Side road zebra crossings long overdue on UK roads

In France, at almost every minor side road, there’s a simple painted zebra crossing. Now that the updated Highway Code gives those on foot this same priority, it’s time for a similar approach here.

Recent research by YouGov revealed that 29 per cent of pedestrians have been hit by a car or suffered a near miss at a side road. The research was commissioned by Living Streets, which alongside national transport organisations, motoring bodies and charities, has issued a joint statement asking national government to authorise the use of zebra markings on UK side roads.

Greater Manchester last year published evidence showing that zebra markings on side roads lead to drivers giving way 30% more than where there is no marking. The city-region has  asked for permission to roll out a large-scale trial of zebra markings at side roads.

Zebra crossing stats

  • YouGov polling data revealed 76 per cent of parents of 4-11-year-olds would feel safer about their child walking to school (or allowing them to walk independently) if there are zebra crossings on side roads.
  • The latest National Travel Survey shows that just 47 per cent of 5–16-year-olds in England walk to school, down from 70 per cent in the 1970s.
  • The installation of zebra crossings can cost anywhere between £40,000 and £100,000+. However, the proposed ‘paint-only’ side road zebra markings do not use expensive Belisha beacons or zigzags and are in common use across the world to give greater priority to pedestrians when crossing quieter roads. The crossings typically cost around £1,000.
  • A report conducted by the TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), recommends that evidence on side road zebra crossing gathered in Greater Manchester is sufficient to warrant national government amending the regulations (Traffic Signs and Regulations Guidance Document) to allow large-scale, long-term trials.

Pop-up zebra crossings

We’re great fans of ‘informal’ zebra crossings. When we were approached by a group of parents in London whose request for a zebra crossing at a road traffic collision black spot outside their local infant school had been turned down on grounds of cost, we went about building one ourselves as cheaply as possible.

The result was a pop-up zebra crossing that could be erected in less than two minutes. And with no need to consider drainage, the excavation of existing pavement, disposal of material, new kerbing and paving, anti-skid surfacing, road markings, traffic signs, electrical connections and pillars, the total cost came to a fraction of the £114,000 quoted by the Highways Agency.

Faced with coverage of the campaign in the Sunday Times, Daily Mail, Evening Standard and Metro newspapers and on numerous radio stations, the local authority quickly installed the much-needed real zebra crossing.

pop-up zebra crossing

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  1. Thierry


    I’ve lived in Scotland for over 20 years but am originally from France. I can confirm that in my home country, zebra crossings are indeed popular and road users DO give way to any pedestrian near one of them (there will always be exceptions sadly). It’s just shocking that in the UK, cars come first. It’s as if when people are behind the wheel, they stop acting like sensible human beings.

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