Differences between pelican & puffin crossings

Updated February 21, 2017

Pelican and puffin crossings work to control the flow of traffic between cars and pedestrians. These systems work in sync with the traffic lighting system, both being mechanisms to allow pedestrians the opportunity to cross the road.


The official name of pelican crossings is Pelicon crossing, an acronym for Pedestrian Light Controlled Crossing that borrows the first few letters from each word. However, "pelican" is the more common spelling. The name for puffin crossings comes from Pedestrian User-Friendly Intelligent Crossings. This acronym takes the first letters of the first two words, doubles the "F" of "friendly" and adds the "in" from "intelligent."

Signal Locations

A pelican crossing is a traffic light system operated by the pedestrian. The controls to operate the light signals are on the pedestrian's corner, while the light signal for crossing is on the other side of the street. In puffin crossings, the signals for walking are located above the pedestrian's control box on the pedestrian's corner.


Pelican crossings use a green figure to signal it is OK to walk,and a red signal to stop the pedestrians from crossing the road. In puffin crossings, these coloured signals appear on the control box, and can be changed to green for crossing, by pressing the button.

Street Markings

The street is marked with a zigzag line to warn oncoming drivers that they are entering a pelican crossing. The pelican traffic light has a distinct design as well. Puffing crossings also have distinct traffic lights and zigzag lines in the road. However, in puffin crossings, infra-red cameras are connected to the traffic lights to detect the body heat of pedestrians waiting to cross the street. When pedestrians are present, the infrared cameras will signal the light to stay red longer, or to change to green so the pedestrians may cross.

Warning Sounds

Some pelican crossings have warning sounds for the visually impaired to safely cross the road without assistance. Puffin crossings just rely on infra-red signals.

Right of Way

Once a pedestrian presses the control button on the pelican crossing, the traffic signal will turn from green to amber to red. Traffic rules dictate that a driver must give the right of way to any pedestrian in the walkway when the amber light is flashing. In a puffin crossing, the light colours change without the flashing amber light.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Naima Manal's articles on health, diet, nutrition, alternative medicine, education, parenting, crafts, travel, home and garden and home improvement have appeared on various websites. Manal received her Bachelor of Science in biology/pre-medical studies from Molloy College in 1994 and has been a freelance writer, teacher and homeschooling mom since 1993.