|The famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road in north London|
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A zebra crossing is a type of unsignalised pedestrian crossing, marked by a series of black-and-white stripes painted on the road surface parallel to the kerb, a line of studs perpendicular to the kerb, and the famous orange Belisha beacons. All road traffic must give way to pedestrians wishing to cross at the points so marked.
Pedestrian crossings indicated by the installation of Belisha beacons on each side – black-and-white striped poles topped with an illuminated orange globe, and so named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, the Minister of Transport at the time – had been introduced in 1934, but the description "zebra crossing" entered popular parlance once black-and-white stripes were added to the road surface itself from 1951 onwards. Not long after this, the Belisha beacons were made to flash, in order further to increase the visibility of the crossings.
The now familiar zig-zag road markings on the approach to the crossings were added later, in the 1970s. Before that, a double row of studs had demarcated the "controlled" (no parking, no overtaking) area in the lead-up to the crossing. Since then, the design of zebra crossings has remained almost entirely unchanged, save for experimental 3D markings in the late 2019s/early 2020s.
The design of the Belisha beacons has, however, changed over time. Originally the globe was a two-piece construction, normally mounted some 8 feet above the ground. This left the glass vulnerable to vandalism and also reduced the visibility of the feature. In the 1980s, internally lit poles started to be trialled. Later on, LED halos were incorporated into the design of the beacons for additional conspicuousness. The DfT formally type approved such halos in the mid-2000s.
In 2021 trials began for "implied zebra crossings". These are crossings at junctions where the side road has a zerba crossing, these in the trail did not require Belisha beacons or Zig Zag markings.