Q&A - Pedestrian Right of Way

Q&A ImageMy question regards the right of way of pedestrians who are in the roadway illegally, i.e. they have disobeyed a control signal or have failed to yield to traffic as per section 180. The thought came to me after watching this clip from the United Kingdom, intended to illustrate proper horn use:

While the course of action taken in the video may be considered the the right one in the UK, where I think the general attitude toward driving could fairly be considered slightly more laissez-faire in some ways, I initially suspected that would not be the case here in British Columbia.

Before posting here however, I decided to skim the MVA for myself and came across section 179 (1) which states that:

Subject to section 180, the driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to a pedestrian where traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation when the pedestrian is crossing the highway in a crosswalk and the pedestrian is on the half of the highway on which the vehicle is travelling, or is approaching so closely from the other half of the highway that he or she is in danger.

While this refers to pedestrians crossing lawfully, it does still seem to imply that I was wrong.

Since the pedestrians in the video had been made aware of the oncoming vehicle and were not in danger, am I right in saying that a car in BC would also be under no obligation to stop?

I see similar situations relatively frequently, and stopping is frequently dangerous on busy, multi-lane roads since, even if you stopped, traffic in the adjacent lane almost certainly would not, so I'm curious as to the acual legal requirements in the situation. What are your thoughts?

PS: As a quick caveat, I am aware of Section 181 and am not suggesting drivers should endanger pedestrians because they're in the wrong. I've heard about laws in other jurisdictions stating that pedestrians have full right of way over all vehicles to exit the roadway once they have entered it, regardless of whether it was done so legally, and am curious if something similar exists here.

I watched the video a couple of times and it appears to me that the two pedestrians are using a marked crosswalk. For whatever reason the marks don't extend completely to the left side of the roadway.

I would not have any issues ticketing a BC driver for failing to yield if this occurred in BC and I was still working.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

I watched that video several times, and those markings on the road sure do resemble marked crosswalks in this country. Strangely, there are similar markings on the right side of that intersection (makes you wish for a Google Map or at least the coordinates in order to inspect it more closely).

But although there are circumstances where pedestrians in the UK may get a 'Walk' type signal at an intersection, as we're accustomed to (in which case, any potentially conflicting vehicular or bicycle traffic will be facing a solid Red Light), this isn't one of them.

Want to know about UK Pedestrian Crossings? Take a look here.

It's important to realize that the whole social/legal traffic structure, in terms of how it has developed over centuries (in their part of the world) or approximately a century (in our part of the world) simply ain't the same - and nowhere is this more apparent than pedestrian right-of-way at intersections.


Separately, it's my belief that this is a contrived situation, created by Ashley Neal Driving School. For the driver to simply tap the horn - without slowing down, or gaining eye contact with the pedestrians as they reach the point of potential conflict - is otherwise irresponsible and stupid. Never mind what the law says.


With a bit of sleuthing (I'm quite good at GeoGuessr), I was able to find the location. There is indeed a crossing, but it does not appear to be one where drivers are required to yield. In fact, I don't believe it's an "official" crossing at all, just as CompetentDrivingBC suggested. It looks like pedestrians are just supposed to pay attention to the light cycle and cross at their own discretion.

Nevertheless, I shared the video more as just an example of the situation. I agree that simply honking without taking any other precautions, as in the video, is foolish. I was more concerned with a situation where the pedestrian is explicitly crossing illegally and stopping, even if possible, could be more dangerous. I was actually in such a situation shortly after my initial post, where a pedestrian darted across from the opposite side of the road and onto the median with the clear intention of continuing across onto my side. The two cars to my left (in the lane closest to the median) didn't stop and there was a car following close behind me. I slowed, saw that the pedestrian was alert and wasn't making any attempt to leave the median, and continued on. While I could have stopped, it would have required sharp braking with high risk of being hit from behind, so I opted not to. I honestly do not believe any other course of action could have been taken safely.

I guess it basically all boils down to this: are you always required to stop for a pedestrian anywhere in the roadway?

I see many posts on this forum along these lines, e.g. wondering whether a driver should yield to a pedestrian, cyclist, etc that is in your vehicle's path.

To be frank, if someone doesn't answer "yes" in less than a second, then I question whether they have the proper attitude (or basic morality) to be behind the wheel at all. You are driving several thousand pounds of metal, rubber, etc. and wondering whether you should yield to a vulnerable human being? The answer is, "Of course you should."