What is a puffin crossing?

Theory Test Learning To Drive
Last updated: Wednesday, 22nd May 2024
What is a puffin crossing?

A puffin crossing is a modern pedestrian crossing system that uses smart sensors to detect when pedestrians are crossing to ensure maximum safety and efficiency.

This article will explore how puffin crossings work, their benefits, and why they are particularly beneficial for elderly and disabled individuals.

Key takeaways

  • Puffin crossings improve safety for pedestrians and the flow of traffic

  • Puffin crossings use smart traffic lights with sensors to detect pedestrians

  • Puffin crossings require pedestrians to push a button to request to cross the road and wait for the green person symbol to appear on the black and yellow box before crossing

What is a puffin crossing?

A puffin crossing is a pedestrian crossing that prioritises the safety of pedestrians.

It is also known as a Pedestrian User-Friendly Intelligent Crossing and is widely used in the UK. The first puffin crossing was introduced in the UK in 1992.

Unlike other types of crossings, such as zebra crossings or pelican crossings, puffin crossings have advanced sensors that detect pedestrians waiting to cross and adjust signal timings accordingly.

One of the key features that set puffin crossings apart is pedestrian detectors. These detectors are placed on traffic signal poles, usually on top of the signal head, to accurately spot pedestrians waiting to cross.

The pedestrian detectors use infrared technology to check if pedestrians are at the crossing. This makes it possible to adjust signal timings as needed, making sure pedestrians have enough time to cross safely.

A puffin crossing also has push buttons for pedestrians to request a crossing. When pedestrians press the button, it changes the signal timings to allow them to cross safely.

The push-button controls can be found on both sides of the road. To ensure safe crossing, these crossings have clear visual and audible signals that tell pedestrians when it's safe to go.

Dynamically adjusting signal timings based on the presence of pedestrians reduces accidents and improves traffic flow.

Therefore, the primary benefit of a puffin crossing is the improved safety it provides for pedestrians.

Puffin crossings

How does a puffin crossing differ from other types of pedestrian crossings?

A puffin crossing differs from other types of pedestrian crossings in many ways. For example, puffin crossings do not have a flashing amber phase like pelican crossings.

Instead, puffin crossings use advanced detection technology to monitor pedestrians and vehicles. The lights at a puffin crossing only change when no more pedestrians are detected.

Another difference is the placement of the signal heads. Unlike other crossings, the signal heads at a puffin crossing are positioned on the same side as the pedestrians, making them easier to see and understand.

Pro-tip: When approaching a puffin crossing, wait behind the white line until the green signal appears. Always check for oncoming vehicles before crossing and follow the crossing's instructions.

Puffin crossing video tutorial

Here's a short video tutorial on the different types of pedestrian crossings, including zebra crossings, pelican crossing, toucan crossings, and pegasus crossings:

Puffin crossing light sequence

We know that puffin crossings work differently from traditional pedestrian crossings. But how do they work for pedestrians and vehicles?

Puffin crossing light sequence for pedestrians

Puffin crossings are pedestrian crossings with red and green person symbols displayed on a yellow and black box above a push button.

Puffin crossings use push buttons with pedestrian detection technology to give pedestrians priority.

These buttons enable the crossings to detect when someone wants to cross, ensuring that pedestrians are given the necessary priority and safety measures.

Pedestrians activate the puffin crossing by pressing the button at the crossing. The puffin crossing lights then show red and green signals to tell the pedestrian when it's safe to cross.

Pedestrians should always wait for the green signal at a puffin crossing even if there is no traffic.

It uses sensors to watch the crossing area and will keep the green light on for pedestrians if someone is still on the road. This ensures safety by giving pedestrians enough time to finish crossing.

Puffin crossings also have accessibility features to help people with disabilities. They give enough time for people with limited mobility to cross safely and have audible signals and tactile paving for those who are visually impaired.

Puffin crossing light sequence for vehicles

The puffin crossing lights will stay green for vehicles if there are no pedestrians at the crossing to keep traffic moving smoothly.

As soon as a pedestrian approaches and presses the button, the signal changes from green to steady amber.

Using a sensor means there's no flashing amber light as there is with a pelican crossing. If pedestrians are already on a puffin crossing, the red puffin crossing light will change to a green light once the pedestrians have cleared the crossing.

Which colour follows the green signal at a puffin crossing?

