Dear Street Smarts,
Q: As far as I can remember, the California Vehicle Code says that when two roads intersect, there’s an implied crosswalk — whether it’s painted or not, pedestrians have the right of way. But I’m finding that no one seems to remember that factoid. I was just running in the Seabright neighborhood, and I had to dodge no less than three cars, most of whom look at me like I’m nuts. Same thing a few days ago. I’m not about to risk my life to exercise my right of way but I never know who’s going to stop and who isn’t. Most cars make no attempt whatsoever.
Can you send a reminder in your column that, just because there’s no painted crosswalk doesn’t mean that pedestrians don’t have the right of way? Unless I’m missing something or the law has changed.
A Frustrated Runner
A: The vehicle code has remained the same and you are correct, whether lines are painted in the roadway or not, every intersection marks the spot of a crosswalk, unless otherwise noted, said Deputy Chief Steve Clark of the Santa Cruz Police Department.
Vehicle code section 275 defines a crosswalk as either:
- a) That portion of a roadway included within the prolongation or connection of the boundary lines of sidewalks at intersection where the intersecting roadways meet at approximately right angles, except the prolongation of such lines from an alley across a street.
- b) Any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.
“That said, I would remind pedestrians to ensure that they enter the roadway safely — stop, look and listen,” said Clark. “And keep in mind that they have responsibilities per vehicle code section 21950(b).”
The entirety of section 21950 states:
- “a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.
- “b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
- “c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.
- “d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.”
If you provide Clark the intersection(s) you’ve experienced problems with, he’d “be happy to put it on our list for ‘pedestrian stings,’” he said.
In pedestrian stings, decoy officers attempt to cross intersections while uniformed officers on motorcycles and/or patrol cars sit nearby waiting for drivers to mess up. Those motorists will be pulled over and educated about crosswalk safety. That education may include a citation.