The Traffic Engineering and Circulation Division receives many requests to install marked crosswalks. Although such requests reflect a concern for pedestrians' welfare, we have found that marked crosswalks do not necessarily result in increased pedestrian safety.
Studies indicate that pedestrians are twice as likely to be struck in marked crosswalks as opposed to unmarked crosswalks. Unfortunately, some pedestrians assume that the motorist will always stop. Even under the best of conditions, motorists do not always see a crosswalk until it is too late to stop for pedestrians. Under the illusion that drivers will yield, pedestrians often enter the crosswalk believing that they are safe, which can have tragic results for the pedestrian.
Whether or not a painted crosswalk is present, pedestrians must be aware of two safety rules:
Stop and look before crossing the street.
Do not start crossing until you know that the motorist can see you and is stopping.
What are the guidelines used by the City?
The City of Irvine follows State policies and the California Vehicle Code. The Code requires us to follow the national guidelines outlined in the State Traffic Engineering Manual. The State Manual covers all aspects of the placement, construction and maintenance of approved crosswalks. The guidelines prescribe five basic requirements for crosswalks. They must:
Fulfill a need.
Convey a clear, simple meaning.
Command respect of road users.
Give adequate time for proper response.
The State Manual emphasizes "uniformity" of traffic control devices. A uniform device conforms to the regulations for dimensions, color, wording and graphics. The standard device should convey the same meaning at all times. Consistent use of traffic control devices protects the clarity of their messages. As stated in the State Manual, "uniformity" must also mean treating similar situations in the same way.
What is a crosswalk?
Crosswalks can be either "marked" or "unmarked." The California Vehicle Code defines a "crosswalk" as the portion of a roadway at an intersection, which is an extension of the curb and property lines of the intersecting street, or is any other portion of a roadway which is marked as a pedestrian crossing location by painted lines.
A "marked crosswalk" is any crosswalk which is delineated by white or yellow painted markings placed on the pavement. All other crosswalk locations are therefore "unmarked."
How are crosswalks used?
At any crosswalk (marked or unmarked), drivers must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. Crosswalks are marked mainly to encourage pedestrians to use a particular crossing.
Studies conducted on the relative safety of crosswalks support minimal installation of marked crosswalks.
The City of San Diego studied intersections at which there were both marked and unmarked crosswalks. The results were surprising. Although 2.5 times as many people used the marked crosswalks, six times as many accidents occurred in the marked crosswalks. A pedestrian safety study in Long Beach reported eight times as many accidents in marked crosswalks compared to unmarked crosswalks. Similar studies in other cities have confirmed these results.
Such research suggests that a marked crosswalk can give pedestrians a false sense of security. At all crosswalks, both unmarked and marked, it is the pedestrians' responsibility to be cautious and alert while crossing.
Where are crosswalks normally marked?
Crosswalks are marked at intersections where there is substantial conflict between vehicle and pedestrian movements, where significant pedestrian concentrations occur, where pedestrians could not otherwise recognize the proper place to cross, and where traffic movements are controlled. Examples of such locations are:
Approved school crossings.
Signalized and four-way stop intersections where there is significant pedestrian traffic and one or more crossing locations have been prohibited.
These examples follow the philosophy of marking crosswalks as a form of encouragement. In the first case, we are encouraging school children to use a crossing which is normally being monitored. In the second case, we are encouraging all pedestrians to avoid a prohibited crossing. It is the City's policy not to paint crosswalks at mid block locations where traffic is not controlled by stop signs or traffic signals. Painted crosswalks should only be used where necessary to direct pedestrians along the safest route.
What is special about school crosswalks?
If a marked crosswalk has been established adjacent to a school building or school grounds, it is painted yellow if it is within 600 feet from a school building or grounds, and is known as a school crosswalk.
Crosswalks should be marked at all intersections on the "suggested route to school", available from your local school. They should also be marked where there is high conflict between vehicles and students (while crossing), where students are permitted to cross between intersections, or where students could not otherwise cross.
The best safety measure for school-age children is to educate them on how and where to safely cross the street.
The City is committed to providing the safest, most efficient and advanced Transportation Circulation System available. If you have any community traffic concerns, questions, or suggestions please call the Irvine Traffic Research and Control Center (ITRAC)
at (949) 724-7324.