Ben Laurie blathering

Pedestrian Crossings and Strange Legal Language

I realised recently that I didn’t fully understand the zig-zag lines around pedestrian crossings. In particular, I wasn’t sure whether you could overtake on the zig-zags after you’d crossed the crossing. The answer is that you can, but figuring it out has been interesting.

I’ve always understood the zig-zags to mean “don’t overtake the lead vehicle”, which they do, but if that’s all they’re for, why do they appear on both sides of the crossing? It doesn’t take a huge amount of research to discover that they also mean “no parking”, which I knew but had kinda forgotten about. But if they also control overtaking, what on Earth does this mean once you’ve passed the crossing? The Highway Code is actually crap on this, it says

You MUST NOT overtake the moving vehicle nearest the crossing or the vehicle nearest the crossing which has stopped to give way to pedestrians

Like several other parts of the Highway Code, this is fantastically poorly drafted. Clearly the vehicle nearest the crossing could be beyond it, which would make it legal to overtake the lead vehicle approaching the crossing!

Luckily, the Act itself (The Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations 1997) is a little clearer

24. – (1) Whilst any motor vehicle (in this regulation called “the approaching vehicle”) or any part of it is within the limits of a controlled area and is proceeding towards the crossing, the driver of the vehicle shall not cause it or any part of it –

    (a) to pass ahead of the foremost part of any other motor vehicle proceeding in the same direction; or(b) to pass ahead of the foremost part of a vehicle which is stationary for the purpose of complying with regulation 23, 25 or 26.

OK, so at least we know it only applies to before the crossing. But hang on, what’s this “any other motor vehicle” thing? The Highway Code (and my understanding) say only the lead vehicle! Fortunately…

(2) In paragraph (1) –

    (a) the reference to a motor vehicle in sub-paragraph (a) is, in a case where more than one motor vehicle is proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle in a controlled area, a reference to the motor vehicle nearest to the crossing; and(b) the reference to a stationary vehicle is, in a case where more than one vehicle is stationary in a controlled area for the purpose of complying with regulation 23, 25 or 26, a reference to the stationary vehicle nearest the crossing.

Why do this? Why say “any vehicle” and then say “actually we only meant the front one”? I don’t get it.

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