With more people opting to walk in towns and cities rather than using their vehicles in order to reduce nasty fuel emissions, we must be aware of road rules for pedestrians—it can save a life.
In this article, we take a look at five different scenarios and give you the answer to where pedestrians can cross the road.
Can Pedestrians Cross the Road Anywhere?
Knowing where pedestrians can and can’t cross a road is exceptionally important. Crossing the street safely can prevent accidents, and if there is sadly an accident, crossing the street correctly can protect pedestrians in legal cases.
Pedestrians should always use a crosswalk or pedestrian bridge when crossing the road. However, there are some exceptions if there is no marked crosswalk.
Pedestrians have the right of way on crosswalks. The best type of crosswalk to use is one that has crossing lights that indicate to pedestrians and drivers when people are walking across the street.
At crosswalks that do not have crossing lights, though the pedestrian has the right of way, you should never assume that a driver can see you.
Here is the safest way to use a crosswalk that does not have crossing lights:
- Wait until the cars have slowed down to allow you to cross.
- Make eye contact with the driver/s.
- This is especially important as cars may turn into the road you are crossing.
- Proceed swiftly and always keep your attention on the road and vehicles.
- Do NOT use your cell phone while crossing a street. Cell phones are incredibly distracting, and you may not see an object obstructing the road or even a reckless driver.
If there is an accident, do not assume that a pedestrian will never be found to have contributed to an accident.
If there is no crosswalk at all, the next safest place to cross a street is at an intersection, where cars have to slow down and stop.
What about jaywalking?
In most states, jaywalking is prohibited and can come with a hefty fine.
However, in certain states, like California, for example, if there is no designated crosswalk, jaywalking is no longer an offense.
Activists argued that jaywalking laws “disproportionately affect marginalized and low-income residents” [Source: Latimes.com].
Now, crossing the street outside of a marked intersection is allowed. This is provided the pedestrian has crossed the road with caution, ensuring there are no moving oncoming vehicles.
Being aware that pedestrians may never cross an interstate road or highway is vitally important. Vehicles travel too fast for people to cross safely.
Can Pedestrians Cross at a Green Light if There’s No Crosswalk?
As mentioned above, if there is no crosswalk, the safest place for a pedestrian to cross a street is at an intersection.
Pedestrians must follow the vehicle traffic signals if there are no pedestrian-specific signals at an intersection. This means that if the traffic light is green, pedestrians may cross.
You should follow the signals of the light you are facing. If you are facing green – walk with caution.
Can pedestrians cross at yellow and red lights?
A yellow light signals that the traffic light is about to change to red or, in some places, to green.
- If you are halfway across the road and the light turns yellow, walk. Be swift but avoid running.
- If you have not started crossing and the light turns yellow, stop. If you see a yellow light, there is not enough time to cross a road safely.
A red light means stop. Pedestrians may not cross at a red light.
If the traffic light you are facing is red, it means that cars coming from another direction are going to cross the street in front of you.
Always obey the rules of the traffic lights; it will save lives.
Can Pedestrians Cross in a Roundabout?
Pedestrians are permitted to cross roundabouts. Again, if there are crosswalks at the roundabout, pedestrians should always use these.
You must cross from one splitter island to the next when crossing at a roundabout.
Splitter islands are the triangular-shaped raised or painted entry and exit points of a roundabout.
Pedestrians should cross here because drivers entering or exiting have to slow down and yield to pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles.
You should never attempt to cross a roundabout using the central island. This is because once cars are in the roundabout, they have the right of way.
Can Pedestrians Cross a Road in Any Direction?
When crossing at an intersection, pedestrians must obey the rules of traffic or crossing lights.
Always move in the direction of the light you are facing. If the light ahead of you shows:
- a solid green light,
- a green “walking man”,
- a “GO” signal,
- or a “WALK” signal
then you, the pedestrian, must cross the street in this direction.
Some large intersections have an additional sign that permits diagonal crossing. ONLY cross diagonally if the walk signal is showing. Here, pedestrians may cross in any direction.
Can Pedestrians Cross Bridges Made Only for Cars?
Generally, we all like to get to our destination in the shortest time possible. Often, a pedestrian bridge can add time to our route, so many people don’t like using them.
You might have a question: “how do I know if a bridge is for cars only?”
If the road that joins onto the bridge does not have a sidewalk, then pedestrians should not cross the bridge. Usually, this bridge will also not have a sidewalk.
However, there is good news for pedestrian commuters! In January 2022, a new bill was passed by the U.S. Department of Transport that states,
“Under the law anytime a state replaces or rehabilitates any highway bridge deck they must include biking and walking access”.
This will undoubtedly make city walking far more convenient.
Do note, pedestrians must never walk in emergency lanes. These lanes are not for general travel–not for cars or people. They are reserved for emergencies.
Please also check out our article about which bridges pedestrians can cross – we check 12 famous bridges!