Everyone is a pedestrian. Whether walking on a sidewalk, to a bus stop or through a parking lot, at some point in your travels, you are a pedestrian. It’s important that everyone – drivers and pedestrians – know the rules of the road, best practices for safety and how pedestrian amenities should be used.
Pedestrian signals consist of the illuminated words WALK and DON'T WALK, or the illuminated symbols of a walking person and an upraised hand. The meanings of the indications are as follows:
- A steady, illuminated WALK display, or a steady illuminated symbol of a walking person, means that a pedestrian may enter the roadway and proceed in the direction of the indication.
- A flashing, illuminated DON'T WALK display, or a flashing illuminated symbol of an upraised hand, means that a pedestrian may not start to cross the roadway in the direction of the indication, but any pedestrian who has partly completed the crossing during the steady WALK indication may continue across.
- A steady, illuminated DON'T WALK display, or a steady illuminated symbol of an upraised hand, means that a pedestrian cannot legally enter the roadway.
*It is important to note that in most locations the WALK indication is not displayed for the entire time required to safely cross the street. When driving, be aware that pedestrians will most likely still legally be in the crosswalk when the DON’T WALK sign is flashing and you should slow down or stop if necessary to give them time to finish crossing the street.
Types of Signals
- Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI): These pedestrian traffic signals give pedestrians a WALK signal before motorists are allowed to proceed through the intersection. This improves safety by allowing pedestrians to begin crossing the street, increasing their visibility to vehicles attempting to turn across the crosswalk.
- Exclusive Pedestrian Signal: Some signals have a phase that gives pedestrians enough time to complete crossing the street while vehicle traffic is stopped in all directions.
- Accessible Pedestrian Signals: These devices communicate information about pedestrian signal timing in a non-visual format to assist sight and hearing impaired pedestrians.
- Countdown Timers: These signals display the number of seconds left to finish crossing the street before the steady DON’T WALK or upraised hand is displayed. The countdown display begins at the start of the flashing upraised hand or DON’T WALK indication and ends at the termination of that interval. Pedestrians who are already in the road when the countdown begins should continue safely crossing the street. Pedestrians who have not stepped off the curb should not begin crossing the street until the next pedestrian cycle.
- Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon: These devices are used to supplement pedestrian warning signs at unsignalized intersections or mid-block marked pedestrian crosswalks. They include flashing lights that alert motorists that pedestrians are using the crosswalk.
- HAWK Signals: High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk Beacons are used to stop road traffic and allow pedestrians to cross the street. The signal is dark until activated by a pedestrian who wishes to cross.
- Crosswalks: A crosswalk is a portion of the road that is designated for pedestrians to cross the street. All intersections are considered to represent crosswalks, even when there are no pavement markings.
- Median Refuge: Raised pavement between opposing lanes of traffic that allows pedestrians to cross half of the road at a time.
Learn more about how to use HAWK signals and Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons.
Be safe and be seen: Make yourself visible to drivers
- Wear clothing and accessories that incorporate retro-reflective materials when walking at night or during other low-light situations, such as rainy or foggy weather.
- Carry a flashlight when walking at night.
- Cross the street only in well-lit areas at night.
- When crossing the street, make eye contact with drivers to be sure they see you.
- Never begin crossing in front of a parked vehicle.
Be smart and alert: Avoid dangerous behaviors
- Always walk on the sidewalk; if there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
- Stay sober; walking while impaired increases your chance of being struck.
- Don't assume a vehicle will stop; make eye contact with the driver and don't just look at the vehicle. If a driver is on a cell phone or texting, he or she may not be paying enough attention to drive safely.
- Don't rely solely on pedestrian signals; scan for approaching vehicles before you cross the road.
- Be alert to engine noise or backup lights on cars when in parking lots and near on-street parking spaces.
Be careful at crossings: Look before you step
- Cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections, if possible.
- Obey pedestrian traffic signals such as WALK/DON'T WALK signs.
- Look left, right and left again before crossing a street.
- Watch for turning vehicles; make sure the driver sees you and will stop for you.
- Look across ALL lanes you must cross and visually clear each lane before proceeding. Just because you see one motorist stop, do not presume drivers in other lanes can see you and will stop for you.
- Don't wear headphones or talk on a cell phone while crossing the street.
Be alert: Watch for pedestrians at all times
- Scan the road and the sides of the road ahead for pedestrians.
- Before making a turn, look in all directions for pedestrians crossing.
- Don't drive after consuming alcohol or other drugs.
- Do not use your cell phone or text while driving.
- Look carefully behind your vehicle for approaching pedestrians, especially small children, before backing up.
- For maximum visibility, keep your windshield clean and headlights on.
Be responsible: Yield to pedestrians at crossings
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, whether marked or unmarked.
- Yield to pedestrians when making right or left turns at intersections.
- Do not block or park in crosswalks.
- Always stop for a school bus with flashing red lights.
Be patient: Drive the speed limit and avoid aggressive maneuvers
- Never pass or overtake a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians.
- Obey speed limits and come to a complete stop at STOP signs.
- Use extra caution when driving near children playing along the street or older pedestrians who may not see or hear you.
- Always be prepared to stop for pedestrians.
Intersection improvement projects can consist of anything from adjusting the timing of traffic signals to major road reconstructions. Each location will be studied; DOT engineers will take into account accident history, pedestrian and vehicle traffic volumes and more to determine the best treatment to maximize pedestrian safety.
Examples of possible low-cost intersection treatments include:
- Retiming traffic signals
- Adding crosswalks or upgrading existing crosswalks for higher visibility
- Restricting parking near the intersection
- Installing pedestrian signals
- Installing new signs, such as No Turn On Red or Turning Vehicle Yield to Pedestrians
- Adding pavement markings in advance of a crosswalk
- Adding Pedestrian refuge islands and curb extensions