If you walk through any town or city you are sure to come across a zebra crossing at some point or another. Although the exact origins of the zebra crossing are disputed and not verified, it is believed that the original idea for these road markings was the brainchild of MP James Callaghan in 1948 who was working on new ideas for pedestrian crossings when visiting the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory. The following year, these crossings were painted on 1000 test sites around the UK but, instead of the bright white lining we recognise today, they were actually blue and yellow.
These line markings were soon changed to black and white for better visibility and became widespread in 1951. In 1971, they were added to the Green Cross Code and they replaced the previous ‘kerb drill’ that was used to safely cross the road. The most famous zebra crossing both in the UK and around the world has got to be the one in Abbey Road, North West London that is featured in the iconic cover art of The Beatles album of the same name. This particular zebra crossing is now Grade II listed!
The contrast of thick white stripes against the black tarmac, sometimes black paint when necessary, make zebra crossings one of the most easily recognisable and visible road markings. They often have ‘Belisha beacons’, the amber coloured light orbs, either end of the crossing to add further visibility at night time or in adverse weather conditions. As line painting contractors, we can provide highly visible, non-skid zebra crossings as one of our services.
The zebra crossing is simple, easy to use and low maintenance but over the past few years more than 1000 have been removed in favour of pelican and puffin crossings, which use traffic lights to direct both drivers and pedestrians. There has also been a rise in pedestrian accidents which road safety accidents believe is because zebra crossings do not actively slow vehicles down and give priority to pedestrians, leading to unsafe behaviour from both. In New Zealand, they found that adding a speed bump before a zebra crossing can reduce these accidents by 80%, perhaps a measure that should become widespread in the UK.