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Know your Zebra from your Toucan! What are the different types of road crossings?

Do you know your Zebra from your Toucan? your Parallel from your Puffin? In our latest blog, Wayne Sayers, Transport Planning Team leader for Dorset Council explains the differences.

New Crossing in use Sml

There are many types of pedestrian road crossings, all with their own names; some of which are well-known like Zebra and Pelican, others are not so, like Toucan or Pegasus. So, what are the different types of road crossings and what are they used for?

The completion of the TCF works in Colehill and Wimborne sees the commissioning of two important new features on Wimborne Road West in Colehill; namely the opening of two new parallel crossings which are being commissioned as part of the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) improvements project.  But why are these new crossing different from the better-known zebra crossing?  To answer this, I will explain to you what the different types are and what they are used for.

  • Zebra Crossings are the most recognised types of crossing. These are marked by white painted stripes across the road with flashing amber belisha beacons on either side.  They are mostly found in urban areas and are intended to provide a safe location for pedestrians to cross urban roads.
  • Parallel Crossings are the design which is being used for the two new crossings on Wimborne Road West in Colehill.  These are similar to a zebra crossing, with the white stripes and flashing amber beacons. However, the difference is they have a dedicated cycle-lane running along-side the stripes across the road within the beacons.  This means that cyclists and pedestrians can use the crossing.
  • Pelican Crossings are the most common type of traffic-light controlled crossing and are often used on the busiest urban roads and those with a speed limit higher than 30mph. They make use of traffic signals to control and stop traffic on a timed or request basis (i.e. the button on the yellow box has been pressed), so as to give pedestrians safe passage across the road.
  • Puffin Crossings are similar to, but more sophisticated than Pelican Crossings. These crossings use technology to detect if pedestrians are still crossing the road before allowing the traffic lights to change back to green. 
  • Toucan Crossings are designed for both pedestrians and cyclists to use at the same time and are typically used adjacent to a cycle-path.  They are similar to Pelican and Puffin crossings and can be identified by a cycle symbol shown on the yellow box where you request to cross.
  • Pegasus Crossings are mostly seen in rural areas where horse riding is more common.  They are similar to a Toucan crossing but have a red/green horse symbol on the lights, a higher mounted push button to allow horse riders to request to cross and a dedicated equestrian crossing lane next to the pedestrian lane.

Cyclists are not allowed to cycle across a Zebra, Pelican or Puffin crossing and should dismount and push their bikes when using them.  However, with the extra width of a Toucan crossing and Parallel crossing, cyclists are allowed to ride across them rather than push their bikes.

Dorset Council wanted to make sure that there were locations along this busy road, where existing and new residents could safely cross, either on foot, with child buggies or on their bikes, scooters and mobility scooters.  The lack of crossing points up until now, had been a concern expressed to the council on a number of occasions by local residents. The TCF improvements have now provided the ideal opportunity to build this new infrastructure into the road.

The two new parallel crossings in Colehill are some of the first of their design in the Dorset Council region.  But they are not the first new crossings in the TCF programme; the first of these is the brand-new raised Toucan Crossing across Harewood Avenue, next to Kings Park in Bournemouth.  A number of new crossings are proposed in the programme, helping to improve the safety of all road users across the conurbation.