There are five types of pedestrian crossing that you will encounter most frequently. When approaching any type of crossing, check your mirrors when the crossing first comes into view. When you know what the situation behind you is, start paying attention to the crossing. Don’t just look for anyone already using it or standing beside the road, but also for anyone walking towards it from either side, in other words, look left, right, in front and behind the crossing. Your approach speed will be dictated by how far away from the crossing you are, how much you can see and the amount of activity in the area around it. Before moving off, it is a good idea to look at both side mirrors for bikes taking advantage of the stationary traffic.
Most crossings have white zig-zag lines on either side. If so, you mustn’t stop, unless it is for the crossing, or overtake the lead, moving motor vehicle. Before overtaking a cyclist in the area of the lines, be absolutely sure that no-one is about to use the crossing.
The sight of the flashing amber beacons will tell you that you are approaching a zebra crossing. If there is someone waiting to cross, although there is no legal obligation to stop, it is ‘the done thing’ and what everyone else will be expecting you to do, so play it safe and give way to the pedestrians. Once they are on the crossing, you must wait until they are on the pavement before you can move, yes, even if they are on the other side of the road and walking away from you ;-) While you are waiting for them to reach the other side, look around for anyone else who mighty use the crossing. Human nature dictates that if someone who wants to cross the road sees the traffic at a standstill, they will make a dash for it!
If the zebra crossing has an island in the middle of the road, you can treat the crossing as two separate crossings. Once the person on your side has reached the island, you may move off after checking it is safe.
At first glance, these will look like a set of traffic lights. Many get caught out because they don’t expect the light to change to red so soon after the button has been pressed. It can change instantly so, like all good Scouts, be prepared. From green, the light will change to solid amber, which, contrary to popular belief, doesn’t mean keep going. You should stop unless you think that the stop will resemble an emergency style stop, in which case, keep going. We don’t want any accidents! When the light is red, you are legally obliged to stop. After red, the light will change to flashing amber, which means you may go if no-one is on the crossing. If there is anyone in the road, you should wait for the green light. When the light changes to green, you can move off as long as it is safe to. As with zebra crossings, look around for other potential users of the crossing while waiting for the lights to change.
The rules for these are very similar to pelican crossings. There are a couple of differences. Firstly, there is no flashing amber phase. The red light will change to red and amber together so you must wait for the green light before moving, as long as it is safe to move. Secondly, cyclists are allowed to ride across these crossings instead of getting off and walking, which is what they are supposed to do at pelican crossings.
Puffin crossings are designed to make crossing the road safer for pedestrians. Instead of staying on red and flashing amber for a fixed amount of time, cameras or sensors attached to the crossing will know if there are people in the area and hold the light on red until everyone is clear. As with the toucan crossing, there is no flashing amber phase so wait for the green light before moving. Be particularly aware of anyone moving towards the crossing when the light is on red. While the flashing amber on a pelican discourages last minute crossing, the long red at puffins encourages people to cross even when they are not entitled to.
Some light controlled crossings have an island in the middle. If the crossing area goes across the whole road in a straight line, it is one crossing. If the crossing areas are staggered, it is two separate crossings.
There will often be a sign telling you that you are near a school. When you see this, expect to see someone dressed in bright clothes with a long pole ion their hand. The lollipop man will often hold up a hand as they walk towards the road. This means they want you to stop. If there are other children approaching the crossing while the lollipop man is already in the road letting others cross, he will often stay there to let them cross too so make sure he is out of the road before moving. These patrols will often help parents cross the road so don’t just look for children.
As long as you stop on red or when there is someone in the road and go on green or when no-one is in the road, you won’t go far wrong. Observation is the key; expect anyone to appear from anywhere.
Assumption plays a big part in most faults at crossings. Here are some examples:
1) The light won’t change yet
2) No-one will use the crossing
3) It’s clear now
2) No-one will use the crossing
3) It’s clear now
All of these and more will be solved through expecting the worst; the light will change, someone will use the crossing and it may be clear where you are looking, but have you looked everywhere? By assuming the worst, the approach speed and observations will improve.