Zebra crossing

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A zebra crossing in the center of Mexico City. Paso de cebra en el centro de Ciudad de Mexico.jpg
A zebra crossing in the center of Mexico City.
A raised zebra crossing in a school zone in Marine Parade, Singapore. RaisedZebraCrossing-Singapore-20070127.jpg
A raised zebra crossing in a school zone in Marine Parade, Singapore.
A zebra crossing with Belisha beacons in Abbey Road, London. This same crossing was featured on the cover of the album Abbey Road by The Beatles. Abbey Road Zebra.jpg
A zebra crossing with Belisha beacons in Abbey Road, London. This same crossing was featured on the cover of the album Abbey Road by The Beatles.

A zebra crossing is a type of pedestrian crossing used in certain places around the world. Its distinguishing characteristic is that it gives priority to pedestrians, in that motorists are obliged to stop when someone has indicated their intent to cross by waiting by the crossing. These were introduced to the UK in the 1930s as a road safety measure and were marked by a pair of striped poles, each supporting a flashing orange light, known as Belisha Beacons. In the 1940s, road markings were added to the crossing design: these were alternating dark and light stripes on the road surface. These stripes, resembling the coat of a zebra, give rise to the common crossing in broad use today.


The striped road marking has been adopted in many countries for their crossings for this purpose, although not all have the pedestrian priority rule, and not all use the term "zebra crossing" to describe them. In the UK, the term "zebra crossing" only applies to unsignalled crossings. These have largely been replaced by various types of signalled crossing which restrict a pedestrian's right to cross.[ citation needed ]


The crossing is characterised by longitudinal stripes on the road, parallel to the flow of the traffic, alternately a light colour and a dark one. The similarity of these markings to those of a zebra gave rise to the crossing's name. The light colour is usually white and the dark colour may be painted – in which case black is typical – or left unpainted if the road surface itself is dark. The stripes are typically 40–60 cm (16–24 in) wide.

Sometimes, zebra crossings are placed on a speed bump, meaning the zebra crossing is level with the pavement. This is done to make it safer for pedestrians to cross, since drivers need to slow down to go over the speed bump. However, this is more expensive than a traditional zebra crossing, and can impede the flow of traffic and response times for emergency vehicles, especially on roads with higher speed limits.

In the United Kingdom, the crossing is marked with Belisha beacons, which are flashing amber globes on black and white posts on each side of the road, named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Minister of Transport, who introduced them in 1934. Pedestrians have priority when they step onto the crossing: The Highway Code states that road traffic "MUST give way when a pedestrian has moved onto a crossing." [1]

In other countries, such as the United States, zebra crossings are also used on pedestrian crossings controlled by traffic signals. [2]


Pedestrian crossings (later called Zebra crossings after stripes were added) were originally introduced in law in Britain by section 18 of the Road Traffic Act 1934. [3]

Although the origin of the Zebra title is disputed, it is generally attributed to British MP James Callaghan who, in 1948, visited the country's Transport and Road Research Laboratory which was working on a new idea for safe pedestrian crossings. On being shown a black and white design, Callaghan is said to have remarked that it resembled a zebra. However, the historical evidence for this is weak and we do not have any primary sources. [4]

The zebra crossing was first used at 1,000 experimental sites in the United Kingdom in 1949. [5] [6] They were introduced officially in 1951. [7]

In 1971, the Green Cross Code was introduced to teach people safer crossing habits, replacing the earlier "kerb drill".

Line marking machine

The lines of a zebra crossing are commonly laid down by a road marking machine. Because the width of crossing lines is wider than other traffic lines, the marking shoe of a zebra cross marking machine is accordingly wider. The machine is hand pushed. [8]

Regional variations

In the United Kingdom, lollipop men or women (school crossing patrols) frequently attend zebra crossings near schools, at the hours when schoolchildren arrive and leave. Their widely used nickname arose because of the warning sign they hold up as they stop traffic: the sign is a large round disc on a long pole and thus resembles a giant lollipop, although they were originally of a square design.[ citation needed ]

In Germany, Scandinavia, and most other European countries, pedestrians have right of way if they are still on the curb but about to enter the crossing.

Red-and-white zebra crossing in Sofia, Bulgaria. Red and white zebra crossing in Sofia - 1.jpg
Red-and-white zebra crossing in Sofia, Bulgaria.

In New Zealand, motorists are required to give way to pedestrians. Pedestrians wishing to cross the road within 20 m (66 ft) of a crossing facility (which includes zebra crossings) must use a crossing facility. [9]

In Australia, raised zebra crossings are sometimes called wombat crossings. [10]

In Switzerland yellow stripes are used for pedestrian crossings. Unlike a yellow tiger crossing in the UK, however, cyclists are required to dismount to cross.

In Lebanon, striped crossings are the preferred pedestrian crossing type, though many other variations exist. Zebra crossings are painted mostly at signalised intersections and roundabouts. They are also widely used in school areas and stop sign regulated intersections. They provide priority and right of way to pedestrians under all circumstances.

In North America, pedestrian crossings are almost exclusively called crosswalks, but depending on the marking style, they can have different names.

