I'm a bit confused with when to cross a street in London. Of course when I have a green light for pedestrians that's obvious, but for example how about this road that doesn't include anything for pedestrians:

No reference for pedestrians?

Could anybody care for a quick recap on when to cross streets in London?

  • 27
    What about when no cars are coming? Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 19:21
  • 14
    You mean when there's a crossing with no 'green man'? Just cross, as Tor says, when there's no traffic. Jaywalking doesn't exist in the UK - the only way you can get it wrong is by being run over.
    – A E
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 21:24
  • 1
    Stop, Look and Listen - The Green Cross Code Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 23:09
  • 1
    I suggest you do as they do. Here's a handy reference tool
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 1:41
  • 6
    Not quite true that there's nothing for pedestrians in your photo. There are dropped kerbs to suggest where to walk into the road, and there are "look right" signs painted on the road for pedestrians.
    – bdsl
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 11:55

3 Answers 3


There are generally six types of pedestrian crossings in the UK:

  • Pelican crossing (Pedestrian light c[a]ntrolled crossing) - these are normal crossings with traffic lights, usually at road junctions. At these crossings, you should cross when your light turns green.

  • Zebra crossing - these are the usual parallel white lines painted on the road, as in many countries. Usually you'll also find blinking amber bulb lights on both sides. At these crossings, drivers must stop and let pedestrian cross, so you can just cross the road (taking due care, of course).

  • Puffin crossing (Pedestrian user-friendly intelligent crossings). These are also light controlled, but normally also have video cameras (on older model) or infra-red sensors (on newer model) that spot approaching pedestrian ready to cross and change the traffic light red for vehicles and green for pedestrians. When the traffic light changes for vehicles to amber, they should let the pedestrian already on the crossing pass, but can go otherwise. For pedestrian, when the green light starts blinking, you should not start to cross the road and wait for the next green instead.

  • Toucan crossings (from Two can cross - pedestrians and bicyclists). These are, again, light controlled, but normally display red to pedestrians and green to vehicles. To cross, the pedestrian would press a button on the control panel near a crossing and wait for the light to change. Many newer crossings also have a time display showing how many seconds are remaining before the light changes to red again.

  • School crossings - these are found just outside schools and are usually operational during school hours. Most often you will find a lollipop lady (or gentleman) - a live person with the STOP sign on a long stick - who would periodically step into the road and show the STOP sign to vehicles, who must stop. She/he would then allow pedestrian (usually, lots of children going to or from school) to cross.

  • Outside race courses and in some rural areas (especially in Scotland) where there may be many horses, you can also find a Pegasus crossing. These are similar to Toucan and Puffin crossings, but have special provisions for horse-back riders (e.g. a second control button higher up the pole and/or a second sensor pointing at higher up).

If you happen to be on a street where there are no pedestrian crossings, then you are free to cross taking the normal precautions (i.e. make sure there are no approaching traffic). Be mindful of occasional signs "No crossings" directed at pedestrian. While I haven't myself heard of anyone being fined for J-walking in London, I'm fairly certain that there's a section in the Road Traffic Act that makes it an offence.

So, to summarise, try to use a pedestrian crossing if you can find one - or use your common sense and judgement.

  • 15
    There's more to it than this. Cars don't always stop at zebra crossings - they only stop if someone intends to cross. And in the UK you show you intend to cross by stepping into the street. My reflex is to show I intend to cross by making eye contact with an oncoming driver, and only step into the street when they slow down. They don't slow down because I haven't stepped into the street. It's frustrating. Crossings without lights rely on this sort of local rule that locals may not even be consciously aware of. Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:00
  • 2
    @KateGregory Yes, you are correct. I was just trying to simplify it. And the simple answer is that drivers should let pedestrians cross.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:19
  • 3
    I don't doubt that they do - once they realize the pedestrian wants to cross. Cities vary on this wildly. In Vancouver cars will stop if you get near the curb and stand still, even where there is no crossing and you don't look at them. In the rest of Canada looking at a driver is enough. In the UK, facing in the crossing direction and putting one foot down into the street is enough. I've heard in Eastern Europe you really need to commit to the crossing and take a step or two if you want the cars to stop. Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:27
  • 2
    @KateGregory That's about the right assessment. And, in my experience, in Cairo they don't care about the crossing and won't stop for anything.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 20:34
  • 8
    There is no offence of jaywalking in the UK. Source: bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26073797
    – djr
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 21:07

You cross when there is no traffic. In your example this would mean when the lights are red and there are no cars turning into the road; there is a brief period as the lights change when no cars at all are allowed, and pedestrians often take advantage of this.

