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Pedestrian Crossings

One of a series of street environment design guides.

Description of the element

This design guide provides information on pedestrian crossings and the preferred choice of older people in using these crossings.


The specific conditions of a street will determine what form of crossing is most suitable for the particular context. Part 2 of the Traffic Management Act (2004) imposes a duty on all local authorities to secure the expeditious movement of vehicular and pedestrian traffic on their networks. The range of crossings types can be drawn from the following:

  • Signalised (formal) crossings - 4 types - pelican, puffin, toucan and pegasus
    • The Pelican (pedestrian light controlled crossing) was the first signalised crossing to be introduced in the UK. It uses a red man and green man to indicate when a pedestrian should cross, and a flashing green man indicates a pedestrian should not start to cross
    • The Puffin (Pedestrian User-friendly Intelligent Crossing) is slowly replacing the pelican. It has nearside pedestrian signals and a variable crossing time by using infra-red pedestrian detectors to match the length of time pedestrians take to cross
    • The Toucan (two-can cross) is similar to the Puffin but cyclists are also permitted to ride across the road
    • The Pegasus (sometimes called equestrian) is similar to a Puffin with a separate crossing for horse riders
  • Zebra crossings (also considered a formal crossing), the advantage being that they involve the minimum delay for pedestrians when used in the right context because the pedestrian does not have to wait for a formal signal change in order to cross
  • Pedestrian refuges and kerb build outs narrow the carriageway thereby reducing the crossing distance. These are common in locations where a full pedestrian crossing cannot be justified
  • Informal crossings are formed with the careful use of paving materials and street furniture which encourages slow moving traffic to give priority to pedestrians
  • Uncontrolled crossings typically created by using dropped kerbs which should be matched to pedestrian desire lines rather than vehicular crossover points. Inclusive Mobility (2002) recommends pedestrian dropped kerbs every 100m
  • Footbridges and underpasses

What older people tell us they prefer and why

In the focus groups, our participants referred to the difficulties of crossing roads within their neighbourhood environment, very typical comments being:

“There is no pedestrian crossing near the housing, it is difficult to cross the road”
“The traffic is very heavy and fast, and getting across the road is difficult”

In the interviews with older people, we specifically asked about different types of road crossing and what they prefer to use. Participants were allowed to identify preference for more than one crossing type. Most participants (90%) prefer a crossing where they have control over the traffic in the form of using a signalised crossing. Approximately half of the participants would also use a zebra crossing or an island crossing on the basis that “they are better than nothing as long as the motorists stop”. Least preferred are informal crossings and uncontrolled crossings, footbridges and underpasses. Typical comments from participants are:

Signalised crossing

picture of a lady walking across a signalised crossing

“It allows you to control the traffic”
“You know you are safe once you press the button and the green light comes on”
“It bleeps which is good”

Zebra crossing

picture of a zebra crossing

“They are better than nothing as long as the motorists stop”
“I’m never sure what I do – do I step out and hope the cars will stop?”
“Zebras are old fashioned, and traffic is so much more now, you can’t just go across the road without a signal”

Pedestrian refuge and kerb build out

picture of a pedestrian refuge?

“It allows you to rest in the middle”
“The island is not wide enough for my scooter”
“I don’t feel terribly safe because you often see them [bollards] flattened or knocked by vehicles”

Informal crossing – raised

picture of a man walking across an informal crossing??

“These are good because they imply a pedestrian area and pedestrian priority”
“These are risky and confusing because of the uncertainty of who has got right of way”
“A nightmare – you can’t control it at all”


picture of a footbridge??

“The safest, but not very practical”
“Impossible with a scooter”
“You have to do lots of climbing up and down – pedestrians should come first and be at ground level”


picture of an Underpass

“I might use it if I can see the other end, and its busy around”
“The slopes up and down are too big, too much walking”
“I don’t like them because they are dark, usually damp, with graffiti and rubbish”

Findings from the physical audit survey

Bar chart Provision of pedestrian crossings in the street

Bar chart 1 provision of pedestrian crossings in the street


We provide two recommendations, the first one is very specific on walking speeds and crossing time, the second one is generic with more detailed information becoming available with IDGO TOO research. It is recommended that:

  • Consideration is given to walking speeds and safety of older pedestrians.

    The designed walking speed for pedestrian’s crossings in the UK is 1.2m / second (DfT 1995, DfT 2005), yet various pedestrian studies and our own pedestrian counts show an average walking speed on crossings of between 0.7-0.9m / second. This speed further reduces when there is a large volume of people using a crossing. It is therefore likely that older people's safety is being compromised by inadequate crossing times.
  • All designated crossings should appropriately support everyone in using them, and improved consideration needs to be given to disabled people, particularly those with a visual impairment, and older people.

Where to find further information

County Surveyors Society and DfT (2006). Puffin Good Practice Guide, London, DfT. http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/tss/gpg/puffingoodpracticeguide01

DfT (1995). The Assessment of Pedestrian Crossings, Local Transport Note 1/95, London, TSO http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/tpm/ltnotes/theassessmentofpedestriancro4033

DfT (1995), The Design of Pedestrian Crossings. Local Transport Note 2/95, London, TSO. http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/tpm/ltnotes/thedesignofpedestriancrossin4034

DfT (2002), Inclusive Mobility: a guide to best practice on access to pedestrian and transport infrastructure. London. Department for Transport. Available online at http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_roads/documents/page/dft_roads_506894.pdf or free from Enquiry Services, DfT, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria St, London SW1E 6DE. Tel: 020 7944 8300, Fax 0207 944 6589, Email: publications@communities.gsi.gov.uk

DfT (2005) Pedestrian facilities at Signal controlled junctions. Traffic Advisory Leaflet 5/05. London, TSO. Download advisory leaflet pdf

Also, although the source cannot be verified, an informative article on pedestrian crossings including international comparisons can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedestrian_crossing


This Design Guide is first printed in 2007 and is protected by Copyright Notice © Rita Newton and Marcus Ormerod, I’DGO Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors.

Corresponding author of this Design Guide:

Rita Newton, SURFACE Inclusive Design Research Centre, The University of Salford, Maxwell Building, The Crescent, Salford, M5 4WT, UK. Email:r.newton@salford.ac.uk

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