It has been 16 years since zebra crossings were first launched in Britain and the papers have this week in printing many pictures of their appearances in culture through the decades. One of the most famous shots is that of the Beatles at the Abbey Road crossing.
A spokesperson for one of the largest breakdown organisations in the country has recently commented, “Zebra crossings, in their traditional form are no longer enough to keep pedestrians safe on the roads. Speed bumps are needed to slow cars down in high risk areas and this is one of the only ways that injuries on the road will be reduced.”
Additionally, the fines for not stopping at a zebra crossing in the UK are significantly lower than the fines for not stopping at a crossing in other European countries. For those in the UK they face a three-point penalty on their licence as well as a £60 fine. In Italy the fine goes up to over £400 and in Belgium the fine can be over £2000.
The figure for Belgium seems rather high and the fact that very few cars actually stop at the crossings is something of a signal that higher penalties do not work. The driving culture in Belgium seems to be that people do not stop at crossings and they expect to go unpunished.
Some people have said that the decline in use of the zebra crossing is because there is a general decline of manners in the UK. Although the fact that we’re still very careful to avoid queue jumping might suggest otherwise. In other countries around the world the situation with crossings is even worse and in developing countries those in a car will often not stop for pedestrians and come close to knocking them down.