Understanding Pelican Puffin & Toucan Light Controlled Crossings

Light Controlled Crossings - Pelican, Puffin and Toucan

Have you ever wondered what the difference between the Pelican, Puffin and Toucan light controlled crossings are? 

There are three main types of light-controlled crossings for pedestrians:

  • Pelican
  • Puffin
  • Toucan (Equine)

Then, of course, there's the Zebra Crossing which isn't light-controlled but will have flashing Belisha beacons.

You may have seen all of these but have not necessarily noticed much difference between them. There are differences, but the basics are the same.

Pelican, Puffin or Toucan light controlled crossings

Always approach pedestrian light controlled crossings with care and the intention of stopping should it become necessary, no matter what the lights say.  

If there are pedestrians on the crossing, you MUST give way to them and let them continue to the kerb and clear of the crossing.

Most crossings have the red textured paving and dropped kerbs for ease of access for disabled people, wheelchairs and baby buggies. They will also have white painted zig-zag lines which mean no parking and no overtaking on approach.

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There may be an advanced warning triangle sign, especially if there is a bend in the road before the crossing.

Check out your Highway Code for details of this sign.

light controlled crossings

What to look out for at Light Controlled Crossings

All of these crossings have traffic lights to control the traffic and allow the pedestrian time to cross.

Sometimes the crossing user is a cyclist (Toucan Crossing) or mounted on horseback (Equine). These people use the crossing along with pedestrians.

With the Toucan crossing, there may be a cycle lane system in the area, and with the Equine crossing, perhaps a bridleway.

One difference is the height of the button to activate the crossing lights. For instance, a horse rider can be a couple of metres off the ground, so it would be difficult to lean over to operate a low button.

The red and green man sign is accompanied/replaced by a red and green bicycle (in the case of the Toucan Crossing) or a red or green horse and rider (in the case of the Equine Crossing).

Pedestrians can use these crossings at any time.

The sequence of lights at light controlled crossings

For most of the light-controlled crossings, you will find that the lights are set up in the same way as the normal traffic lights. That is, for the traffic to stop, the lights go from green to amber, to red, and for the traffic to be able to move off again, from red to red/amber, then green.

Puffin, Toucan and Equine Pedestrian Crossings have sensors to detect pedestrians and the lights are kept on red for the traffic until the pedestrian (rider/cyclist) has departed the crossing area. The sensor will detect this and the lights will then turn red to red/amber to green for the traffic to proceed (just like a normal traffic light controlled junction). 

However, always double-check the crossing is clear before driving on. Pedestrians always have priority, no matter what colour the lights are.

The Pelican Crossing is a much earlier version of the light controlled crossings and is on a timer rather than a sensor.

Once a pedestrian has activated the crossing by pressing a button, the timer on the crossing changes the lights to red. This could be suddenly, or in a few minutes, depending on how long ago it was last activated.

Be warned, and if you see someone going to operate the button as you are getting near, be prepared to stop as the lights may change immediately.

The lights will change from green to amber, to red. If you are too close to stop on amber, you may continue across. But if the light is red, or you have time to stop at the line on the amber light, then do so.

Remain stopped until the light goes to either, flashing amber or green (the crossing must be clear under both circumstances). You may also hear a beeping noise which is an alert for the partially sighted and blind pedestrians. 

Dual carriageways will have separate traffic lights for each side and must be operated as two separate crossings.

The Zebra Crossing

The Zebra crossing isn't controlled by lights but will have flashing Belisha beacons at either side to warn road users.

Blind and partially sighted people are able to recognize where to cross by the rough texture of the paving at the edge of the crossing.

There may be a sandy coloured section of tarmac – this gives a good gripping surface for braking/stopping traffic: this is also a visible clue for the driver to the location of the crossing.

Learner drivers need to be aware that pedestrians have absolute priority at a Zebra crossing, so if you see a pedestrian ready to cross the road, you WILL HAVE TO STOP for them. Remember to use the MSM (mirror, signal, manoeuvre) routine when stopping. 

On seeing a Zebra Crossing you should, in good time...

  • Check for pedestrians nearby (if there is no one, then just drive over as normal), but keep a lookout for people running towards the crossing, just in case.
  • Check your mirrors for following traffic
  • Apply the brakes early to alert any close following traffic (you may use hand signals to support this). Check the Highway Code for the correct hand signal.
  • Stop – at the white line, or behind the other vehicles, and apply the handbrake. This is to give extra security in case your car is hit from behind, you will be less likely to be pushed into the pedestrians on the crossing.
  • Prepare to set off again, but do not do so if there are any people still on the crossing, it must be clear before you set off again. Check all around you for stray pedestrians, mirrors, before moving off.
  • Never wave or urge a pedestrian across the road, or crossing. Be patient. Let them decide for themselves. Never rev up the engine!!!
  • If it is a dual carriageway, with a staggered crossing, the approach these as two separate crossings, treat them as such. When your side is clear, move off as normal. Warning, not all pedestrians appreciate this fact, and could consider it their right to just continue across the second half of the road, without first stopping at the kerb to check traffic has stopped for them. Always be prepared to stop at any crossing, just in case.


Things you should know about the Zebra Crossing

  • There may be an advanced warning triangle on approach. Look out for it.
  • There may also be situated on a hump. This will be sign-posted.
  • There may be several, especially in town centres or near schools.
  • Never block or park over the crossing. Leave it clear so people can still use them even though traffic may be slow-moving or in a queue.
  • They are often worn out and in need of upgrading, which can make them hard to see.
  • The amber beacon flashes all the time.
  • They can be situated in strange places, for example, across the opening/exit to a roundabout. Approach them in the same way as any other crossing.

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