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.