How to Cross the Road in the UK, 1948

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Richard Massingham is best known for his performances in British Public Information Films (PIFs, much like American PSAs). Yesterday I collected Massingham's performances in handkerchief-related films, in which the British government strove to prevent the spread of disease by encouraging proper hanky use (including boiling used hankies in a pan on the stove!). Today, let's look at another of Massingham's classics: his film about how to cross the road. Yes, this was actually a thing the British government felt the need to explain to its citizens in 1948 via public information films.

Here's a bit from the Public Information Films archive explaining this film's context:

In 1934 pedestrian crossings consisting of parallel rows of studs and Belisha beacons were introduced to reduce the number of road accidents (Belisha beacons were orange globes on top of black and white posts). By the late 1940's their initial success and awareness was waning.

Research had shown that both pedestrians and drivers alike were ignoring the crossings. This short film alludes to the fact by showing how to safely cross the road. Allied to the public information campaign, in 1949 the Ministry of Transport experimented with different pedestrian crossing markings to help improve visibility.

Red and white stripes, as well as the more familiar black and white, were considered at isolated experimental sites. By 1951 the black and white stripes, with Belisha beacons on either side of the road, were approved as 'Zebra' crossings; the first officially installed in Slough.

Best line: "It's no good thinking you can have a sleep, or eat your breakfast out there -- because you'll soon be in trouble." Honestly, I could eat breakfast in the road in front of my house. The only reason I don't do this is to avoid the neighbor children nibbling on my hardboiled eggs. They are ravenous and ill-tempered, but fortunately not yet old enough to drive motorized vehicles.

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February 10, 2013 - 9:00am
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