What is a Crosswalk? Are you Sure?


What is a Crosswalk Exactly?


It seems there is a bit of confusion around this subject so I’m hoping to make some sense today. Firstly, here’s the legal definition from the BC motor vehicle act: (Motor Vehicle Act)

  • “crosswalk” means
  • (a) a portion of the roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface, or
  • (b) the portion of a highway at an intersection that is included within the connection of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on the opposite sides of the highway, or within the extension of the lateral lines of the sidewalk on one side of the highway, measured from the curbs, or in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway;

Did that make sense?

Check out this video by League and Williams, Law office In Victoria, BC.









[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_k9hwfWEuI[/embedyt]


Marked Crosswalks at Intersections




Ok, I am sure we can all agree that this here is a Crosswalk. But this is just one type of Crosswalk. This is a “Marked Crosswalk” at an intersection.   This is pretty obvious and I think most people get that vehicles are legally required to stop for pedestrians here. How many crosswalks are in this picture, though? 


Marked Crosswalks Not at Intersections


In my experience these are less common, but they do exist; a crosswalk not at an intersection. I.E. a Crosswalk located in the middle of a block or in the middle of a long stretch of road that does not have an intersection. Again, I think these are obvious places where drivers usually know that they are required to stop for pedestrians as long as it is safe to do so.




Unmarked Crosswalks at Intersections

See Also: DriveSmartBC: Unmarked Crosswalks

This is where some drivers seem to be confused. According to the definition above, basically any intersection is an unmarked crosswalk where drivers are required to yield the right-of-way. There are a few exceptions of course, such as intersections where a sign prohibits pedestrians from crossing.

There are 4 unmarked crosswalks in this picture. There are no markings, but drivers are still required to yield to pedestrians here.



When stopping for pedestrians here, try to stop with advanced noticed to the traffic behind you and around you so that others can tell what you’re doing. These can be dangerous as some drivers can’t see the pedestrians and assume you’re turning without a turn signal, and then try to go around you, setting up the pedestrian for a bad day. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t be afraid to honk to alert others of this danger.

Avoid Blocking Intersections

When you stop at these intersections try to avoid stopping in the middle of the intersection.




Crosswalk Warnings


These X’s on the pavement indicate there is a crossing soon. Usually a pedestrian crosswalk, but could also be some other type of crossing, like one that refers to a train perhaps.




Yellow Signs


Remember that colours of signs mean different things. Yellow signs warn us of upcoming hazards, etc. This is a warning telling you that there is a crosswalk coming soon:




White and Black Signs


White and black signs are regulatory signs, meaning if we disobey then we are technically breaking the law. These signs mean there is a crosswalk right here, right now.





Jaywalkers should yield to vehicles. Jaywalking is when a person is walking across the road mid-block at a place other than a marked crosswalk.

This cat is totally jaywalking:



More Legal Words

Rights of way between vehicle and pedestrian

179  (1) 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.

(2) A pedestrian must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.

(3) If a vehicle is slowing down or stopped at a crosswalk or at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the highway, the driver of a vehicle approaching from the rear must not overtake and pass the vehicle that is slowing down or stopped.


Crossing at other than crosswalk

180  When a pedestrian is crossing a highway at a point not in a crosswalk, the pedestrian must yield the right of way to a vehicle.


Duty of driver

181  Despite sections 178, 179 and 180, a driver of a vehicle must

(a) exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is on the highway,

(b) give warning by sounding the horn of the vehicle when necessary, and

(c) observe proper precaution on observing a child or apparently confused or incapacitated person on the highway.

Question from a Reader

on Multi-Lane Roads


What about situations where you are proceeding straight and pedestrians are crossing perpendicular to you?

Here’s what it says in the Learn to Drive Smart guide:

You must yield to pedestrians:

  • in marked crosswalks, if the pedestrian is close to your half of the road
  • at intersections (pedestrians near your half of the road still have the right-of‑way even when there is no marked crosswalk)

In a situation where you are on a two-way street and there is a pedestrian waiting to cross (but standing on the curb) on the left of you, would you not have to technically yield to them since they are not close to your half of the road? However, if they have stepped out on the road, then would you still not have to technically yield to them if they are on your left and thus not close to your half of your road? It seems like it by the way it is worded in the driving guide. I would like some clarification on this part.

Also, what would you do if you stop to yield to a pedestrian but no one else stops for the pedestrian as well, making you the only person to have stopped? It’s more likely to happen on multi-lane roads with lots of traffic.

Ok, for your first question are you talking about a situation like this: This pedestrian is not on your half of the roadway if you are driving the white car:  (Pedestrian enlarged!)


