The Marked Crosswalk Dilemma: Uncovering Some Missing Links in a 35-Year Debate


Largely in response to several landmark safety studies, as an official or unofficial policy, many agencies across the U.S. have elected to remove marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections, or have shown resistance to installing them in the first place. This approach results in unacceptable pedestrian mobility restrictions, yet such restrictions are often not considered in policy-making. As such, there is a need for roadway system owners to develop strategic safety guidelines to address the marked crosswalk dilemma.

Since 2005, the UC Berkeley Traffic Safety Center, in a study funded by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), has focused on developing a better understanding of driver and pedestrian behavior and safety in both marked and unmarked crosswalks in an effort to recommend more informed crosswalk policies. The study was designed to fill key gaps in the literature by analyzing pedestrian and driver behavior and knowledge of right-of-way laws regarding marked and unmarked crosswalks. The study also focused on driver and pedestrian behavior with regard to multiple threat scenarios, the most common type of pedestrian collisions at uncontrolled intersections.

This paper summarizes results from field observations of driver and pedestrian behavior at marked and unmarked crosswalks on low speed, two-lane and multi-lane roads. The behavioral observations are interpreted in light of findings reported by Mitman and Ragland (2007) from surveys and focus groups regarding driver and pedestrian knowledge of right-of-way laws. The paper concludes with recommendations for a comprehensive crosswalk safety policy to strategically address crash risk at uncontrolled crosswalks. 

Publication date: 
April 1, 2008
Publication type: 
Conference Paper