Those 3D zebra crossings!

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A fantastically workable concept or just a fad? I think its more the latter. Despite being present in a number of other countries the UK installed its first 3d crossing in London earlier this year. This can be found in St John’s Wood. Westminster, the authority responsible for it, is currently installing another 3d crossing in Central London itself and the council clearly seems confident its onto a good thing.

Okay we have the current crossing at St John’s Wood which we’ll look at in a moment, so where’s this new one going to be?

It’ll be on Blandford Street, which I’m sure not many have heard of, however it just off Baker Street so a pretty important area in terms of roads and its the next junction down from Chiltern Street, in fact just a short walk from the famous Chiltern Firehouse.

Currently there are works underway to narrow Blandford Street and then at some point London (and indeed the UK’s) second 3d crossing will be painted onto the roadway. Oddly there seem to be no council notices detailing the Blandford Street proposals as there were for St John’s Wood.

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The plans for a 3d crossing at Blandford Street, W1.

The only means of knowing there is to be one at Blandford Street is due to the council putting up notices and doing work!

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Blandford Street looking east.

Blandford Street is one of three roads linking Marylebone High Street to Baker Street and probably the quietest of the lot. There is a similarity between this location and St John’s Wood and this is a bar/cafe on the corner with the crossing’s site whilst there is a school nearby too. In fact the similarity goes further because both locations involve a crossroads with at least one street at an angle to the others.

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Looking towards Baker Street.

Besides Blandford Street and St John’s Wood there’s also been plans for another to be placed at Ludgate Circus, this obviously being the City of London’s remit. I don’t know if this one is going ahead. Ludgate Circus seems an odd spot to place a 3d crossing especially in view of its being extremely busy (would drivers really notice the crossing as ‘3d’ especially when the street is nearly always choc a block with traffic?)

The City is of the opinion one is needed but little has been said about it recently. Ludgate Circus is an accident blackspot (see the Independent re ‘zombie’ pedestrians using the junction’s crossings) and its obviously due to modern technology (those smartphones lol) that the City corporation feels there is a need for a special crossing at this location. More detail can be read in City Matters.

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The St John’s Wood 3d crossing is just yards from the Cabmen’s shelter in Wellington Place.

What of the crossings themselves? Well I think they are a fail. I have examined that at St. Johns’ Wood and certainly there is an illusion of sorts that might cause the motorist to slow down or think twice approaching the crossing itself, but I think its more to do with the fact it doesn’t quite look like a crossing and that alone may be the reason motorists are slowing down.

Its interesting how the perception changes and clearly the effectiveness of the crossing does depend on many factors including driver position.

What is meant by this is that an ordinary crossing will manifest itself very clearly long before any driver in question reaches it. That is because its a crossing, nothing more.

These 3d types certainly do not manifest themselves until one is at a certain distance and height from the crossing, thus in my view there is less opportunity to recognise what it is meant to represent.

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Cyclist creatively using the St John’s Wood crossing!

Because of the ambiguity which the crossing conveys it is that which slows down traffic rather than the actual illusion itself.

As I found, the illusion only works perfectly at a certain distance and it seems this also crucial on the design of the car itself that is approaching the crossing, as well as how high or low the driver is seated in their vehicle.

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The fully rendered illusion is present only at a certain distance and height. Is that an indicator of its effectiveness?

In my view for this particular kind of crossing which Westminster is now using, for it to be totally effective, its quite apparent the motorist needs to have an ideal perspective onto it and that does rather flumox any notion these 3d crossings are effective.

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At best it looks like a badly mangled job in procuring an ordinary zebra crossing!

Thus it does rather concern me that in most conditions the crossing may work as it should (because of the ambiguity it conveys) but in completely rare and unexpected scenarios it might cause confusion.

The current philosophy behind these crossings is the idea that they float and that alone is enough to make a motorist think twice. Certainly the examples being used in the UK do not float. There are other examples around the world and yes these do most definitely give an illusion of floating.

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Further away and the illusion becomes a bit squashed… thus losing its effectiveness.

Elsewhere the design (including Iceland) has shading beneath the actual crossing markings and this helps to amply any 3 dimensional effect by making it seem as if the crossing is indeed floating above the ground. Those being used in London are simply without this all important shading and that alone is one reason why the UK’s 3d crossings are essentially duds.

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3d effect loses its impact! It looks like a cubist’s banana line up!

I am fully aware the crossing isn’t meant to be seen as a line up of cubist bananas or whatever when viewed from other perspectives, however the fact the full rendering is only seen in one certain position either side of the crossing doesn’t help either.

This is why I think making the white zebra bars seem to float above shadows would do so much more to give the illusion required, not only that, its more obvious from other perspectives.

The St. John’s Wood crossing is said to be a twelve month trial. Clearly Westminster are happy with it because of the new one being installed at Blandford Street.

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One Response to “Those 3D zebra crossings!

  • Miles t
    1 month ago

    Missed opportunity to have a speed table to discourage excessive speed on st john’s wood high street, especially at night by people with loud cars..you know the sort.
    And whats the difference between urban 20mph speed limit signs and street christmas decorations? Drivers more likely to slow down for christmas decorations
    (unless they have a car that reads the signs and nags if you are going too fast or have a speed alerting box or Waze with speed alert mode on)

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