Following the green signal at a puffin crossing, a steady amber signal is shown to vehicles.

The steady amber signal indicates that pedestrians should not start crossing. Typically, the amber signal lasts for approximately 3 seconds.

After the amber signal, the red signal is shown to vehicles at a puffin crossing and a green signal is shown to pedestrians. Pedestrians should wait for the green signal before crossing.

What are the differences between pelican and puffin crossings?

The main difference between a pelican and puffin crossing is the use of advanced pedestrian detection technology.

Puffin crossings use sensors to monitor pedestrian movement, while pelican crossings rely on timers and flashing amber signals.

Also, at a puffin crossing, the signal heads are placed on the same side as pedestrians, making them easier to see and understand. Pelican crossings have signal heads on the opposite side of the road.

What are the differences between toucan and puffin crossings?

The main difference is that toucan crossings are designed for both pedestrians and cyclists, while puffin crossings are strictly for pedestrians.

Toucan crossings also have wider crossing areas to accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians.

What are the differences between zebra and puffin crossings?

The main difference between zebra and puffin crossings is the use of advanced detection technology.

Zebra crossings rely on drivers to stop for pedestrians, while puffin crossings have sensors that detect when pedestrians are present and change the signal timings accordingly.

Additionally, zebra crossings do not have push buttons or audible signals.

Benefits of puffin crossings

Here's a summary of the advantages puffin crossings bring:

  • Improved safety for pedestrians: Puffin crossings use advanced technology to detect and prioritise pedestrians, making it safer for them to cross.

  • Increased accessibility: Features like audible signals and tactile paving make puffin crossings more accessible for people with disabilities.

  • Reduced accidents: Dynamic signal timings based on pedestrian detection can reduce accidents at crossings.

  • Better traffic flow: Puffin crossings help keep traffic moving smoothly by adjusting signal timings based on the presence of pedestrians.

  • Modern and efficient: Puffin crossings use advanced technology, making them more modern and efficient compared to traditional pedestrian crossings.

  • Easier to understand: The placement of signals and the absence of a flashing amber phase make puffin crossings easier for both pedestrians and drivers to understand and follow.

Limitations of puffin crossings

Here are a few limitations of puffin crossings:

  • Cost: Puffin crossings are more expensive to install and maintain compared to traditional pedestrian crossings.

  • Electricity consumption: Due to the use of advanced detection technology, puffin crossings consume more electricity than other types of pedestrian crossings.

  • Maintenance: The advanced technology used in puffin crossings requires more maintenance than traditional pedestrian crossings.

Are you preparing for your theory test?

Multiple-choice questions about puffin crossings may be in your DVSA theory test. Understanding puffin crossings and all other types of pedestrian crossings is crucial for passing the test.

Driving Theory 4 All's online practice material and theory test app - Driving Theory Test Assistant - has everything you need to pass first time.

It includes the latest DVSA revision questions, including every question about puffin crossings, unlimited mock tests, over 100 hazard perception videos, and smart technology to help you get test-ready in the fastest time possible.

Download the Driving Theory Test Assistant app now for FREE and get test-ready fast

Puffin crossing theory test questions

Test your knowledge of puffin crossings with these DVSA theory test practice questions.

Which colour follows the green signal at a puffin crossing?

The correct answer is 'steady amber'.

Why is a toucan crossing different from a puffin crossing?

The correct answer is 'pedestrians and cyclists can use it together'.

Frequently asked questions about puffin crossings

A puffin crossing is an advanced type of pedestrian crossing that uses sensors to detect the presence of pedestrians and adjust signal timings accordingly. It aims to improve safety for pedestrians and keep traffic flowing smoothly.

When pedestrians want to cross the road at a puffin crossing, they press the crossing demand button.

The red and green person symbols are displayed on a yellow and black box above the button.

Pedestrians must wait for the green person symbol to show before crossing. The traffic lights use sensors to monitor when everyone has safely crossed, keeping the lights red for vehicles.

Puffin crossings are more intelligent than pelican crossings as they have sensors that detect the presence of pedestrians.

They also provide features to assist visually impaired individuals, making them safer.

The signals for pedestrians are mounted on the near side of the road, unlike pelican crossings where they are on the opposite side.

No, puffin crossings do not have flashing amber signals like pelican crossings.

Instead, the traffic lights at puffin crossings go from green to a steady amber and then red. Drivers must wait for a green light before proceeding.

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