Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A zebra can't change its stripes

Zebra crossings are in my opinion, the best type of crossing for pedestrians. They provide priority for pedestrians crossing, all of the time, and so cause the least delay for pedestrians. Obviously they are not appropriate all of the time, but in most urban settings, they are.

UK Zebra crossing. Also this one is a bit famous
I also believe that the UK has a much better design when it comes to zebra crossings compared to other countries. The flashing yellow beacons make it very clear as a driver where zebra crossings are. When I'm driving, the yellow beacons are a message to me to drop my speed and to expect pedestrians may want to cross.

A zebra in the Netherlands. To British eyes, the crossing is much less visible
However, the zebra crossing regulations are potentially in the way when it comes to cycle provision. Zebra crossings over cycle tracks are common in the Netherlands. However when it comes to attempting to implement them in the UK, they have to be horribly over engineered because the regulations are designed for motor traffic.
I visited Bristol on Saturday (guided by Wheels On The Bike) and had a look at Baldwin Street. In my opinion it is one of the best designed pieces of cycling infrastructure in the UK to date. Bristol has used a bit of a work around to get zebra crossings on the cycle track

Is it an actual zebra? It certainly has the stripes
It is clear when cycling that this is a zebra crossing. Because cycling speeds are lower, flashing beacons are not needed, nor markings to say not to stop near the crossing.

If you want evidence that this design works at slow speeds, visit a private car park. The majority of car parks in the UK have zebra crossings consisting only of zebra stripes, yet I hardly ever have problems with motorists ignoring priority

From my University campus. Not regulation, but everyone knows what this means.

That's why regulations for zebra crossings on cycle tracks should be relaxed. Belisha beacons are great when it comes to zebra crossings for motor vehicles, but are completely unnecessary when it come to cycling provision.

TFL want zebra crossings for a cycle track as part of CS5

It will be interesting to see if they have to stick to the letter of the regulations, or whether some elements will be relaxed by the Department for Transport.


  1. Heh, I have a zebra crossing post in production and I also have "that" crossing (it is crap BTW). Yes, we need a beacon-free half-sized crossing for cycle tracks. Credit to TfL, they will bully DfT and that this our best chance to get this silly omission changed.

  2. They aren't really needed for most volumes of motor vehicles you would find on a single carriageway. If they don't need full signalization and visibility is good enough, then the beacons are not needed. The continent's sign for a zebra crossing is good enough.