Why Didn't the Pedestrian Cross the Road?

Pedestrian CrossingWhen the drivers stop to give a pedestrian in a crosswalk the right of way, unless there is a compelling reason not to, the pedestrian should take it and proceed. Yesterday I stopped along with the driver to my left to enable a man standing in the middle of 4 lanes of traffic to cross.

He didn't. Instead he stood his ground and motioned for us both to carry on. We hesitated, but when he continued to motion us on, we continued on our way, as did the stream of traffic behind us.

Why would he choose to take the risk of remaining in the middle of the road when everyone was providing a safe path to proceed? In this case, misguided politeness created confusion and this was not a good thing from everyone's perspective.

Perhaps the man did not realize that he was using an unmarked crosswalk and was mistakenly following what he thought was his duty to yield to traffic.

I'm sure that if you asked many drivers if there was a crosswalk present at this intersection you would receive a negative response. Unless there is paint across the roadway some drivers don't think that they have to yield to pedestrians.

Crosswalk or not, all drivers have a duty not to collide with a pedestrian wherever the pedestrian might be on the highway.

I'll pause here to remind everyone that a highway is not just a major numbered road. The legal definition includes many instances that could surprise you.

In this situation, the driver beside me and I did what the law required us to do, that is to stop and let the pedestrian cross.

Sometimes pedestrians don't feel comfortable crossing or prefer to let traffic by. That's a valid choice too, but some ways are better than others to accomplish it.

This pedestrian could have chosen to walk a couple of hundred meters along the highway to the next intersection and use the marked crosswalk there. Traffic signals at that intersection could provide a more orderly situation in which to cross.

Why does it seem that most pedestrian safety training information is aimed at children and their parents? If not, it seems to be that the message contains pedestrian crash data. While some adults may think that they know the rules a bit of a refresher could be in order.

You might not think of it, but a pedestrian that causes a crash could be sued by the others involved for damages.

Crossing the highway is all about managing risk and is not something to be undertaken lightly. Pedestrians and drivers must know their part and play it for safety.

A couple of thoughts cross my mind, on this.

Firstly, it is annoying when, as a driver, you do exactly what you're supposed to and yield the crosswalk (marked or unmarked) to the pedestrian. Oh sure, there are some peds who stand back a bit from the corner, preferring to wait for no potentially conflicting traffic; fair enough.

But the senior who presents themselves at the crosswalk, and then gestures (with irritation, even) for you to proceed in your car is just foolish. Generally speaking, road users in collisions with other road users usually get hit by something they didn't see coming.

And these pedestrians need to realize that the driver who has stopped to yield them their right of way at a crosswalk is NOT the one who's going to knock them down; it will probably be the one coming from another direction, possibly behind them. So they shouldn't be irritated, but thankful as it makes them safer to be able to check other conficts and then cross. They might want to smile at the driver who gave them the opportunity, instead of frowning and gesticulating for the driver to carry on, it would be much wiser and allow everyone to have a nice day.

I've been in the Driver Training business a long time, and have amassed quite a collection of driving guides. One of the best is the Hong Kong Road Users Code, which devotes more than 20 pages to how Pedestrians should conduct themselves.

But take a look at the useless item ICBC hand out and see if you can find where it says anything about Unmarked Crosswalks! There's nothing useful there in terms of explaining what an Unmarked Crosswalk is, only platitudes.

And will the ignorant drivers, taking their Road Tests (be they local teenagers, or new Canadians) be properly assessed in terms of their on-road ability to respond to this type of situation? Only if, by random chance, a pedestrian is present during the earlier (quiet, residential) portion of the test at one of these unmarked crosswalks. Most of the time, that does not happen.

Finally, one of the commonest 'quick fix' solutions that traffic engineers are using these days to address increasingly busy intersections is to create 4-Way Stops (which aren't legally real in BC, but work quite well none the less). But they fail to paint in the necessary 4-Way Crosswalks. And in my opinion, that's wrong, also.

I'm a pedestrian / cyclist and a motorist, as well as a former truck driver. If I’m alone when I approach the cross walk, I will stand back at least 100 meters and / or wave them on and or wait till no traffic. My belief is wait because the traffic is faster with heavy trucks are faster and most of the time I’m slower.

