What is a Crosswalk? Easy Guide to Marked & Unmarked

What is a Crosswalk Exactly?

I sometimes ask this question “What is a crosswalk? Are you sure you know?” It seems there is a bit of confusion around this subject so I’m hoping to make some sense today.

What Is A Crosswalk?

Marked Crosswalks at Intersections

what is a crosswalk
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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 (check out my complete guide to intersections to learn more about them in general). As in, it’s literally marked. Omg, I used the word literally the right way. 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; in 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.

marked crosswalk not intersection
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Marked Crosswalk in a Lane (Back Alley)

Somewhere in Coquitlam…

marked crosswalk in a back alley
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marked crosswalk british columbia
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crosswalk with path
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crosswalk with walking path
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crosswalk sign
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What is a crosswalk? Unmarked Crosswalks at Intersections

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. One example is intersections where a sign prohibits pedestrians from crossing.

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

unmarked crosswalk
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When stopping for pedestrians here, try to stop with advanced notice 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.

This of course is setting up the pedestrian for a bad day. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t be afraid to honk to alert others if need be. Check out my epic guide to Hazards While Driving to learn more about hazard preparations.

Avoid Blocking Intersections

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

stop for pedestrians
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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.

Crosswalk X on pavement
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Yellow Signs

Remember that the colors 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:

crosswalk soon sign
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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.

pedestrian crosswalk
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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:

avoid jaywalking
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BC Motor Vehicle Act

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 a 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.

Preparing for your ICBC road test? Be sure to check out my epic article: ICBC Road Test Tips For Classes 5 & 7 [Instructor Gets Deep].


Carmen Cohoe

Carmen became a driving instructor in beautiful North Vancouver at the age of 22 due to some crazy people who agreed to hire her. After that, there was never a dull moment teaching many different folks from many different places how to drive using automatic and standard vehicles and a minivan.

6 thoughts on “What is a Crosswalk? Easy Guide to Marked & Unmarked

  • Wayne Carew

    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.

  • Brandon

    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.

      • Wayne Carew

        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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