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1962: New pedestrian crossings cause chaos

VIDEO : The first Panda crossing opens in Waterloo (mute)

A new style of pedestrian crossing has caused confusion among both drivers and pedestrians following its launch in London.

The first Panda crossing was officially opened today in York Road, opposite Waterloo Station in London by the Minister of Transport, Mr Ernest Marples.

He described the crossings, which are being experimented for a year in 45 selected sites across the country, as "a new idea in pedestrian safety".

But the black and white triangular markings with their sequence of flashing lights have caused little more than utter confusion on the roads.

'Hairbrained scheme'

One old lady, who was one of the first pedestrians to use the new crossing in York Road, was not impressed.

She said: "That man Marples is up to too many tricks. It's a hairbrained scheme and most dangerous."

The panda crossing is activated when the pedestrian presses a button that lights up a "wait" sign.

This results in a flashing amber light warning drivers to stop.

After five seconds a pulsating red light tells the driver to stop and a "cross" sign is illuminated indicating to the pedestrian that it is safe to cross the road.

Eight seconds later the red light is replaced by a flashing amber light.

At the same time the "cross" sign begins to flash, at first slowly and then faster to warn the pedestrian that his time to cross the road is running out.

After 17 seconds both lights are extinguished and the driver is free to drive on.

The police and road safety groups believe that once people understand the new system it will ultimately be safer than the zebra crossing which is currently uncontrolled.

An AA spokesperson said: "It will obviously take a little time before drivers and pedestrians properly understand these new crossings."

In Context
The panda crossing was introduced as a first attempt to replace the zebra crossing which had been introduced in the 1950s.

A week after it was launched the Ministry for Transport announced a modification to the crossings which would make the distinction between flashing and pulsating lights clearer.

But the scheme was later abandoned because it was far too confusing and was beset by numerous mechanical failures.

The pelican crossing, which used a more sophisticated traffic light system, was introduced in 1969 and was much more successful.

In the 1990s the hi-tech puffin pedestrian crossing using sensors to detect the progress of pedestrians and control the traffic lights was launched.


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