Well this is just my guess, but, no you do not have to stop for this one. I think that’s what it means when it says you are not required to yield unless the pedestrian is on your half. This is probably because it makes no sense for you to stop if there are vehicles traveling the opposite direction who haven’t yet stopped for the pedestrian, or maybe if the pedestrians are very slow. All that will happen is traffic behind you will be confused as to why you’re stopping and the pedestrian will still be standing there anyway. That’s kind of pointless. However, if there are no cars coming the other direction and the pedestrian has started to walk, then there’s nothing saying that you have to keep going, in other words, that you aren’t allowed to stop and yield.

I don’t really like the wording either about the half of the road, I think it is confusing especially for multi-lane roads. I want to say to use common sense but I know that is not that helpful.

For your other question, about stopping for the pedestrian and no one else is stopping. This has happened to me a lot and it is frustrating. It’s especially disappointing if you’re just trying to follow the rules and be courteous to people trying to walk across the road and other drivers seem to drive pretty fast in general, seem to be impatient or in a hurry a lot of times, and/or are driving distracted, and/or don’t seem to be concerned with pedestrians whatsoever.

What I try to do is slow down in advance and leave a lot of extra room.  If I slow down way in advance, then there’s a greater chance other drivers will see the pedestrian and/or be able to tell why I am stopping. I’m not sure what else other to do aside from being aware of the traffic around you and honking if necessary to alert the pedestrian to cars that aren’t yielding.

For example, this car here in the following video was behind me and sped up to pass me as soon as I slowed down. Then all I thought about was how guilty I would feel if the pedestrian was hurt by that car, and I would have wished I never stopped. Even though that makes no sense, because if It wasn’t me stopping then it would eventually be someone else. Unless I’m the only person who stops for pedestrians, and I know for a fact that I am not!! And yes, this kid should have probably walked his bike across the road and activated the lights, but that’s not really the point either. I must admit I didn’t see this kid much in advance so I didn’t slow down too gradually or as much in advance as I would have preferred.


[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqS9Wj4w0-k[/embedyt]


I have also seen Transit busses move their vehicle on an angle into the other lane to prevent other vehicles from being able to hurt the pedestrian.  Large vehicles especially, block the view of the pedestrians; and if the drivers behind aren’t paying attention it would be easy for them to fly through the intersection unaware (and also easy for them to assume the bus is merely stopping to pick up passengers as that’s what busses usually do….although people commonly get off and start walking too don’t they) I see this as a last resort that some drivers do when they’re quite confident the other drivers won’t be aware of the situation. I am not sure this is a recommended practice, but I admit it did work to protect the pedestrians.




Let me know if anyone has any ideas.



6 thoughts on “What is a Crosswalk? Are you Sure?”

  1. A question regarding the ‘Rainbow’ crosswalks. I understand the MVAR defines it as to be “………….distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface”. This may be easily identified by local drivers, but how obvious is it to say foreign tourists. I say this because almost without exception, crosswalks in other countries (including Canada at one point), used a white lineated walkway, usually filled with angled or perpendicular white lines/bars. Is this an issue, or has there been an amendment to allow? “…markings on the surface”, seems to leave itself wide open in interpretation. Thnx.

  2. Hey, thanks for a detailed response! A couple of follow up questions though:

    1. The part where you said: “However, if there are no cars coming the other direction and the pedestrian has started to walk, then there’s nothing saying that you
    have to keep going, in other words, that you aren’t allowed to stop and
    yield.” I was confused at the last part. Could you please clarify that?

    2. What should you do on a road test if you were to stop to yield to a pedestrian on an unmarked crosswalk on a multi-lane road but no one else is stopping? Do you just wait a moment and give up and proceed? (Would you be penalized for doing that) Also, would you be penalized if you did not yield to a pedestrian there if you feel that traffic behind/around you may not likely stop?

    • Hi! Oh sorry, I am a confusing writer sometimes, !!

      1) I just meant that you can stop if you want , even if the pedestrian isn’t yet on your half of the road. Sometimes pedestrians are quite fast-moving and they would appreciate that you stopped.

      2) I’m not sure I know the answer to this, but I think it would depend on which lane you’re in. If you’re in the curb lane and you’re the vehicle closest to the pedestrian then I think you’d have the most duty compared to any other vehicle to stop for that pedestrian. I guess it’s up to the pedestrian then, if they want to proceed carefully over each lane. If they do not step off the curb because the other cars aren’t stopping then I guess you really can’t stay there all day. If you can stop with a lot of space and the other cars can then see the pedestrian, that might work.

      I think the only time you’re allowed to not stop for a pedestrian is if you’re sure that it would be dangerous to do so, and that’s kind of hard to prove, but if there’s a large speeding vehicle behind you which is following way too closely, that might seem unsafe to stop and I think the examiner would understand that.

      • I was an emergency driving instructor for a number of years, and the one thing I tried to make clear regarding the second question, is to use common sense. If it’s a multilane roadway (or even two lanes), without a crosswalk, don’t put yourself in a position to set the pedestrian up to be struck. Have seen this so many times. Pedestrians, especially children and elderly, may assume it’s safe to proceed based on your response. So you are in effect, setting them up for a disaster. Again, common sense.

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