Crossing the Street as a Pedestrian
Crossing the street seems like an easy, thoughtless activity that we do all the time, but it has the potential to be very dangerous. Whether you’re crossing the street as a pedestrian, as a driver of a vehicle, or as a cyclist, you need to know the rules and safest procedures for crossing safely and legally.
1.Cross only at designated crosswalks. Look for painted lines on the roadway that indicate a safe crosswalk that allows pedestrians to cross the street. In the United States, these will always be painted in white and perpendicular to the street. If you are in another country, you may have a different system in place; check with your local transportation department for more information.
Some crosswalks use several rectangular “blocks” of paint to indicate where you should walk across, while others use two parallel lines to designate the crossing area.
You will typically find crosswalks at an intersection with another street, or sometimes in the middle of a block in very high foot traffic areas.
2.Initiate an available pedestrian signal. Look for a button to press near a crosswalk that signals the WALK/DON’T WALK pedestrian lights to change. When available, these buttons are necessary to use in order to cross safely.
Once you’ve pressed the button to initiate the pedestrian signals, wait patiently on the sidewalk or curb for the signal to change to WALK, or whatever symbol is used in your area to indicate it is safe to cross.
If there is no pedestrian-initiated button, cross with extra caution when the regular traffic light turns to green, or when vehicles at stop signs see you and allow you to cross.
3.Cross when the WALK signal comes on. Cross the street only when the pedestrian signal changes to white letters that say WALK, a white symbol of a person walking, or another symbol used in your area to indicate “walk.” Look both ways down the street to further ensure that it is safe to cross.
Always look to your left, then your right, then your left again before crossing any street. In the U.S., this helps you see the immediately oncoming traffic in the lane you will walk into first. In countries where traffic is on the left side of the street, you should look right-left-right.
Pay attention to the pedestrian signals, not the traffic lights for vehicles, if both are available. Just because you see a green traffic light does not necessarily mean it is safe for you to cross as a pedestrian.
An orange hand symbol, the words DON’T WALK, or another symbol will begin flashing, or a countdown will begin, when your time to cross is running out. Do not cross when you see the static DON’T WALK signal.
Make eye contact with drivers at the intersection that you are crossing in front of, to make sure they see you and you see them if they signal at you in any way. This is especially important for crossing a street with stop signs rather than stop lights.
4.Cross very carefully if there are no pedestrian signals. When there are no WALK/DON’T WALK signals for you to cross a street, use extra caution. Stay in the crosswalk and proceed whenever a traffic light turns green or cars at a stop sign see you crossing.
When at a traffic light intersection, wait till the lights turn green for the vehicles going in the same direction as you. Look both ways and pay attention to any drivers that could be turning into your path.
When at a stop sign intersection, take special care to make eye contact with the drivers on either side of the street you’re crossing when they are stopped at a stop sign. You may see them “wave you on” or make any other indication that they see you and want you to proceed.
5.Find the safest means to cross with no crosswalk. If there is no crosswalk available in a rural area, go to the nearest intersection or most well-lit area and proceed to cross with extra caution when there are no oncoming cars.
Ensure that there is no traffic in either direction, or vehicles are very far away, before crossing. Look left and right several times before you make your move to cross, even in a rural or low-traffic area.
Note that it is not safe to cross a high-speed or high-traffic street, like the frontage road for a highway, without a crosswalk at an intersection. In this case, you must walk on the sidewalk to an intersection where there are stop signs, stop lights, or crosswalks. Do not attempt to cross without the assistance of road markings and signals.
Crossing the Street as a Driver
1.Pay attention to traffic lights. Obey traffic lights carefully when approaching an intersection controlled by them where you want to cross the street. Follow green for go, yellow for slow, and red for stop.
Pay particular attention to traffic that may be crossing your path, even when the light is green for you. These could include cars from the cross street that run a red light illegally, or vehicles from the other side of the street who make unprotected left turns (or right turns in some countries).
Gauge when to slow down for yellow lights very carefully. You shouldn’t speed up to cross while a light is still yellow, but you also should not abruptly brake right before an intersection and risk causing an accident. Slow down when you can do so safely, or proceed through the yellow light with caution.
2.Obey right-of-way at stop signs. Yield to other drivers when you approach an intersection controlled by one, two, or four stop signs, or an uncontrolled intersection with no stop signs at all. Slow down and obey yield signs in the same manner as stop signs when other traffic is present.
In general, and at four-way stops (all streets have stop signs), any driver should observe right-of-way by letting whoever got there first proceed. If two or more drivers arrive at the stop sign at the same time, the driver to your right proceeds. If it is still unclear, a driver going straight will proceed first before one turning.
At a two-way stop or a T-shaped three-way intersection, the driver at a stop sign should always wait for traffic to completely clear on the through street that does not have any stop signs.
At an uncontrolled intersection, where there are no stop signs, a driver should slow down and be prepared to stop and wait for any drivers already in the intersection to pass through, then proceed cautiously when no other cars are passing.
3.Cross according to all other signs and signals. Pay attention to any other traffic signs and signals directed at vehicles before you cross a street. You should always proceed according to what’s going on around you, even when signs and signals indicate it’s safe.
Observe pedestrians closely when proceeding across the street. You might see signs in some areas that alert you to “PED XING” when there is a crosswalk you should be prepared to slow down and stop for.
Pay attention to other special signs at intersections that could affect the way you cross the street, like “Cross traffic does not stop” or markings on the road that indicate things like changing lanes or a bike lane to keep clear of.
Crossing the Street as a Cyclist
1.Obey normal vehicle signs and signals. Follow the same rules that apply to drivers of motor vehicles when crossing any street. Obey any additional signs directed at bicycle riders.
This means that cyclists should follow green, yellow, and red lights as normal at a traffic light-controlled intersection, and observe right-of-way as normal at a stop light-controlled or uncontrolled intersection.
Pay attention to any signs directed at cyclists specifically. “Use Ped Signal” could indicate that you should cross according to the pedestrian lights rather than the vehicle traffic lights. “To request green, wait on [symbol]” shows you an area on which to position your bike to initiate a green light and cross the intersection
2.Stay in the bike lane if available. Keep riding in a bike lane or according to markings on the pavement that indicate where a cyclist should go when crossing the street. In the U.S., you’ll stay in the right lane or the right side of the roadway if there is no bike lane.
If there is no bike lane and the lane is wide enough, stay alongside cars in the traffic lane before crossing. If the lane is narrower, “take the lane” by positioning yourself in the middle of it so that no car can attempt to move next to you.
Change lanes when it’s necessary to do so to proceed straight across the street or turn in the direction you wish to go. For instance, though you may be riding in the right lane, if it becomes a right-turn-only lane at an intersection and you need to proceed straight, you will shift over to the left until you are in a lane designated for straight-through traffic.
3.Proceed with caution to other drivers and pedestrians. Pay close attention to other vehicle drivers and pedestrians also present in an intersection before you cross. Be aware of your unique position as transportation that is faster than pedestrian but smaller and more vulnerable than motor vehicles.
Be aware that vehicle drivers in the U.S. may not see you on their right side, and can make maneuvers like clipping a corner on a right turn or merging lanes without noticing you, that can endanger you when crossing the street. Position yourself where drivers can see you as best as possible.
Never try to weave in and out of lanes or vehicles. Only merge into a new lane when necessary to make a turn or other safety maneuver, and only after using hand signals appropriately.
Never cross a street from a sidewalk on a bike, as it will confuse and disrupt drivers and pedestrians. Dismount a bicycle and cross at a crosswalk only if it is safer or necessary to do so.