Roger Ingram questions why pelican (Pedestrian Light Controlled) crossings are being gradually replaced by the newer puffin (Pedestrian User Friendly Intelligent) crossings which he considers more dangerous.
Believe it or not, puffin crossings were introduced about 20 years ago as a supposedly safer alternative to pelican crossings. The main difference in operation is that pelicans work on a passive timer which means that you have only a fixed time to cross before the lights change, so get a move on.
The supposedly more intelligent puffins have built in pole-mounted sensors which are designed to detect when a pedestrian is waiting to cross and also when he is actually on the crossing. In theory the lights cannot change until the user is safely across the road. Unfortunately not a lot of people know that.
Also, the positioning of the control unit at waist height on the nearside of the crossing is intended to force the user to monitor both the green/red man indicator and the oncoming traffic simultaneously.
In the older pelicans the user is looking across the road at the green/red man indicator and not at the oncoming traffic, which is deemed to be more dangerous.
Unfortunately, as Mr Ingram so rightly points out, none of this is any use if you can’t see the green man for other people standing in the way, or if you are looking for a non-existent green man at the far side of the road. You may thus be tempted to cross with the lights against you. This is where the real danger lies.
I agree wholeheartedly with Mr Ingram on this point and have fallen into the trap myself on occasion.
A number of studies have looked into this problem but with mostly inconclusive results. Opinion is divided, so I guess we are stuck with the puffins for now.
One solution would be to mount a confidence-boosting green man indicator on the other side of the road in addition to the one on the near side for those who are used to the old pelicans. Unfortunately this costs money.
Why the ornithological nomenclature? I have no answer to that I’m afraid.