Learn the History of London’s First Panda Crossing

Uk First Panda Crossing

1961 Ministry of Transport announced it was to introduce push-button crossings called Panda Crossings

If you’ve ever walked on a busy street, you know how difficult it can be to cross safely. In the early 1960s, a solution was introduced in the United Kingdom that would eventually become the ubiquitous “zebra crossing.” But before the zebra crossing, there was the panda crossing.

Panda Crossing

The first panda crossing was installed in 1962 in the town of Slough, just west of London. It was designed as a safer alternative to the traditional pedestrian crossing, which relied on drivers to stop when someone stepped into the road. The panda crossing was an innovation that would revolutionize road safety, and its design still influences traffic management today.

The name “panda” came from the black-and-white stripes used to mark the crossing, which was thought to resemble a panda’s coloring. The crossing was marked by two parallel stripes, with two additional stripes at either end to mark the boundaries of the crossing. Unlike the zebra crossing, which has a continuous black-and-white stripe pattern, the panda crossing had a more segmented pattern, with gaps between the stripes.

The first panda crossing was located on a busy street in Slough, and it was an immediate success. Pedestrians found it much easier to cross the road safely, and drivers found it easier to see pedestrians and stop in time. The panda crossing quickly spread to other towns and cities in the UK, and it became a standard feature of road safety.

Pelican Crossing

1969 saw the introduction of a Pelican crossing push button and flashing lights, which seemed easier to follow.

Zebra Crossing

Eventually, these crossings were phased out in the 1970s in favor of the zebra crossing, which had a more continuous stripe pattern and was considered more visible to drivers. But the legacy of the panda crossing lives on. The design principles used in the panda crossing influenced the development of other pedestrian crossings, including the pelican crossing, the puffin crossing, and the toucan crossing.

Puffin Crossing

Puffin crossings are a type of pedestrian crossing used in the United Kingdom that employ infrared technology to detect when pedestrians are crossing the road. The term “Puffin” is an acronym for Pedestrian User-Friendly Intelligent Crossing. While they are now a common sight on British roads, the first Puffin crossing was only installed in 1992, following years of research and development.

Prior to the introduction of Puffin crossings, the most common pedestrian crossings in the UK were Zebra crossings, which are marked with black and white stripes on the road and give pedestrians priority over vehicles. However, these crossings were not always safe, particularly for the elderly and those with visual impairments. Drivers were often unaware of pedestrians crossing, and accidents were common.

The Puffin Crossing was developed in response to these concerns, with the aim of creating a safer and more user-friendly crossing for pedestrians. Unlike Zebra crossings, Puffin crossings feature traffic lights that are mounted at eye-level for pedestrians, allowing them to easily see when it is safe to cross. The system also uses sensors to detect when pedestrians are crossing and adjust the amount of time given for the crossing accordingly.

The first Puffin crossing was installed in Hertfordshire in 1992, as part of a trial to test the new technology. The trial was a success, and the technology was subsequently rolled out across the country. Today, Puffin crossings are a common sight on British roads, with around 2,500 in operation.

The introduction of Puffin crossings has undoubtedly made pedestrian crossings safer for all users. The system’s use of sensors and infrared technology means that pedestrians can cross the road with greater confidence, while the traffic lights help to ensure that drivers are aware of the presence of pedestrians. This has led to a significant reduction in the number of pedestrian accidents on British roads.

Closing Thoughts

Today, pedestrian crossings are a common sight on roads and streets around the world. They are an essential part of road safety, and they make it much easier for people to get around safely. The first panda crossing may have been just one small innovation in road safety, but it had a huge impact on the way we think about pedestrian crossings today.


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