The different crosswalk styles used in the US Crosswalk styles (en).svg
The different crosswalk styles used in the US

Although zebra crossings exist in the US, the term is used to describe a type of diagonal crosswalk with two parallel lines painted over the stripes, similar but not identical to the ladder style. Instead, zebra crossings are called "continental crosswalks" and are the preferred style in many states because of its enhanced visibility compared to the other marking styles. In most areas of Canada, standard parallel lines markings are the preferred crosswalk style, except in Toronto where zebra markings are widely used.


A 1998 Swedish study by A Várhelyi at Lund University found that the frequency of giving way at zebra crossings was 5% and drivers typically did not observe the law concerning speed behaviour at the zebra crossing. Speed behaviour in encounters (148 observations), non-encounters with pedestrian presence (642 observations) and situations without pedestrian presence (690 observations) were compared.

Three out of four drivers maintained the same speed or accelerated and only one out of four slowed down or braked. The study concluded that encounters between cars and pedestrians at the zebra crossing were critical situations in which the driver had to be influenced before he reached the decision zone at 50 to 80 m (160 to 260 ft) before the zebra crossing, in order to prevent "signalling by speed" behaviour. [11]

In the United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, it is the law that all road users, including motorists, give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings (Rule 195 of The Highway Code ). A fine of £100 and three licence penalty points is given to those failing to give way at the crossings. This penalty has attracted criticisms of leniency when compared to other countries which enforce fines of up to £2,000. [12] For failing to give way at a zebra crossing patrolled by a school crossing patrol ("lollipop man/lady" as they are commonly called), however, the penalty rises to £1,000 and a minimum of three licence points, with the possibility even of disqualification. [13] In the United Kingdom, motorists have to stop for a crossing patrol, even when it is not on a pedestrian crossing. [14] [15]

Cow crossing

The city of A Coruña in Galicia, Spain has opted for spots rather than stripes at a pedestrian crossing, resembling a cow instead of a zebra. The reason for this option is to recognize the importance of the animal for the region's farming. [16]

Tiger crossing

A tiger crossing is a variation used in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. It is painted yellow and black. In the United Kingdom, it allows cyclists to cross in a central area of the road without dismounting, and obliges motorists to give way to both cyclists and pedestrians. Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire experimented with tiger crossings during 2006–2007, but replaced them with toucan crossings. [17] A tiger crossing was introduced in Portsmouth in 2019. [18]

"Three-dimensional" crossings

A number of countries have experimented with "three-dimensional" zebra crossings based on an optical illusion. The white stripes of the crossing appear to hover above the ground as though they were a physical barrier. Although intended to improve pedestrian safety on the crossings, they have also been popular with tourists who like to be photographed crossing them, appearing to hover above the ground. Such crossings can be found in Australia, Iceland, Malaysia, India, New Zealand and the United States. [19]

Crossings can be combined with speed tables (i.e. raised sections of road designed to physically slow traffic down) as an additional safety measure.

A zebra crossing appears on the cover of The Beatles' Abbey Road album. The cover made the crossing a tourist attraction, and it has been incorporated into the Abbey Road Studios logo. Since the Abbey Road photo was taken, zigzag lines at the kerb and in the centre of the road have been added to all zebra crossings. The band Shriekback's album Sacred City contains an entire song, "Beatles Zebra Crossing?", about the Abbey Road zebra crossing and its status as a tourist attraction. English Heritage has given this crossing Grade II listed building status. [20]

There is also a tongue-in-cheek reference to zebra crossings in the science-fiction comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by English author Douglas Adams, in reference to Man using the improbable creature called the Babel fish as proof of the non-existence of God; the novel says, "Man then goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed at the next zebra crossing."

The La Paz traffic zebras is a team of young people who dress in zebra costumes and dance in the streets of La Paz, Bolivia in order to make drivers and pedestrians aware of traffic rules.

Rainbow zebra crossings

A zebra crossing immediately outside the Russian Embassy in Helsinki was painted in summer 2013 with the colours of the rainbow to protest the Russian government's policy towards lesbian and gay people, the rainbow being one symbol of the LGBT culture. [21]

A similar protest has also been made on a zebra crossing near the Russian Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. [22]

In 2018 in Paris, the authorities decided to paint some crossings with rainbow borders for the Pride; those were supposed to be temporary, but after homophobic vandalism, the municipality declared that the rainbow stripes would remain permanently. [23] [24] In the Sydney suburb of Darlinghurst there was a rainbow crossing along Oxford Street in recent years, to show support for the LGBT community.[ when? ]

Related Research Articles

Traffic Road users travelling by foot or vehicle

Traffic on roads consists of road users including pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars, buses and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using the public way for purposes of travel.

Roundabout Traffic intersection

A roundabout is a type of circular intersection or junction in which road traffic is permitted to flow in one direction around a central island, and priority is typically given to traffic already in the junction.

Pedestrian crossing Place designated for pedestrians to cross a road, street or avenue

A pedestrian crossing or crosswalk is a place designated for pedestrians to cross a road, street or avenue. The term "pedestrian crossing" is also used in some international treaties that pertain to road traffic and road signs, such as the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic and the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals.

