The Importance of Crosswalks and Walkway Markings

In urban areas where pedestrian traffic volumes are high, local and state transportation agencies have a professional responsibility to facilitate safe and convenient crossing facilities. While a range of walking and crossing treatments are available, crosswalks and walkway markings provide the most visible indication to drivers that pedestrians are present.

Marked crosswalks consist of a series of parallel white stripes painted on the roadway that define a pedestrian walking area at intersection locations. Typically, the standard treatment includes two 12 inch wide white retro-reflective thermoplastic stripes that are perpendicular to the direction of vehicle travel and parallel to the direction of pedestrian travel. School crossings must be yellow per state code, and other special needs crosswalks may be marked with a continental crosswalk treatment including a wider center stripe.

Historically, marked crosswalks have been located in locations with low traffic volume and/or speeds, and only at sites where crosswalks and walkway markings demand warrants their use. However, in recent years there has been a trend toward incorporating crosswalks at mid-block locations where pedestrians need access to major destinations such as schools, shopping centers, parks, senior centers, transit stops and hospitals. Pedestrians are more likely to use these crossings than at unsignalized intersections, so it is important that they be well-designed with adequate width and length of marked crosswalks and clear markings to improve safety and visibility for all pedestrians, including children and those with visual or physical impairments.

Many factors can reduce the effectiveness of a marked crosswalk, including poor lighting conditions and obstructions such as parked cars, buildings or other vehicles. Additionally, horizontal or vertical roadway curvature and/or lane width can limit the drivers field of view and therefore their ability to see pedestrians within the crossing. These factors can increase pedestrian-motor vehicle collision risk at marked crosswalks.

In addition to a clearly defined pedestrian crosswalk, other improvements that may be considered at intersection-level marked crossings include extending the width of the markings, using brighter colors for markings, and incorporating other warning signs such as flashing lights or pavement messages. These enhancements can help to alert motorists to pedestrian presence and encourage them to slow down as they approach the crossing.

In some cases, marked crosswalks are not sufficient to prevent an increase in pedestrian-motor vehicle collision risks, particularly on high-volume multilane roads with vehicular traffic volumes in excess of 10,000 Average Daily Traffic (AADT). Depending on the design and location, supplemental crossing improvements such as traffic signals, raised median islands or yield lines should be provided to reduce the potential for multiple threat crashes at uncontrolled crossing locations.