What are toucan, pelican, puffin and zebra crossings?

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Pedestrian crossings

We’re all familiar with zebra crossings - but how confident are you of all its rules? 🦓

And what about the other animal-themed pedestrian crossings in the UK, from toucan crossings to the dramatically-named pegasus crossings?

When you get into the nitty-gritty of the Highway Code, there may be a few things that surprise even experienced drivers.

Here’s a breakdown of the different pedestrian crossings in the UK, which we hope will help out learner drivers and veterans alike👇

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What is a zebra crossing?

Let’s start with the basics and talk about the most-common UK pedestrian crossing.

A zebra crossing has wide black and white stripes on the road with a zig-zag line running down each side. They’re designed to help people cross the road without the need for traffic lights or a push button system.

You’ll also see two orange lights on tall posts at zebra crossings (called Belisha beacons). These are to make sure drivers can see that there’s a zebra crossing coming up.

If someone walks out onto a zebra crossing, any oncoming drivers have to stop. Lots of drivers stop when they see people walking up to a zebra crossing. This is nice of them to do, but technically you only have to stop if someone’s about to cross.

Remember, some people might assume you’ll stop at a zebra crossing and step out onto the road before you’ve actually hit the brakes. So always be cautious when you’re driving up to one.

When you stop at a zebra crossing, you should always wait for the people crossing to get to the other side before moving off again.

If cyclists want to cross at a zebra crossing, they have to get off their bike and walk it across.

Pedestrians have right of way over drivers at a zebra crossing
Pedestrians have right of way over drivers at a zebra crossing
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What is a pelican crossing?

A pelican crossing is a crossing where pedestrians can press a button at either side of the road when they want to cross. Cars are signalled by traffic lights when they need to stop.

At pelican crossings, the traffic lights for drivers change from green to amber to red when someone wants to cross. When the red light comes on for drivers, pedestrians will see the ‘green person’ symbol – letting them know drivers are not allowed to drive on and it’s safe to cross.

If there’s an amber light and a pedestrian is already crossing, drivers have to stop, too.

Pelican crossings work on a timer system – so there’s a set time for people to get across the road. That’s why there’s an amber light system in place.

If everyone has finished crossing and the traffic light turns from red to flashing amber, you can drive off. If someone is still crossing and the light turns from red to flashing amber, you need to wait for them to get to the other side.

What is a puffin crossing?

A puffin crossing is a traffic light crossing system where pedestrians can press a button at the side of the road when they want to cross.

When the ‘green person walking’ symbol comes on for pedestrians, drivers will see the traffic light turn from green to red – meaning they have to stop.

Puffin crossings are really similar to pelican crossings but they’re a bit more advanced because they have sensors that detect when a pedestrian is finished crossing.

The drivers’ traffic light only turns back from red to green when the person has finished crossing. So there’s no need for an amber light system with this one.

What is a toucan crossing?

A toucan crossing is basically a pelican or puffin crossing where cyclists are allowed to cross, too. (Normally cyclists can’t use pelican and puffin crossings.)

Toucan crossings are wider than traditional pelican and puffin crossings because there has to be room for cyclists and pedestrians to cross at the same time.

They’re usually around places where there are cycleways.

Cyclists don’t have to get off their bikes to cross at a toucan crossing.

Toucan crossings will follow the rules of either a pelican or puffin crossing.

Drivers must stop when a pedestrian is on the zebra crossing
Drivers must stop when a pedestrian is on the zebra crossing

What is a pegasus, or equestrian, crossing?

A pegasus crossing (sometimes also called an equestrian crossing) is a crossing system for people and horses. We think you'll agree it also has the best name out of all the crossings 🔥

There’s usually a button for people to press when they want to cross the road, and a separate, higher button for people riding horses to press.

When the traffic light goes red, drivers have to stop to let people, horses and riders cross the road.

If you ever find yourself at a pegasus crossing and there are horses around, try not to rev your car too much or anything like that – you don’t want to startle the horses!

What is a parallel, or tiger, crossing?

A parallel crossing (also sometimes called a tiger crossing) is a zebra crossing that also has a separate area marked on the road for cyclists to cross.

So there’ll be the usual wide black and white stripes for people to walk across, and next to that, there’ll be two rows of white squares that are set wide apart from each other, which is where cyclists can cross.

Cyclists don’t have to get off their bikes to cross at a parallel crossing because they’ve got their own space to get across that’s separate from where people will be walking.

What is a staggered crossing?

A staggered crossing has a kind of ‘island’ in the middle of the road that lets pedestrians cross over in two halves.

So they’ll push the button on one side of the road, wait for the green person to come on, then make their way to the island in the middle of the road. Then they’ll repeat the process.

Staggered crossings are usually found on carriageways with multiple lanes and might include a mix of puffin, pelican or toucan crossings.

When do drivers need to give way to pedestrians at a crossing?

If there are traffic lights at a crossing, you always need to give way to pedestrians if the light is red or flashing amber. If the light is green, pedestrians need to wait for the lights to change before they start to cross.

You always need to give way to pedestrians who are about to step onto a zebra crossing. If someone is walking up to a zebra crossing you don’t have to wait, but be aware that they might cut across to walk over the zebra crossing before they’ve actually reached it.

Learn more

We’ve got even more tips and tricks for learning the rules of the road at our learner driver insurance page, including links to guides like our explainer on road signs and their meanings.

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Updated on 31st March 2023