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When is the colour red used in tactile paving?

Visual contrast is a very important part of navigating the world for the visually impaired. There’s only a very small percentage of the visually impaired population that has zero vision, the majority have enough visual acuity to detect changes in colour and contrast, which is why the colour red in tactile paving is so important.

This is why contrasting colours are vital for consideration when laying tactile studs, strips and paving, and why the Department of Transport has outlined rules around the use of various colours. Arguably, the most important of these colours being red.

Since 1981 the colour red has been established as the primary colour for controlled crossings. A controlled crossing is a pedestrian crossing that prioritises pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders and usually has an electronic crossing signal to halt the flow of traffic. The two main types of controlled crossings are signal-controlled and give-way crossings.

Types of controlled crossings:

Signal-controlled Crossings

  • Toucan Crossings – Allowing both cyclists and pedestrians to cross simultaneously
  • Pedex Crossings – Far-sided signal-controlled crossings
  • Puffin Crossings – Near-sided signal-controlled crossings
  • Equestrian Crossings – Crossings that allow horses and their riders to cross dual carriageways
  • Traffic signal junctions

Give-way Crossings

  • Zebra Crossings – Drivers are instructed to give way to any pedestrians at the crossing
  • Parallel Crossings – Where there is a need for a crossing for both pedestrians and cyclists but a Toucan crossing can’t be justified

Controlled crossings are demarcated with red blister paving leading up to the crossing on both sides of the road. It’s this use of the colour red that informs the visually impaired that the crossing is controlled and that they can cross with assistance. For this reason, the Department of Transport has prohibited the use of red on any other kind of crossing.

If an area around a controlled crossing has a red surrounding, for example, red tiles, it is recommended that the area where the blister paving is to be installed should be separated from the surrounding surface with a contrasting border (150mm wide). This is again to provide the necessary contrast for those that are visually impaired.

Uncontrolled crossings, however, can diverge from the usual use of buff yellow paving with special permission from the local governing body.

In some circumstances such as, in direct proximity to a listed building, in conservation areas, or in some locations where an alternate colour paving is necessary to maintain the local aesthetic, these rules may be relaxed. This rule relaxation for uncontrolled crossings, and lack of flexibility in the use of the colour red, highlights the importance of the colour red in communicating information about the crossing that’s being approached.