Pelican crossing

A pelican crossing is the UK and Irish name for a type of pedestrian crossing, which features a pair of poles each with a standard set of traffic lights facing oncoming traffic, a push button and two illuminated, coloured pictograms facing the pedestrian from across the road. These are a red, stationary person to indicate that it is not safe to cross, and a green, walking person to indicate that it is safe to do so. Pelican crossings also provide non-visual indication that it is safe to cross, such as a beep, vibrating button or tactile rotating cone in order to assist visually impaired pedestrians.

Belisha beacon Design of lamp

A Belisha beacon is an amber-coloured globe lamp atop a tall black and white pole, marking pedestrian crossings of roads in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and in other countries historically influenced by Britain such as Hong Kong, Malta, and Singapore. The beacons were named after Leslie Hore-Belisha (1893–1957), the Minister of Transport who, in 1934, added beacons to pedestrian crossings, marked by large metal studs in the road surface. These crossings were later painted in black and white stripes, thus are known as zebra crossings. Legally, pedestrians have priority on such crossings.

Road traffic safety Methods and measures for reducing the risk of death and injury on roads

Road traffic safety refers to the methods and measures used to prevent road users from being killed or seriously injured. Typical road users include pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, vehicle passengers, horse riders, and passengers of on-road public transport.

Curb extension Traffic calming measure

A curb extension is a traffic calming measure which widens the sidewalk for a short distance. This reduces the crossing distance and allows pedestrians and drivers to see each other when parked vehicles would otherwise block visibility.

Speed bump Traffic calming device

Speed bumps are the common name for a class of traffic calming devices that use vertical deflection to slow motor-vehicle traffic in order to improve safety conditions. Variations include the speed hump, speed cushion, and speed table.


Jaywalking occurs when a pedestrian walks in or crosses a roadway that has traffic, other than at a suitable crossing point, or otherwise in disregard of traffic rules. The term originated with jay-drivers, people who drove horse-drawn carriages and automobiles on the wrong side of the road, before taking its current meaning.

Road surface marking Any kind of device or material used on a road surface to convey official information

Road surface marking is any kind of device or material that is used on a road surface in order to convey official information; they are commonly placed with road marking machines. They can also be applied in other facilities used by vehicles to mark parking spaces or designate areas for other uses.

The panda crossing was a type of signal-controlled pedestrian crossing used in the United Kingdom from 1962 to 1967.

A crossing guard, lollipop man/lady, crosswalk attendant, or school road patrol is a traffic management personnel who is normally stationed on busy roadways to aid pedestrians. Often associated with elementary school children, crossing guards stop the flow of traffic so pedestrians may cross an intersection. Crossing guards are known by a variety of names, the most widely used in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia being "lollipop lady/man", a reference to the large signs used that resemble lollipops. The verb is lollipopping, which can also be used for road works.

Road signs in Singapore closely follow those laid down in the traffic sign regulations used in the United Kingdom, although a number of changes over the years have introduced some slight deviations that suit local road conditions. Road signs in Singapore conform to the local Highway Code under the authority of the Singapore Traffic Police.

Driving in the United Kingdom is governed by various legal powers and in some cases is subject to the passing of a driving test. The government produces a Highway Code that details the requirements for all road users, including drivers. Unlike most other countries in the world, UK traffic drives on the left.

Box junction

A box junction is a road traffic control measure designed to prevent congestion and gridlock at junctions. The surface of the junction is typically marked with a yellow criss-cross grid of diagonal painted lines, and vehicles may not enter the area so marked unless their exit from the junction is clear, or they are intending to turn and are prevented from doing so by oncoming traffic, or other vehicles on the box waiting to turn.

HAWK beacon Traffic control device

A HAWK beacon is a traffic control device used to stop road traffic and allow pedestrians to cross safely. It is officially known as a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (PHB). The purpose of a HAWK beacon is to allow protected pedestrian crossings, stopping road traffic only as needed. Where standard traffic signal 'warrants' prevent the installation of standard three-color traffic signals, the HAWK beacon provides an alternative.

The Road Traffic Act 1934 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom introduced by the Minister of Transport, Leslie Hore-Belisha. The Act was made in a year in which there had been a record numbers of road casualties.

Glossary of road transport terms Wikipedia glossary

Terminology related to road transport—the transport of passengers or goods on paved routes between places—is diverse, with variation between dialects of English. There may also be regional differences within a single country, and some terms differ based on the side of the road traffic drives on. This glossary is an alphabetical listing of road transport terms.

Yellow line (road marking) Type of road marking

Yellow lines are road markings used in various territories.

Slough experiment British road safety trial, 1955–1957

The Slough experiment was a two-year road safety trial carried out in Slough, Berkshire, England, from 2 April 1955 to 31 March 1957. Different road safety innovations were tested to determine if they would reduce the number of road accidents. Amongst other innovations the experiment trialled the first linked traffic signals in the country, single yellow no-waiting lines, a keep left system for pedestrians and yield signs at junctions. The experiment also saw the first use of 20 mph and 40 mph speed limits in the UK. The experiment cost at least £133,100 and resulted in a 10% reduction in serious injuries and fatalities.



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