Despite legal changes already being in place, the wider use of zebra crossings without Belisha beacons will have to wait until next year when the Department of Transport issues new guidelines.
With a few notable exceptions across Ireland, zebra crossings are common in most larger urban areas and can also be found in many villages. Unlike some other countries, zebra crossing road markings are strictly not used with signlised junctions and this will remain the case.
Before the law was changed in 2022, Belisha beacons, named after a former UK transport minister, were legally required to be used as part of zebra crossings in Ireland. The change will allow for much cheaper installation of the crossings by reducing the significant cost linked with the supply and installation of the beacons.
However, a change in guidelines is needed by councils before they adopt the use of the crossings without beacons.
The guidelines will follow two trials relating to zebra crossings without the use of beacons. It was understood from the outset that beacons would still remain an option and possibly required under some conditions, but the details are likely only to be made public after the guidelines are published.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) conducted a trial with continental-style signs instead of beacons, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) conducted a trial with just zebra markings and no signs. These trials have finished and reports on both have been written but not yet published.
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A spokesperson for the Department of Transport said: “To date, the Department has received the NTA’s Zebra Crossing Pilot Scheme Evaluation Report examining the use of signage in place of Belisha beacons in certain situations. The Department expects to receive TII’s report on alternative arrangements shortly.”
They added: “The Department will consider the findings of both these reports. Consideration must also be given to implementation, the legislation or any potential changes required to the traffic signs manual. The Department expects to notify Local Authorities of any changes during Q1 2024.”
At the time of the trial, the Department said that the legal changes outlined in S.I. No. 516/2022, Road Traffic (Signs) (Amendment) Regulations 2022, were to enable the trials. But the legislation generally allows for regulatory traffic signs that may be installed by road authorities at zebra pedestrian crossings without Belisha beacons. The regulations do not contain any reference to limited use such as a trial.
It is also understood that there is a desire to make it clearer that motorists must yield at crossings, but it’s unclear if this will slow the rollout of zebra crossings without beacons.