Thursday, 19 May 2011

Humped Zebras and other Fowl British ideas

Okay, first an apology for the terrible pun. It seems to rub off on you after you've been here a while. Pun-making is a national pastime, and seriously, Newscasters are the worst. You can't get through an edition of the nightly news without some kind of groaner.

Humped Zebra Crossing.

I took this picture while waiting at the bus stop outside of Tesco (major grocery store chain) in Faversham. The first time I saw it I gasped. It just seemed so… wrong. Then I giggled, because, well, because it was there, in big letters, permanent, and nobody seemed to mind.

Kind of like the first time I asked for a restroom in a fancy department store and the clerk pointed to the HUGE sign overhead: "TOILET." Effective, but crude.

So what is a Humped Zebra Crossing? It is a pedestrian crossing with a traffic-calming hump/bump/elevation.

Zebra Crossings have flashing beacons (yellow blinking balls) on the top of black and white striped poles on either side of the road. Cars must stop if there are any pedestrians near a zebra crossing. (Motorists don’t always do this, especially foreigners.)
Photo: Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons

Toucan Crossings have a traffic light, which tells you when to cross, and when traffic has to stop. Toucan crossings are for both pedestrians and bicycles.
Photo: secretlondon / Wikimedia Commons

Pelican Crossings are signal-controlled crossings operated by the pedestrian. You press the button and in a short period of time the traffic light turns red and traffic stops, the green walking man lights up and you can cross. (We have these in America, without the bird reference.) Photo: Patrick Neylan / Wikimedia Commons

"The name derives from a cute pseudo-acronym for 'Pedestrian Light Controlled', with the 'o' changed to an 'a' in deference to the bird. The use of improbable animal symbols began in 1951 with the introduction of 'zebra' crossings, which were made internationally famous by the Beatles and their Abbey Road album." (BBC)

Puffin Crossings are similar to Pelican crossings, however, there is no flashing green man to tell you to hurry up, as the sensors tell the lights that you are still walking across, so they don't change. (Iffy to me, because if it's broken you become bug splat!) The sensors are car friendly, because if you press the button, and then decide not to cross and walk away, or you jaywalk before the lights change, then the sensors cancel the crossing so traffic is not halted unnecessarily.

"'Puffin' stands for 'Pedestrian User-Friendly Interface'. It is so named because of the microwave detector which alters the 'green man' period in accordance with the pedestrian crossing speed... This is considered to be a much better idea than separate Tortoise and Hare crossings." You can read the full BBC article HERE

And, YES, this is all on the Driver's Test. You have to keep your birds straight to pass the test.



  1. I never knew there were so many beasts on England's streets! I like this post!

  2. @Karen: Thanks! Everyone here said the post was "boring" - mainly because they are British and take it for granted. I thought it was funny. :P The lady at the bus stop watching me take a picture of the sign, though, thought I was right nuts. Of course they generally think of Americans as nuts. x