At both signalized and unsignalized intersections, there is an implied (legal) crosswalk for pedestrians at each leg, whether or not the crosswalk is marked. The only time this is not true is when there is a sign clearly prohibiting pedestrians from crossing one or more of the legs. Midblock crossings that are marked may have other physical features and/or signs.
Marked crosswalks indicate optimal or preferred locations for pedestrians to cross and help designate right-of-way for motorists to yield to pedestrians. Crosswalks are often installed at signalized intersections and other selected locations with appropriate levels of pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Various crosswalk marking patterns are given in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and include transverse lines, ladder, and continental markings. Marked crosswalks are desirable at some high pedestrian volume locations (often in conjunction with other measures) to guide pedestrians along a preferred walking path.
In some cases, they can be raised and should be installed in conjunction with other enhancements that physically reinforce crosswalks and reduce vehicle speeds. It is useful to supplement crosswalk markings with warning signs or beacons for motorists. At some locations, signs can get “lost” in visual clutter, so care should be taken in placement of signs. Refer to the sections on advance stop or yield lines, curb extensions, and crossing islands for additional information about crosswalk enhancements.
Pedestrians are sensitive to out-of-the-way travel, and reasonable accommodation should be made to make crossings both convenient and safe at locations with adequate visibility. At signalized intersections, this means that all four legs of the intersection should have crosswalks. If installing midblock crossings, the agency should make sure to accompany them with signs or markings that alert motorists of the upcoming crosswalk, because motorists generally do not expect midblock crossings. Many cities now use beacons such as the pedestrian hybrid beacon or the rectangular rapid flash beacon (RRFB) to alert motorists of pedestrians in the crosswalk.
It is important to ensure that crosswalk markings are visible to motorists, particularly at night. Crosswalks should not be slippery, create tripping hazards, or be difficult to traverse by those with diminished mobility or visual capabilities. Granite and cobblestones are examples of materials that are aesthetically pleasing, but may become slippery when wet or difficult to cross by pedestrians who are blind or using wheelchairs, walkers or other assistive devices. Some agencies have installed crosswalks with a marking-free channel in the middle that provides a less slippery surface for crossing pedestrians.
One of the best materials for marking crosswalks is inlay tape, which is installed on new or repaved streets. It is highly reflective, long-lasting, slip-resistant, and does not require a high level of maintenance. Although initially more costly than paint, both inlay tape and thermoplastic are more cost-effective in the long run. Inlay tape is recommended for new and resurfaced pavement, while thermoplastic may be a better option on rougher pavement surfaces. Both inlay tape and thermoplastic are more visible and less slippery than paint when wet.
Motorists may fail to yield to pedestrians at unmarked crossings. Marked crosswalks warn motorists to expect pedestrian crossings and indicate preferred crossing locations for pedestrians.
- Crosswalk locations should be convenient for pedestrian access.
- Crosswalk markings alone are unlikely to benefit pedestrian safety. Ideally, crosswalks should be used in conjunction with other measures, such as curb extensions, to improve the safety of a pedestrian crossing, particularly on multi-lane roads with average daily traffic (ADT) above about 10,000.
- Marked crosswalks are important for pedestrians with vision loss.
- Crosswalk markings must be placed to include the ramp so that a wheelchair does not have to leave the crosswalk to access the ramp.
The cost of striped crosswalks range from approximately $100 to 2,100 each, or on average approximately $7 per square foot. A high visibility crosswalk can range from $600 to $5,700 each, or around $2,500 on average. More detailed cost information is provided here.