Crosswalks in London
Pedestrian Crossings in London
(Throughout the UK)

22 May 2012 (Updated 4 February 2017)

For as large and chaotic as London may appear, it is quit pedestrian friendly. When trying to cross the street remember rule number 1: look left. You will see that painted on most curbs at designated crosswalks. Incidentally, the Brits spell curb as kerb. They just have to be different, which is why they drive on the left. That brings us to rule number 2: after looking left, look right. It is always a good idea to look both ways, as traffic will be coming in two directions. But the car that will hit you first will be on your left. None of this is too difficult. Just go with the flow and keep your life insurance paid up.

There are several kinds of crosswalks and I would like to illustrate them for you here. The basic crossings are Zebra and Pelican crossings. Others you will encounter are School, Puffin and Toucan crossings. And you though this was going to be easy? To top it all off there is also a Pegasus crossing. When it all gets to be too much you can step on a Pedestrian Refuge.

Zebra Crossing
A Striped Animal

We all should know this one as four lads from Liverpool made this famous on an album cover. They are black and whit lines from one kerb to the other. The can be near the corner of a street but very often in the middle of a block. See a live webcam of “The Crossing” at Abbey Road studio.

Round-globe lamps called
Belisha Beacons, similar to New York City subway lamps, located on poles on each side of the road at zebra crossings. The lamps can be flashing yellow, steady yellow or off. Before crossing, walk up to the kerb and stop. Look at the lamp and look in both directions. If the lamps are flashing the approaching vehicle must stop only if a person is attempting to cross. If you are away from the kerb the vehicle will continue to move. If the lamps are steady the vehicle must stop even if there is nobody trying to cross. When the lamps are off the pedestrian must wait until it is safe to cross. Just because you have the right-of way in the crossing, don’t think you have the right to capriciously step into the crossing. Many of the globes now sport a halo ring of LED lights to conserve energy. I think they are better as they are brighter.

As a rule, pedestrians have the right of way whenever they are in a crosswalk. Traffic must come to a stop but don’t cross until they do.

Pelican Crossing
Red and Green Flashing Lights

These are light controlled crossing for pedestrians. The name comes from Pedestrian-Light-Controlled and have push buttons to activate the lights, which are mounted in a box. When the light is flashing red one should not cross until the light starts flashing green. The lights are located on poles on the other side of the road where the chicken has already made it across. One must push the button to stop traffic.

Puffin Crossing

Similar to Pelican crossings but without the flashing lights across the street. The indicator box showing a red “don’t walk” figure or a green “walk” figure is on your side of the road. These are safer than Pelican crossing and better for elderly and disabled pedestrians. One must push the button to stop traffic.

Toucan Crossing
Not for Guinness Drinking

Toucan crossing allow bicyclists to ride across the along with pedestrians. Hence, the two-can cross. One must push the button to stop traffic.

School Crossing
Lollipops in the Road

Crossing guards are stationed at these crosswalks and everyone must obey the guard. Drivers face fines fir failure to stop. Adults: please set a good example for the kids and obey the guard. They have large paddles to alert the motorists to stop and the paddles are called lollipops. What did you think they would be called at a school zone?

Pegasus Crossing

Just as a toucan crossing allows for bicycles to cross, a Pegasus crossing allows those ride horses to cross while mounted. One must push the button (there are elevated ones for riders) to stop traffic.

Pedestrian Refuge
(Safety Island)

Nothing more than a safety island in the middle of a wide road: for people who can’t make it across in one leap. Beware that motorist will have the right of way so keep all eyes open in all directions at once. Be safe. It should be noted that streets with a safety island could have separate control lights for pedestrians. You may have the green to the island but a red from the island. Treat roads as two separate roads when an island is in place.


Subways are common in the UK and especially in London. They are what we Americans would call a pedestrian underpass. Sub-surface-ways permit travel under busy streets and roads without interruption, albeit steps down and steps up. They are frequently found near underground stations. Keep in mind that they may not be well lighted and have intersecting tunnels making for hidden corners. Exercise caution at night.

A Wee Bit More

Always cross the street at a cross walk and don’t jaywalk. Some busy streets have bus lanes that are also used by taxicabs. There are narrow paths on the street for bicyclists who have the right to be there. Treat them as you would a car or truck. In the English language, trucks are called Lorries.

I was walking up Charring Cross Road in central London one evening when I heard a bus screeching to a halt. A young couple were not jaywalking but walking against the red traffic light. The bus had the right of passage and the driver just had a moment to react. He stopped the bus within inches of the two people. That had to take some years off of their lives as well as the diver’s. Be careful out on the streets.

Not too many years ago I was crossing at Russell Square. I had the flashing lights in my favor and drivers had to stop. The only driver coming around the corner was not expecting anyone to be crossing and scratched to a halt when he saw the fear in my face. Always exercise caution.