Road rules for walkers

SDOT continues its series on the rules of the road by explaining the laws that apply to pedestrians.  Do you find any of SDOT’s rules helpful?  Should they focus less on pedestrians per se and more on reminding drivers about pedestrians’ rights, or is any attention to pedestrians helpful?

Here’s their pick for “most unknown or misunderstood law on the books”:

As we pointed out last week, every intersection contains a crosswalk whether marked or unmarked and drivers are required to stop for pedestrians at these locations. This law, without a doubt, is the most unknown or misunderstood law on the books. Most people are unaware of this despite the fact that this is true throughout the state of Washington. So it is perfectly legal to cross the street at an intersection even without the aid of crosswalk striping on the pavement.

And from the ‘outlaw stupidity’ department:

But did you know that it actually against the law to dart out into the roadway or suddenly enter a crosswalk? The law states that no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop. Darting out into the roadway is frequently a contributing cause in vehicle-pedestrian collisions. Stopping at the curb before entering the roadway signals drivers that you intend to cross the street.

One thing that may be important to know:

Another little known “rule of the road” for pedestrians is that there are certain circumstances that require the pedestrian to yield to vehicles. Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway. So if you’re crossing your residential street to go chat with your neighbor, be sure to yield to cars before you cross.

And some safety reminders:

In all circumstances, pedestrians should be certain that drivers see them before they enter the roadway. And don’t let the fact that you are crossing the street in a marked crosswalk lull you into a false sense of security. Be on guard for drivers that may not see you due to darkness, inattention, or other factors. Wearing bright, colorful, or reflective clothing can help drivers see you as you attempt to cross the street.

And a few reminders on laws that limit where pedestrians can legally cross. Unfortunately, some of these are hard to follow for those of us afflicted with chronic impatience:

At traffic signals, walkers should always obey the pedestrian signal which will indicate “walk” or “don’t walk” via symbols or text. Most people have a pretty firm understanding of these two phases, but what exactly does the “flashing don’t walk” phase indicate? To understand, let’s review the entire pedestrian signal cycle. The “walk” phase is intended to move pedestrians off the curb and into the crosswalk but not necessarily across the entire street (See our previous post that has more detail about how we determine crossing timing for peds). The “flashing don’t walk” phase is intended to inform pedestrians that they should not begin to cross the street if they are still on the sidewalk or curb. Pedestrians already in the crosswalk should continue crossing the street and vehicles should remain stopped to allow pedestrians to complete the crossing during the “flashing don’t walk” phase. Crossings should be complete by the time the solid “don’t walk” phase appears.

It’s important to note that pedestrians should not cross the street between adjacent, signalized intersections which are common in neighborhood commercial areas and in downtown Seattle. Crossing in these mid-block locations should only be done if a marked crosswalk is present.


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