Zebra Crossings

A General Guide

Zebra crossings are formal crossings where the pedestrian is given legal priority over vehicles without the use of traffic signal controls. They are a relatively low cost option compared with signal-controlled crossings.


A Zebra crossing is marked on the carriageway with alternate black and white stripes. Studs and `Give Way’ markings outline the crossing, and zig-zags replace centre and kerb side markings on either side of the crossing. These highlight the crossing and prohibit parking to ensure good visibility. Flashing yellow beacons are placed at each end of the crossing.
Pedestrian approaches to the crossing must have red tactile surfacing and flush kerbs. Footway build-outs can be used to highlight waiting pedestrians, and reduce carriageway width. Where the carriageway is particularly wide, a pedestrian refuge is recommended. Where traffic calming exists, the crossing could be sited on a `flat-top’ hump level with the footway.

The crossing may need extra illumination. High skid resistance surfacing may be laid on the approaches to the crossing where considered appropriate and advanced warning signs should be used.

The layout of Zebra crossings is governed by regulations laid down by the Department for Transport.


Site assessments are carried out to determine the need for a crossing, to select the appropriate type of crossing and to ensure safe location. 
Zebra crossings should not be used on roads with high traffic volumes and/or high traffic speeds. This is due to the fact that pedestrians:

  • Could find it difficult to establish priority and therefore may experience significant delays.
  • Would be at greater risk of injury leading to under use of the crossing.

In these cases a signal-controlled crossing would be appropriate. Zebra crossings may also be inappropriate where pedestrian flows would dominate the crossing and cause delay to traffic. Signal-controlled crossings are also preferred where there is a high proportion of disabled or elderly users.

Other factors considered when siting all types of crossing include:

  • pedestrian/driver visibility
  • location of bus stops
  • location of side roads and entrances
  • waiting/loading restrictions or activities
  • existing street furniture
  • other traffic signals or crossings

Zebras should be located on or as near to the route the pedestrian would naturally follow (the desire line). Installing a crossing away from the desire line could lead to lower use of the facility, increasing the risk of accidents near to, but not on the crossing. Where a pedestrian desire line cannot be identified, informal pedestrian facilities such as a series of road narrowings and/or pedestrian refuges may be more appropriate. In some cases it may even be safer not to provide pedestrian facilities.

Formal crossings are not recommended on roads where traffic is relatively light. In such situations pedestrians tend to cross the road where they like rather than using a crossing which may take them out of their way.


  • Drivers should approach Zebra crossings cautiously as any pedestrian who steps out on the crossing has priority.
  • Pedestrians should allow vehicles to stop at the crossing before stepping out onto the carriageway.
  • Crossing close to, but not on, the Zebra (i.e. in the zig-zag area) is very dangerous, as drivers are focusing on the crossing itself and are not expecting pedestrians to cross elsewhere.
  • Parking on zig-zags is not permitted for any reason, as the consequent restriction to visibility puts pedestrians crossing at a greater risk.

This information has been reproduced by kind permission of Bristol City Council


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