A zebra crossing is a type of crossing introduced in the United Kingdom in 1997, along with puffin and pelican crossings, to help codify the rules regarding pedestrian traffic across motorways. The Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997 governs the use of these walkways. In general, pedestrians in zebra crossings have the right of way and all motor vehicles must yield to pedestrians as long as they are within the signature black and white striped area.
A zebra crossing is a pattern of alternating coloured lines on a roadway that marks a pedestrian crossing. They receive their name from the pattern of light and dark stripes that make the walkway look like the hide of a zebra. The stripes are 400 to 600 millimetres (approximately 16 to 24 inches) thick and cross the entire road.
Introduced in 1953, zebra crossings were one of the first initiatives in the United Kingdom to promote pedestrian safety. Belisha beacons, named for the minister of transportation who first supported their use, are flashing lights that were seen on either end of crossings to signify pedestrian traffic. In addition to the parallel lines that give zebra lines their names, zigzag lines were later added to motorways preceding zebra crossing on the sides of the roadway to increase visibility of upcoming pedestrian walkways and warn drivers that a pedestrian crossing was near. These three distinctive markings have come to delineate pedestrian crossings from a distance.
When approaching a zebra crossing, pedestrians should look in the direction of traffic to make sure that there are no motor vehicles that will not have opportunity to stop. If the way is clear, pedestrians can begin walking and all other traffic must yield to the pedestrians until they are outside of the zebra crossing.
Difference from Other Crossings
The zebra crossing differs from pelican and puffin style crossings because it has no indicators to let pedestrians or motor vehicle operators know when it is safe to cross. In general, at a zebra crossing, pedestrians always have the right of way and motor vehicle operators must be wary of their safety. However, this is subject to variances in local rules. The exact law can be found by contacting your local law enforcement office.
It is against the law to approach a zebra crossing and not stop and allow people in the crosswalk to finish crossing, to park within any zone marked by zigzag lines preceding a zebra crossing, or to pass another car within the zigzag lined area. Remember, unless local laws differentiates, if pedestrians precede a motor vehicle into a zebra crossing, the pedestrian in all instances has the right of way.