Toucan Crossing

To pass a driving test, as a learner driver, you will need to be familiar with the different types of pedestrian crossings. One of these types used in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland is the toucan crossing.

During a driving test, the route can often include many different types of pedestrian crossing, including toucan crossings. You can also be tested on your understanding of toucan crossings in driving theory tests.

What is a toucan crossing?

Rule 25: Toucan crossings can be used by both cyclists and pedestrians

Toucan crossings are a modern approach to road safety. They use smart sensor technology to detect when pedestrians or cyclists are crossing or waiting to cross the road. Sometimes they are described as an example of ‘smart crossings’ because of their ability to sense when a pedestrian or cyclist is on or at the crossing.

Knowing that both cyclists AND pedestrians are allowed to use toucan crossings is important. It is one of the possible questions you could get asked on pedestrian crossings in your road theory test.

Why is it called a toucan crossing?

The term ‘toucan’ was chosen for two reasons. The first is because it is a well-known type of bird. The pelican crossing and the puffin crossing are also named after birds. When a name was needed for the new type of crossing, it made sense to continue with the theme.

A toucan crossing is a form of road crossing which is designed for use by both pedestrians and bicycles. ‘Toucan’ is pronounced ‘two-can’ so it is also a neat way to explain both pedestrians and bicycles can use the same crossing.

Difference between puffin and toucan crossings

The same technology is used in both a toucan crossing and a puffin crossing. A puffin crossing is different from a toucan crossing in that it is only designed for pedestrians, whereas a toucan crossing obviously also allows bicycles to cross too.

Toucan crossings are also wider than puffin crossings to accommodate bicycles. The standard difference in width is an extra four feet.

Difference between pelican and toucan crossings

Toucan crossings are intelligent in a way that pelican crossings are not. The main design difference is the location of a toucan crossing’s instruction lights. They are always on the same side of the road as the pedestrian, whereas on pelican crossings they are on the other side of the road.

They also do not use flashing lights to signal to either pedestrians or traffic in the way pelican crossings do. Unlike toucan crossings, pelican crossings are not aimed at cyclists.

Studies have, however, shown that toucan crossings are safer than pelican crossings because they involve fewer accidents. Toucan crossings are always safer for pedestrians because there is no ‘flashing’ period for either drivers or pedestrians. This approach means drivers will not be tempted to drive when traffic lights are flashing amber.

Difference between zebra and toucan crossings

A zebra crossing is a traditional pedestrian crossing marked with white stripes and amber beacons. It works by relying on vehicles slowing down as they approach to allow pedestrians to cross. It does not employ any advanced technology like a toucan crossing. There are also no light changes directed at pedestrians or cyclists. A zebra crossing is not geared toward cyclists but cyclists do use them.

What is the technology of a toucan crossing?

Toucan crossings contain two different sensors to react to pedestrians and cyclists instead of working based on pre-set intervals.  The pedestrian crossing detector (PCD) checks the location and pace of the pedestrian as they cross the road. They can make sure the traffic is stopped for longer if a pedestrian or bicycle is moving slowly and is still on the road.

At the same time, the pedestrian kerb detector (PKD) detects both the presence of pedestrians or cyclists, and whether they are actually crossing the road. It kicks in if someone has pressed the button but has decided to cross anyway. The PKD can cancel the initial button request, meaning.

This technology means a toucan crossing is less disruptive to traffic and makes the crossing lights much more efficient for motorists as well as pedestrians or cyclists.

Toucan crossing lights for pedestrians and cyclists

Toucan crossings contain lit screens which display instructions to both pedestrians and cyclists. The toucan crossing will display either an illuminated red or green person and bike. The red person instructs the pedestrian when not to cross, while the green person will appear when it is safe to do so.

Below the screens are black and yellow boxes. When a pedestrian or cyclist approaches a toucan crossing, they should press the button on the box to trigger the toucan crossing. Pedestrians must then wait until the green man and bike light up before crossing.

While the green light is illuminated, the crossing will usually make a beeping sound to signal to those that are visually impaired. If there are nearby houses, however, a timer is often installed in order to ensure the beeping only operates at certain hours of the day.

These lights do not flash in any way to the pedestrian – they are a simple instruction to stay or go – and they are visible when you begin crossing the road rather than when you reach your destination.

Toucan crossings are usually part of planned cycle routes. This means that cyclists don’t have to get off their bikes before crossing. On all the other types of pedestrian crossings (like pelicans, zebras and puffins), cyclists should always dismount before crossing.

If a toucan crossing is of an older type, it might not have the bicycle displayed next to the green or red person. With these toucan crossings, bicycles are permitted to cross at any time if it is safe to do so.

Toucan crossing light sequence for motor vehicles

This is the most important part of the operation of toucan crossings for those looking to pass a driving theory test.

There are four possible light instructions for vehicles concerning toucan crossings:

  • Static red light: Stop and wait
  • Red and amber lights together: Continue to stop, but the instruction will change soon
  • Green: Go
  • Amber: Prepare for a possible red light

The traffic light sequence for drivers is the same as the normal traffic light sequence. There is no flashing amber because of the use of the sensors. The traffic light sequence goes from green to steady amber.

The signals which are given to motorists basically reverse those given to pedestrians or cyclists. While the traffic lights are on red, pedestrians and cyclists will see a green signal. While the traffic lights are on green, red and amber and amber, pedestrians and cyclists will see a red signal.

Because toucan crossings are based on sensors, the toucan crossing lights will change when the pedestrians and cyclists have finished crossing the road, rather than being controlled by pre-set intervals.

The Highway Code and toucan crossings

If pedestrians are waiting at the crossing or the lights turn to steady amber, check your rear-view mirror, slow down and prepare to stop. Although it is not illegal to drive through a steady amber light at a toucan crossing, it is not good practice. During driving theory tests, you might fail your test if you drive through a steady amber light while a pedestrian is at the crossing.

It is illegal to overtake another motor vehicle at a toucan crossing, but you can overtake cyclists.

Also, you should not park or obstruct the zigzag lines found on either side of toucan crossings. This is because doing so will reduce visibility for pedestrians using the crossings, and this will increase the potential for accidents.

Always remember that toucan crossings are wider than most pedestrian crossings, and factor that into your slowing down too.

Toucan crossing signs

Toucan crossing road signs are a red edge triangle with the silhouette of a person in black crossing a dotted line as the main image.

Road signs for toucan crossing are usually – but not always – placed to warn you of a pedestrian crossing ahead. On your driving test, keep an eye out for these signs. They give you plenty of advance warning of toucan crossings.

What is the design of a toucan crossing?

Toucan crossings, like pelican crossings, have a yellow and black box with a button you can press to wait for the signal. However, there’s a key difference. On a toucan crossing, there is usually a green bike alongside the green walking man. Pedestrians and cyclists will see the green signal together.

Toucan crossings are usually 4 metres (13 feet) wide. This compares to 2.8 metres (9 feet) width of any pelican crossing or puffin crossing.