge will decrease pedestrian accidents.

A pedestrian refuge allows pedestrians to cross one direction of vehicle traffic at a time. The refuge provides some protection from traffic in the centre of the road, while the pedestrian waits for a safe gap in the second direction of traffic. Without a refuge, the pedestrian needs to judge a safe gap between both directions of traffic at the same time - this is more difficult, and may increase risk.

Refuges will be most effective on roads with low to medium flows of vehicle traffic, and where speeds are below 30mph.

Pedestrian refuges slow traffic because they narrow the road, and may remind drivers that pedestrians could be crossing the road.

Advantages of pedestrian refuge islands

  • Allows pedestrians to cross more easily than if there was no crossing
  • May help to cross the road more quickly, as a gap is only required in one direction of traffic
  • The cheapest crossing design, in comparison to other crossings such as Puffin and Zebra
  • Pedestrian refuge islands narrow the road, which may reduce the speed of vehicles

Disadvantages of pedestrian refuge islands

  • Motor vehicles have priority
  • Pedestrians may have to wait much longer for a gap in vehicle traffic to cross safely, particularly in heavy traffic, compared to a Zebra or Puffin crossing
  • For the pedestrian to cross safely, they must have good judgement of motor vehicle speeds and gaps in vehicle traffic
  • Visually impaired people, or those with other disabilities, may find refuge islands less easy to use compared with a Zebra or Puffin crossing
  • Some motor vehicle drivers act dangerously near crossing islands if a cyclist is passing through. They may squeeze past the cyclist when passing the crossing island, or swerve dangerously around the cyclist just before the crossing island.

Restrictions

  • Refuge islands must be a minimum of 1.2 metres wide, however this is usually raised to 2.0 metres to accommodate pushchairs and wheelchairs more easily. This would need to be increased to 3.0 metres wide to accommodate cyclists using a cycleway.
  • Normally, road widths must be at least 4 to 4.5 metres either side of the refuge (if the location is on a bend and large motor vehicles are expected, this must be increased)
  • Parking restrictions may need to be imposed on the approach and near to the refuge
  • Not suitable for locations with a high volume of crossing pedestrians - Puffin crossings may be more appropriate
  • Not suitable for locations with high levels of motor vehicle traffic - Zebra or Puffin crossings might be more appropriate
  • Requires a Road Safety Audit

Cost of installation

Equipment = £3,500 - £6,000
Works = £2,500 - £3,000
Road Safety Audit = £2,000
Total cost = £8,000 - £11,000

Mobility Crossing Point

These crossing points are simply sections of footway and are dropped on either side of the road to allow users with mobility issues to cross the road more comfortably.

Kerbs are dropped at both sides of the road, usually with tactile paving where the pavement slopes towards the road. 

Effectiveness

With the dropped kerbs there is less chance of tripping or falling over when attempting to cross the road. These points can also highlight to drivers that pedestrians could be looking to cross and in turn their speeds may reduce slightly.

Advantages of mobility crossing points

  • Allows pedestrians to cross more easily than if there was no crossing
  • Very cheap to install and serves a benefit for pedestrians with mobility issues

Disadvantages of mobility crossing points

  • There is no pedestrian priority - motor vehicles have priority
  • Pedestrians may have to wait much longer for a gap in vehicle traffic to cross safely, compared to a Zebra or Puffin crossing
  • For the pedestrian to cross safely, they must have good judgement of motor vehicle speeds and gaps in vehicle traffic

Restrictions

  • Crossing points must be a minimum of 1.8 metres wide
  • Parking restrictions may need to be imposed on the approach and near to the crossing point
  • Not suitable for locations with a high volume of crossing pedestrians, in which case other crossings may be more appropriate
  • Not suitable for locations with high levels of motor vehicle traffic. Zebra or Puffing crossings might be more appropriate.
  • Requires a Road Safety Audit

Cost of installation

Equipment = £1,000 - £2,500
Works = £500 - £1,500
Road Safety Audit = £2,000
Total cost = £3,500 - £6,000