You can, of course, cross at any time if there is no traffic at all; you may gather disapproving looks from those who are training children (or dogs) only to cross when the lights are in their favour.

And if you come from one of those countries where they drive on the right, you have to remember which way to look before you step out. Fortunately on many busy or confusing crossings (like this one) the authorities have painted 'LOOK RIGHT' just in front of the kerb.

  • When there are no pedestrian lights, you cannot possibly know what the lights for the cars are currently showing on most of the street (the portion behind the lights). Do pedestrians in the UK nonetheless schedule their crossing of a street by car traffic lights? I'm wondering because people here in Germany are somewhat infamous for sticking to pedestrian traffic lights even when there is no traffic around, but sticking to car traffic lights as a pedestrian is unheard of even here. Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 22:48
  • 1
    @O.R.Mapper; what does your question mean? At a junction where there are lights, you can see in which direction cars are permitted to go; where there is no junction, there is no decison to take beyond what children everywhere are taught about road safety, and hence no question. Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 23:08
  • 4
    One must always remember the British Golden Rule: "One must avoid gathering disapproving looks at all costs" Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 23:14
  • 2
    @TimLymington: At least in parts of Europe, you do not usually see the traffic lights for cars that might be turning into the street you want to cross. For instance, on this junction, standing at the bottom corner, and wanting to cross to the right corner, you can at most see the traffic lights for cars arriving from the bottom right. You cannot see traffic lights for cars arriving from the top right, or from the left. The layout would be the same if there were no pedestrian traffic lights. Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 23:41
  • Ah. That is why I said 'when there are no cars turning into the road', not 'when no cars are allowed to turn into the road'. Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 23:51

This is the official guidance, from the UK Highway Code: http://www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk/rules-for-pedestrians---crossing-the-road-7-to-17.html and the following two pages.

Specifically, Rule 8: At a junction. When crossing the road, look out for traffic turning into the road, especially from behind you. If you have started crossing and traffic wants to turn into the road, you have priority and they should give way. They might hoot at you, but they won't deliberately run you over.

So if traffic waiting to turn is stopped at a red light when you start to cross, you have priority over them if the lights change while you are still crossing.

Most busy junctions with traffic lights (with or without pedestrian lights) will have central "islands" so you can cross each half of the road separately. In that case, each half-crossing is considered separately - when you reach the middle, stop and check the traffic situation (and/or the lights) again.

Note, only the Highway Code rules explicitly stating "must" or "must not" are legal requirements, but all of the rules are considered relevant when determining legal liability, in any situation.

In towns with complicated road junctions, one-way streets, etc, you will often find a sign painted on the road surface saying "pedestrians look left" as a warning that traffic is coming from the opposite direction from normal. (The UK drives on the left, so traffic usually approached you from the right).

Actually, vehicles with 4 or more wheels are not really the problem. The troublemakers are usually cyclists who have no insurance to lose if they have an accident, no registration marks that can be picked up on CCTV, and who consider that laws only apply to other people...

  • 9
    This answer started off well with a nice citation, but when you say things like "The troublemakers are usually cyclists", you really need to back that up with hard evidence. Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 3:23
  • 2
    Cyclists can easily come to damage when someone steps out just in front of them and pedestrians tend not to watch out for them as well as they should. This is worse where the cyclists have to ride close to the edge of the road, like where there is a dedicated cycle track. So yes, watch out for cyclists, but not because they are more dangerous but they are less expected and more funerable.
    – Willeke
    Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 9:01
  • 5
    Cyclists not only have no registration marks, they also have no seatbelts, headrests, airbags, bumpers, fenders, rollcages, and crumple zones! In general, losing their insurance is the least of their worries, it's losing their lives, they care about. Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 9:11
  • 6
    Regardless of what proportion of cyclists break the rules compared with what proportion of motorists [I suspect that given enough time on the road, it's almost 100% of both, but that's beside the point], the advice that when crossing the road motor vehicles "are not really the problem" is not prudent. You don't want to be hit by either of them, and you have to pay attention to both and be prepared for either of them to be a dozy twonk who goes when it should be your priority. Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 11:58
  • "they won't deliberately run you over" -- this is the case whether you have right of way or not, drivers aren't looking for opportunities to hit you even if it feels like they are :-) That part of rule 8, I would say based on my experience, is one of the less well-observed parts of the highway code. Drivers (even if they know the rule at all) will be surprised if you take advantage of it. They expect you to wait until there's a gap in traffic before crossing a side-street, not to start crossing and force in-turning traffic to stop for you. A small clash between culture and government. Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 12:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .