Op-ed | Hey, I’m Walking Here, Marked Crosswalks Don’t Always Mean Cars Stop

This past weekend was another sunny, warm Snoqualmie Valley atypical winter weekend. Worried that when the rain finally returns it might stay awhile, I made sure to get outside.

For three straight days I walked and ran through Snoqualmie Ridge, much of the time on the pedestrian walkway that runs alongside Snoqualmie Parkway, which required crossing many busy intersections in those white-painted things at intersections often referred to as ‘crosswalks.’

Crosswalks are those things that sometimes irritate ‘in a rush’ drivers when people are in them. See, I push the button. I wait. The little person on the signal turns white. I look both ways because I know many times drivers might not see me entering the crosswalk – and then I walk.

That nifty little crosswalk signal is even polite these days – it starts flashing red and lets me know how many seconds I have left to get my tooshy across the street before my right-of-way is gone.

After my three days on the streets and in the sun, I came to realize what some readers complain about – that drivers don’t always stop for people in those crosswalks – is actually quite often true.

In one three-mile walk from my house to the grocery store (with my child) where we crossed intersections six times, half the time drivers turned through the painted crosswalk – while we were in it.

A couple of times the drivers looked at us apologetically, which was nice.  One time – and the time the car was the closest to us – there was no recognition that we were even in the crosswalk with a walk signal.

So what exactly are Washington’s pedestrian crosswalk laws?. The main components are summarized like this:

“Vehicles must stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within a marked or unmarked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon the lane, or within one lane approaching the lane on which the vehicle is traveling or turning onto. Pedestrians may not suddenly leave the curb and enter a crosswalk into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close the vehicle is unable to stop. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.”

So on my walks this weekend, when I was crossing 4-lane Snoqualmie Parkway at Swenson Drive, the car that turned while I was in the marked crosswalk did so legally –  because I was not yet within one lane of reaching the lane they were turning into.

When I crossed at Douglas Ave (another 4-lane marked crosswalk), the same wasn’t true.  I was almost to the middle of the intersection and within that one lane distance – so that car turning off the Parkway and onto Douglass should have yielded to us.

And that car that turned onto Center Blvd while we were in the crosswalk? Well, that’s an even smaller, three-lane road so according to state law, that car should have yielded to us, too.

Regardless of these laws, when it comes to crosswalks and cars, it might be my [legal] pedestrian right-of-way much of the time, but based on these recent experiences, I will continue to lean on the side of caution before entering neighborhood crosswalks. Being in a one doesn’t mean you are 100% safe, that drivers will see you every time – or even yield.

 

Intersection of Snoqualmie Parkway and Douglas Ave and 4-lane crosswalk

Intersection of Snoqualmie Parkway and Douglas Ave and 4-lane crosswalk

 

Comments

  1. I always say that physics doesn’t care about right of way. Every driver should obey the law and be careful, but mistakes happen and no law can prevent that. Whenever I am a pedestrian, I don’t move into the road until I have eye contact with the driver. A coworker witnessed a woman being run over in a parking lot last night. The driver failed to look both ways and the woman was distracted by her phone. Eyes up, be aware of your surroundings, stay safe.

  2. Andrea Logan says

    Thank you for posting this. I have felt some frustration walking my dogs around North Bend. My dog was even hit by a car when we were in a cross walk (fortunately she is OK). I never cross unless the coast is totally clear or the driver has acknowledged they see us. Many people speed right through while we are standing there waiting.

  3. I was on a jury for a incident that happened in a cross walk. Learned more about cross walk laws that were interesting. The “legal” cross walk is only that part indicated with the white bars.
    If you are walking outside the white bars you are not legally in a crosswalk. The space between the white stop bar for cars and the white crossing area bars is NOT a legal cross walk area. Always proceed with caution. If the warning light is blinking for the cross walk, do not enter it. You could be breaking the law and the cars have the right away in a traffic controlled crossing.

  4. Thank you for doing this article. I just wish the drivers would pay more attention and slow down. We are an active community and there are people and kids everywhere. I can’t count how many times I have almost been hit in the crosswalk

  5. True some drivers don’t think or care. I’m always careful when turning some pedestrians will just walk out even if they don’t have the right of way. About five years ago two runners continued to run out even though the light was green,. I slammed on the breaks and they flipped me off, nice.

    It works both ways, a little personal awareness helps. There have been several accidents with people turning left onto Douglas and Center there is a big blind spot for drivers turning left, made worse on a dark rainy night. We need more lights on these intersections, the orange flags are a joke no-one uses them.

  6. My rule is: “It is never OK to hit a pedestrian- even if they are not crossing legally.”

    Interesting that the law includes bicycle along with pedestrian for crosswalks. I’ll have to take advantage of that since while biking on roads I treat myself as a vehicle at intersections and wonder why cars stop for me even though i don’t have the right of way and not in a crosswalk. I’ll have to remember to move over to the crosswalk.

    BTW – I love waving the Orange flags crossing N Bend Way as I walk across. I usually get a complement for my flashy display so I know they work.

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