Friday, November 09, 2007

Zebras, Pandas, Pelicans and Puffins

In the UK we have strange ways of crossing the road. We once had zebra crossings, so called because of the back and white stripes painted on the road. They were marked by black and white poles on which sat orange globes - Belisha Beacons - which were named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Minister of Transport who introduced them in 1934.

In 1962, concerned that pedestrians were disrupting the traffic flow by jumping on to 'their territory' the zebra crossing and occupying it (one retired colonel in Highcliff smashed the windscreen of an encroaching Rover with his walking stick), Ernest Marples the great innovator (he introduced Premium Bonds and Motorways) introduced Panda crossings which were controlled by pedestrian-operated light buttons and had black and white triangles rather than stripes on the road.

By 1967 the Panda experiment was deemed a failure. The flashing and pulsating lights were too confusing and the triangles were unpopular, so in 1969 the simpler Pelicon crossing was introduced. Note that strictly speaking they are Pelicon crossings (not Pelican) which stands for Pedestrian Light Con trolled crossings. You can watch this amusing government information film about them on You Tube

The pedestrian lights are situated on the far side of the road to the pedestrian. A Puffin crossing has the lights on the same side as the pedestrian; a toucan (Two can)crossing is a crossing for pedestrians and bicycles and a Pegasus crossing allows horse-riders to cross as well.

Someone at the Ministry of Transport spends their time thinking up these silly names.


Pat said...

Such a job ...... one only a government worker could truly love. But what about pedestrians? It does seem to be a complicated system.
As I am sure you know, jaywalking in the US is crossing the street against the light. But what could it be called in the UK when walking against those bird-names???!!

Terry Hamblin said...

In UK schools children are taught to cross roads safely through the Green Cross Code. British children are taught to "look right, look left, look right again and if it is safe, cross".

The Green Cross Code Man (sometimes known simply as "Green Cross") is a costumed superhero character created in 1975 as an aid to teaching young children the Green Cross Code, and for promoting general road safety. British actor David Prowse MBE, a bodybuilder and former Mr. Universe (and the physical actor of Darth Vader), is famous for his portrayal of the character in a well-known series of Public Information Films sponsored by the Central Office of Information for the UK Department of the Environment. The light-hearted spots ran on UK television from 1975 to 1990. In the films, the Green Cross Code Man character has the power to teleport from his monitoring station at Green Cross Control to any location where youths are in need of pedestrian safety instruction. He accomplishes this by use of a wristwatch-like "Dematerializer" device. On these missions he is sometimes accompanied by a whimsical robot companion. His signature exclamation of surprise or disbelief is "Green Crosses!" and his slogan is "I won't be there when you cross the road / So always use the Green Cross Code.

Anonymous said...

I watched the amusing instruction clip and an adult version. I understand from them that, so long as anyone is on the crossing, the lights for vehicles stays red. So in a busy pedestrian area - say just outside a station at rush hour, or outside a factory at closing time, there will be a continuous stream of pedestrians with the potential to block vehicles for a very long time. If so, it seems the Pelicon may be doomed to extinction for the same reason as the Zebra (crossing).

dreamingspire said...

The latest crossings with overhead people detectors do indeed stay on red for longer if people are crossing, but I'm sure that they still time out to let the vehicles go.
The Puffins are dangerous in some situations, particularly when the pavement is narrow or lots of people are waiting to cross - you cannot see the red/green light if you are standing right on the edge of the road or if there are other people alongside you between you and the light. Yet Council persons say that they must install them because the DfT says so. One near me has killed someone, injured some more, and regularly frightens the bus drivers (it is at the entrance/exit of a bus only area).
The Puffins are also counter-intuitive: when waiting to cross you want to look across the road for the indication that you should go - but then you should still take glances to left and right just in case.