Q: When a pedestrian is crossing do you have to wait for them to cross all the way to the other side before you proceed?

Great question! It seems to me that different people have different opinions about this subject, and since there is no solid answer from the motor vehicle act, I will share what I believe.

Things to keep in mind:

  • You want to be efficient, but it can’t be at the expense of safety
  • Pedestrians are the most vulnerable of road users. When a car and a pedestrian fight, the pedestrian never wins. Cars can be replaced, people can’t.
  • The pedestrian crossing is someone’s wife/husband/father/son/daughter/grandmother/friend, etc., not just some random occurrence who is there to make you frustrated and  who is making your commute longer.
  • Pedestrians can be unpredictable, especially children. Pedestrians in general, may change their mind, trip and fall, drop something, stop and tie their shoe lace, change speeds, or change directions; or they may even be drunk or under the influence of substances. We need that extra “just in case” space at all times.
  • Always keep in mind that you could be rear-ended at any moment. It sounds sinister, but it’s true. You don’t want to be so close to pedestrians that if you were rear-ended, the pedestrian would be the one to suffer. Always try to consider the space cushion you have in front of you at all times and how it may affect those around you. Little details make big differences here.
  • Lastly, for a driver who turns close to a pedestrian it is not scary, because he is the one with an entire vehicle around him, protecting him. But for a pedestrian, a vehicle turning within inches of where they are walking can be quite terrifying, especially for the elderly. Please be nice to pedestrians and think of things from their point of view, not just yours.

Since there are many different types and sizes of intersections, there really is no yes or no answer to this question. So my official answer will be “it depends on the intersection, and which direction you are turning, and which direction the pedestrian is walking, and how fast the pedestrian is walking, and how quickly you are going to turn.” 😉

A few common examples, Please excuse my artwork.

Left Turns

Let’s say he’s walking and you are about to turn left.


I think, to be safe, that the vehicle should remain completely stopped with the steering wheel completely straight (in case of a rear-end collision, the pedestrian would not be at risk and neither would you be pushed into oncoming traffic), until the pedestrian is on the other side of the yellow line, half way between the yellow line and the edge of the roadway. I think it’s Okay to turn at that point. (Of course, shoulder check and scan the intersection for any additional pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, road users, etc.)

So basically, he’s “almost off” the roadway.


For a larger intersection with multiple lanes, like this:


I would suggest a similar rule. The vehicle should remain completely stopped until the pedestrian has crossed past the yellow line and is roughly half way between the yellow line and the edge of the road.


 Right Turns

If there is only one pedestrian walking like this (away from you I guess I could call it), it seems to me there is no need to stay stopped until he is completely off the crosswalk (especially a large intersection with many lanes).  Drivers behind you may have a tendency to freak out if they feel you should turn instead of waiting the extra time for the pedestrian to cross a football-field-length crosswalk.


I think you can turn after he is past the yellow line, as long as you shoulder check to make sure there are no more pedestrians approaching and that it is truly safe (mirror and right shoulder check before turning.)


 Pedestrians Walking Towards You

Here’s where you have to use your judgement a bit more. Different combinations will have different appropriate responses. For example with a larger intersection plus a very slow (perhaps elderly) pedestrian, there may be ample time to turn if you arrive just as the light is freshly green and they are still all the way on the other side, slowly beginning their journey. If it’s a jogger, then you’ll probably have to stay stopped and wait, to avoid cutting them off. So, use your judgement and err on the side of caution.


Lastly, this is probably ovbious, but just in case. When they are walking towards you, don’t turn until they are truly and completely off the roadway. Do not turn wide in order to speed up your turn. Wait patiently and then turn when they are off and it is safe. (Have you done your 2nd shoulder check before turning?)


I have heard some students speak of other driving instructors who have told them not to turn until the pedestrians are completely off the roadway, each and every turn. But I’m not sure such a blanket statement can cover all of the many different situations, sizes of intersections, and speeds of pedestrians.

Think about what makes sense to you, of course, without cutting off or scaring pedestrians, driving dangerously close to them, or putting them at risk in case you are rear ended.


Another Opinion

Submitted by email by Paul

Good item in the Blog re: pedestrians.  Ironically, just yesterday I was out with my son who is still on his L, and he was contemplating a right turn from East 15th Street into Lonsdale only there was this ancient old lady with a walker gradually approaching from the west side of Lonsdale – he asked if it was OK to turn in front of her as she was still two or three lane widths away from us, approaching the centre of the road.  And very slowly, at that.


I found myself bringing up my ‘stock’ answer to the question: “Do you think, as a driver, that it’s your responsibility to compete with pedestrians – or to use your vehicle to protect them?”


One thing I can say, from my years spent as an ICBC Driver Examiner, is that any DE who thinks that their examinee may be prepared to cross the potential path of a pedestrian so that they can continue merrily on their way in their vehicle – even if it’s legal – is not going to be disposed to hold back on any marking of any categories; and will probably be silently delighted if the applicant commits enough errors (especially involving pedestrians) to fail themselves.  Examiners are human, not robots …


Used to be, in the City of Vancouver, they would have special crosswalk signs near schools, perhaps marked with ‘Stop when Occupied’ or in some cases ‘Do not Pass’.  But those seem to have disappeared in this symbolic age, or my eyesight is failing.