Saturday Scenes

Wed 6 April 2011

A Hairbrained Scheme and Most Dangerous

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 21:47

On the 2nd of April in 1962, the first panda crossing was opened in London.

Zebra crossings had been in use since the 1950s but as traffic increased, it became clear that this wasn’t enough. Automated traffic light systems were expensive and there was concern that they would unnecessarily slow traffic. The Minister of Transport decided to tackle the problem by finding a middle ground between traffic lights and zebra crossings. The result of this was the panda crossing.

The design was somewhat convoluted. The general idea was sound: there were markings on the ground to ensure it was easily recognisable like a zebra crossing and there were lights which could be seen from afar like a traffic light system. Pedestrians pressed a button to signal their desire to cross and a light display would tell them when it was safe. If the crossing was not in use, all lights were off.

CBRD » Histories » Pedestrian Crossings

About here is where the Ministry got a bit carried away – a pulsating amber light warned motorists that people were about to cross and a pulsating red light stopped traffic. After eight seconds, ‘CROSS’ began to flash, and the amber traffic light returned, this time flashing. Pedestrians then had seventeen seconds of Zebra Crossing-style priority, during which time ‘CROSS’ flashed faster and faster. The Ministry was careful to distinguish between the lights that pulsated and those that merely flashed: the answer, apparently, is that a pulsating light never completely goes out. After all that, the lights just switched off, and traffic could move freely once more.

The AA stated that it would simply take time for drivers and pedestrians to understand the new crossings. However, despite a huge publicity campaign, the public continued to feel that it was too confusing and the scheme was dropped. In 1969, the much more successful pelican crossing was launched. These remain in use although the high-tech puffin crossing, with sensors to detect the progress of pedestrians, is gaining traction.


On the 2nd of April in 2010, why did the panda cross the road?

To get a great photograph for SatScenes, of course? We’ve got a lovely variety this week, take a look:

Use Twitter to follow these fine photographers who aren’t afraid of crossings:

Have you got a camera or a smart phone?

Then you should take a photograph on Saturday. It’s easy to join us!

Simply send a tweet to @SatScenes with the url and the location and all the rest happens automatically!

I’m looking forward to seeing your Saturday Scene in the next edition!

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