What are pelican crossing lights? The Science Behind Pelican Crossing Light Signals

Hi, welcome to the next blog. Today we will discuss the pelican crossing light signals. The upgrading technology of the traditional zebra crossing in the road technology. This is a part of the safety measure on the road. In this system, the pedestrian can control the light signals.

What are Pelican Crossing Lights?

Pelican Crossing Lights are a set of traffic control devices used at pedestrian crossings to ensure the safe passage of pedestrians across roads.

The term “Pelican” stands for “Pedestrian Light Controlled Crossing.” These crossings typically include traffic lights, pedestrian signals, and sometimes additional features such as push-button controls in the devices.

Originally known as a PELICON crossing (a portmanteau of PEdestrian LIght CONtrolled).

Introduced to UK roads in 1969.

Pelican Crossing Light Signals are the upgrade of the traditional zebra crossing. This system manually controls the traffic signal to pass the road.

This devices are located at the right-of-way side.

Key Components

  • Incorporates traffic lights for signaling to drivers.
  • Features a push button on both sides of the road for pedestrians.
  • The standard width is 2.8 meters.

Pedestrian Interaction

  • Pedestrians start crossing by pressing a button.
  • After a certain interval, traffic lights move from green to red, instructing drivers to stop.
  • The green walking symbol replaces the red stationary symbol, indicating that it is safe for pedestrians to cross.

Safety measures

  • The green walking symbol starts flashing after a predetermined time.
  • Simultaneously, a flashing amber light alerts drivers that they may proceed if the crossing is clear.

Regulatory Update

  • In 2016, the Department of Transportation advised against installing new pelican crossings on public highways.
  • Despite this, thousands of existing pelican crossings remain in use nationwide.
  • Most contemporary crossings now have puffins, with exceptions where nearby signs pose a safety risk.

Who invented pelican crossing lights?

The pelican crossing lights were not invented by a single person. The concept and design of pelican crossings were developed by traffic engineers and transportation experts.

The pelican crossing traffic light system was first installed on UK roads in 1969. This evolution has involved contributions from various professionals in the field of traffic management and road safety.

Three main Pelican Crossing lights signal

The standard Pelican Crossing lights system includes three main signal lights:

Green Man

This signal indicates that pedestrians are safe to start crossing on the road. It is also helped by a green light for vehicles, signaling they should stop to allow pedestrians to cross.

What are pelican crossing lights? The Science Behind Pelican Crossing Light Signals

Red Man

pelican crossing light system

Flashing Amber

The pelican crossing light signal also displayed a flashing amber signal after the green man signal. This signals to pedestrians that they should not start crossing if they haven’t already, but those who have started can complete their crossing.

Pelican Crossings often have push-button controls for pedestrians. When pedestrians want to cross a road, they can press the button on the devices. Which activates the traffic signals, bringing up the red signal for vehicles and the green man signal for pedestrians.

These signals are specially designed to manage the flow of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic at intersections on the road. Improving safety for pedestrians by providing clear indications of when it is safe to cross.

Importance of pelican crossing light signals

Why this technology is important on the road? I have included some major points of importance:

  • Increases pedestrian safety at road crossings.
  • Guides drivers with clear signs, reducing the risk of accidents.
  • Control the traffic flow orderly and efficient.
  • Empower pedestrians to initiate safe crossings when necessary.
  • Reduces confusion at intersections for both drivers and pedestrians.
  • Standardizes crushing processes.
  • Includes a push-button system for pedestrian control.
  • Reduces the likelihood of conflict between vehicles and pedestrians.
  • Supports access by providing specified crossing intervals.
  • It represents a historic development in traffic management since its introduction in 1969.
  • It helps in emergency pedestrians.

What to do when pedestrians cross at the Pelican crossing lights?

This is so simple step to know what to do when you pass or pedestrian passing at the Pelican crossing. If you know about this step that’s very good. But if you are new in this field you can follow the following steps to pass from Pelican Crossing.

Go to the crossing and locate the control panel on the post.

Press the button on the control panel to start the crossing sequence.

The panel lights on in amber, displaying the word ‘Wait‘ to confirm your request.

Start the Crossing by following the signal light. The Red light signal indicates that is not safe to cross.

Wait for the sign to change in the green man signal. Which indicates that is safe to cross.

Make sure traffic has stopped before Crossing onto the road.

Start crossing the road when the green man signal is on.

Note that, after a set interval, the green signal will start flashing.

If you are already crossing when it starts flashing, continue on the other side.

If a green signal light is flashing your approach, avoid crossing.

Press the button again and wait for the next cycle to cross the road safely.

What to do vehicle driver when pedestrians cross the road?