One place in particular is heavy trucks on a advanced left or right turn coming of a highway makes no sense to try and use the cross walk when these trucks are exiting the highway. I’ve watch trucks and cars get backed up into the intersection to have the light change color. I will stand back and wave them on.

I’ll stay well back and wait for a brake in the traffic or even wait for no traffic.

I’ve watched other pedestrians regardless that insist that a pedestrian has all the right at this crossing to inch out only stop traffic in the middle of a interesting while the heavy vehicle is making his right or left turn on a advanced green. Being dead right at a cross walk because it’s a cross walk only works if you have a death wish.

Coincidentally, I have been mulling over an email to you on this subject and my views on it.

May have mentioned I’m from Winnipeg and more familiar with rules and regulations there which may or not be the same here.

I am surprised and disappointed with the frequency of pedestrians involved in accidents in crosswalks in BC.

I recently spent a week back home and one thing I noticed was when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk and indicates it it is obvious they intend to cross, in Winnipeg, ALL lanes of vehicles stop and are supposed to stop until the pedestrians clear the crosswalk.

This is what I taught and was taught many years ago and I have always given pedestrians the benefit of the doubt as well as the right of way, in crosswalks.

I’m surprised that where I drive in BC, specifically in Nanaimo pedestrians using crosswalks need to almost negotiate their way across lanes of traffic and I heard but have not had it confirmed that a driver only needs to be stopped in a crosswalk when a pedestrian is in their lane.

I have witnessed this many times in BC and as a pedestrian I can relate to your story and the caution with which the pedestrian approach the crossing. It’s what I know and do because I’m not sure who is going to stop and who is not, while I’m crossing.

Back to my recent trip home and soon after leaving the airport, I came to a crosswalk and the pedestrian stepped out, all 4 lanes stopped and waited until he touched the opposite curb before moving.

You mention that a pedestrian could be sued for causing a crash. That is if you can catch them.

I was at an intersection in South Bend Indiana, 3 lanes each way, and the oncoming traffic had the green, along with the left turn signal. Along comes this lady, from my right, across the street, and she boogies over to the median and then steps down, causing the left turning cars to do a panic stop.

About 3 cars back, people start rear ending one another, and when she hears this she kind of freezes, at this point she is in the middle lane. Now everyone starts slamming on the brakes and she hightails it for the far curb. About this time a rig starts piling everyone up in the RH 2 lanes, I’d say probably 20 cars involved.

I am taking this all in, and then look for her, and she is just diving into a doorway to some business. My light turned green and I carried on. Lots of witnesses, no need for my parking a oversize load where I will be IN the road.

I always wondered about that one though. I’ve seen quite a few where someone causes a crash but themselves were not involved and carried on their merry way....thinking they’re a superior driver cause they’ve never been in a wreck.

Such is life.

Just because the cars have stopped doesn't mean it is safe.

If I was the pedestrian in your story, I  might cross, but only *behind* the cars that have stopped.

I'm 65 years only, and it isn't easy to dive out of the way of a car that stopped, then started to go again as I walked in front of their vehicle.

So whether I have the right of way or not, and whether I've made eye contact or not, I walk behind vehicles that appear to have stopped for me.

We are all pedestrians at some time. And whether I am driving or walking I try to put myself in the others position. If a person has stopped for me it seems ridiculous to me to wave them on. He is already stopped go for it and give a friendly wave to acknowledge the courtesy.

As for walking behind a vehicle that has stopped for you? That is something I would never consider and would strongly advise anyone thinking of following this practice to give it a good thought before doing so. If a vehicle has stopped and you are walking in front and they start to creep forward a quick slap of the hood is probably all that is needed to let them know they are creeping forward. But walking behind?? You are now walking behind a vehicle that is stopped this driver is probably wondering just what you are up to and the scariest part is if another vehicle doesn't stop there is a good chance that you are going to be caught between the two of them. Bones and flesh don't stand a change between two metal beams. There is also the risk if there are two or more lanes that you are not in the crosswalk. Someone driving in the next lane sees the vehicle(s) stopped in the lane you are crossing and plans on stopping at the designated stopping point, but now you pop out as a J walker not in the crosswalk. To me it is an excellent way to set yourself up to be hit.

A lot of the problems I see on the road is people not following the rules. Stop when you are supposed to and cross where you are suppose to. When one deviates from the norm, you are setting yourself up for an accident.