Why don't we have more marked crosswalks to help us cross the street?

A legal crosswalk exists at all crossings of public streets at intersections, regardless if it is marked or unmarked. A crosswalk can only exist at a midblock location if it is marked. Pedestrians often assume that it is safer to cross in a marked crosswalk than an unmarked crosswalk. Indeed, marked crosswalks should be used to direct pedestrians to cross at a safer location if there is a complex crossing location or to consolidate multiple crossing locations into the optimal crossing location. Crosswalks are also very useful in directing students to ideal crossing locations in school zones (e.g. where there are adult crossing guards) or encouraging pedestrians to cross at traffic signals. However, studies have shown that marked crosswalks by themselves are not necessarily safer than unmarked crosswalks, especially at uncontrolled crossings of busy multi-lane streets. At such multi-lane, high-volume streets, more substantial facilities may be needed to provide for safer crossings for pedestrians.

Marked crosswalks are shown to be successful in encouraging pedestrians to cross at a specific location. However, marked crosswalks are often not successful in getting drivers to drive slower or safer, or to be more courteous to a pedestrian, especially on higher speed streets.

There are other measures that should be considered when considering installing a marked crosswalk on a multi-lane street at an uncontrolled location. These measures can include a raised median (pedestrian refuge) island, parking restrictions, advanced warning signs or pavement markings, brighter nighttime lighting, or other devices that can slow traffic down at the crossing or improve driver expectancy of the crossing.

At times a zebra, ladder, or continental crosswalk marking pattern that uses more marking material may be used to highlight a crosswalk. If used at all crosswalks, the extra markings will not have the added emphasis where it is needed most.

Read more about crosswalks in our engineering section.