Similarly, if they can follow the traffic light also follow the pelican crossing lights. If the amber light is on driver should slow down the vehicle and red light is on then fully stop the vehicle. After the amber light starts to flash, drivers can proceed only if there are no pedestrians on the crossing.

If the pedestrian was crossing the road then drivers can wait until after the pedestrian was completely passed on the other side of the road. Then continue the vehicle moving.

Pelican crossing traffic light sequence

I hope you are daily following the complete traffic light signal. Just like that, you have to properly manage the pelican crossing lights sequence. Pedestrians must follow the following pelican crossing traffic light sequence while crossing the road. It helps you to safely cross the road.

Waiting Phase

  • The pedestrian presses the button on the control panel.
  • The control panel lights up in amber with the word ‘wait.’

Red Signal for Vehicles

  • Across the road, a red stationary person signal indicates to pedestrians that it’s not safe to cross.
  • Simultaneously, the traffic lights for vehicles turn red, signaling them to stop.

Green Signal for Pedestrians

  • After a set interval, the red light signal changes to a steady green light.
  • Pedestrians are now signaled that it’s safe to cross.

Crossing Phase

  • Pedestrians check for stopped traffic and proceed to cross while the green man signal is steady.

Flashing Green Signal

  • After a predetermined time, the green man starts to flash.

Completion of Crossing

  • If pedestrians are already crossing during the flashing phase, they continue to the other side.

Next Cycle

  • If the green man signal is flashing upon arrival, pedestrians wait for the next cycle by pressing the button again.

Basically, the pedestrian must follow the light signal. The red light signal is not safe for crossing the road and the Green man signal is safe for crossing the road. you have to see clearly in the amber. So be safe before and after crossing the road.

Pelican crossing lights sensor

These crossings do not automatically detect pedestrians. To cross safely a pedestrian has to press the control button and wait for the green man signal to appear. The crossing time is set up in the devices. So pedestrians can cross a road at the same intervals. Also, you have to chance to press the button at the same time interval.

Note: Puffin crossings detect the presence of pedestrians, however, this is not the case with pelican crossings.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pelican Crossing lights


  • Enhanced Pedestrian Safety
  • Organized Traffic Flow
  • Clear Signal for Drivers
  • Standardized Crossing Procedures
  • Pedestrian Empowerment with Push-Button Control
  • Accessibility Support with Designated Crossing Intervals
  • Development to the country


  • Potential Traffic Disruption
  • Dependency on Pedestrian Button Usage
  • Limited Adaptability to Dynamic Traffic Conditions
  • Pedestrian Compliance Challenges
  • Confusion light sequences
  • Installation and Maintenance Costs
  • Impact on Traffic Flow, Especially in High-Traffic Areas

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pelican Crossing Lights Table

Enhanced Pedestrian SafetyPotential Traffic Disruption
Organized Traffic FlowDependency on Pedestrian Button Usage
Clear Signal for DriversLimited Adaptability to Dynamic Traffic
Standardized Crossing ProceduresPedestrian Compliance Challenges
Pedestrian EmpowermentInstallation and Maintenance Costs
Accessibility SupportImpact on Traffic Flow


Pelican crossing lights enhance road safety, empowering individuals to cross roads safely. Introduced in the UK in 1969, they ensure standardized procedures and organized traffic flow. However, potential traffic disruption, button usage, and installation costs are important considerations. So guys be safe be happy in the traffic zone.


Why are Pelican Crossings Important?

Pelican Crossings are important for enhancing pedestrian safety, guiding drivers with clear signals, and maintaining organized traffic flow. They empower pedestrians with control over signal changes, contributing to standardized crossing procedures.

What’s the Difference Between Pelican and Puffin Crossings?

While both are pedestrian-controlled crossings, Pelican Crossings require pedestrians to initiate the crossing with a button. In contrast, Puffin Crossings uses sensors to detect the presence of pedestrians, adjusting signal timings accordingly.

Are Pelican Crossings Still Installed?

Yes, This is an upgraded traditional zebra crossing. So most of the country can upgrade this technology in road safety.

Can I cross the road if the green person is flashing at a pelican crossing?

If you’ve already started crossing when the green person begins to flash, you can continue to the other side. However, if the green person is flashing upon your arrival, it’s safer to wait for the next cycle by pressing the button again.

What happens if I press the button at a pelican crossing?

Pressing the button activates the crossing sequence.

Are pelican crossing lights only found in the UK?

While the term “pelican crossing” is commonly used in the UK, similar pedestrian-controlled crossings are installed worldwide under different names and designs.

Do pelican crossings have any provisions for visually impaired pedestrians?

Yes, many pelican crossings include audible signals, such as beeps or clicks,

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