Marking and Signing Crosswalks
Image: A marked crosswalk guides students along the school walking route to Ocoee Elementary School in Orlando, Florida.
A marked crosswalk can benefit pedestrians by directing them to cross at locations where appropriate traffic control, including traffic signals or adult school crossing guards, either currently exist or can be provided. However, marked pedestrian crosswalks, in and of themselves, do not slow traffic or reduce pedestrian crashes.
It may be helpful to install marked crosswalks at signalized intersections or locations where crosswalks are typically marked, at key crossings in neighborhoods with designated school walking routes, and at uncontrolled crossings.
There are several reasons to install marked crosswalks, a few being:
- To indicate a preferred pedestrian crossing location.
- To alert drivers to an often-used pedestrian crossing.
- To indicate school walking routes.
- Marked Crosswalks at Uncontrolled Crossings
- High-Visibility Crosswalks
- In-Street Signs
- Overhead Signs and Flashing Beacons
- In-pavement Flashers
- Advance Stop/Yield Line
- Parking Restrictions
Marked crosswalks at uncontrolled intersections must be carefully designed to ensure that they enhance, rather than reduce, pedestrian safety. In some circumstances marked crosswalks should not be installed unless measures are taken to reduce traffic speeds, shorten crossing distances, enhance driver awareness, and/or provide an active warning of pedestrian presence.
Marked crosswalks alone (without other substantial treatments) should not be installed across uncontrolled roadways where the speed limit exceeds 40 mph or either:
- The roadway has four or more lanes of travel without a raised median or pedestrian refuge island and an ADT of 12,000 vehicles per day or greater; or
- The roadway has four or more lanes of travel with a raised median or pedestrian refuge island and an ADT of 15,000 vehicles per day or greater.
Note: The wording above complies with the 2001 Traffic Control Device Handbook, Chapter 13. The exact wording in the 2009 MUTCD on this issue is currently worded slightly differently and is being considered for revision by FHWA.
Marked crosswalks should be designed to minimize crossing distances and should be straight, to make them easier for children with visual impairments to navigate.
In many cases, crosswalk enhancements including raised median islands, traffic and pedestrian signals, or street lighting may also be needed. More substantial improvements are typically needed on high-volume multilane roads.
Treatment: Marked Crosswalks
Marked crosswalks are painted pedestrian crossings that specify proper locations for pedestrians to cross the street.
Properly placed marked crosswalks can encourage pedestrians to walk at preferred crossing locations while increasing the visibility of a pedestrian crossing and driver awareness. There is no proven reduction in pedestrian crashes resulting from marking crosswalks without adding other more substantial crossing treatments such as raised medians, traffic and pedestrian signals or improved nighttime lighting.
Costs range from $100 for a regular striped crosswalk to $300 for a ladder crosswalk to $3,000 for a patterned concrete crosswalk (PEDSAFE, 2004). Maintenance costs should also be considered based on the paint material used.
Keys to Success:
Key Factors to Consider:
- On multilane, high volume roads, substantial treatments including raised medians are also needed so pedestrian crash risks do not increase.
- Crosswalk markings must be placed so that the curb ramp is within the crosswalk.
- Reduction in motor vehicle conflicts and increase in pedestrian activity within the crosswalk.
Crosswalk A is a traditional parallel line crosswalk.
Crosswalk B is high-visibility crosswalk with a ladder design.
Marked crosswalks guide pedestrians and alert drivers to a crossing location, so it is important that both drivers and pedestrians clearly see the crossings. Crosswalks can be marked in paint or a longer lasting plastic or epoxy material embedded with reflective glass beads. Although more expensive, longer-lasting crosswalk marking materials are a better value over time as they require less maintenance.
The minimum crosswalk width is six feet wide, but school-related crosswalks should be 10 to 15 feet wide or wider at crossings with high numbers of students. School-related crosswalks should be checked annually before the start of the school year. If necessary, fresh paint should be applied and other improvements made to keep the crosswalks in good condition.
The MUTCD allows for two high-visibilty crosswalk designs, ladder and diagonal markings:
A: A traditional parallel line crosswalk.
B: A high-visibility crosswalk with a ladder design.
Figure 1: In-street yield and and stop signs. The 2009 MUTCD added a new option to use the schoolchildren symbol rather than the pedestrian symbol when an in-street sign is used at a school crossing. Image from the 2009 MUTCD.
In-street crosswalk signs can be installed at unsignalized pedestrian crossings to make the crosswalk more visible and increase driver yielding. They are more effective on two-lane, low-speed streets than on multi-lane, high-speed streets, and are prohibited by the 2009 MUTCD at signalized intersections. They can be easily damaged and need to be reset or replaced when struck.
In-street pedestrian crossing signs should be placed at the crosswalk in the street or on a median, but should not obstruct the pedestrian path of travel. In-street signs can be permanently installed in the roadway or mounted on a portable base to allow them to be taken in and out of the street during the school day. When portable in-street signs are used for school crossings, they should be monitored by a school official or adult school crossing guard.
Figure 2: Overhead pedestrian crossing sign. The 2009 MUTCD allows the use of the schoolchildren symbol as shown in the modified image above. Image from the 2009 MUTCD.
School crosswalks with overhead signs (and sometimes flashing beacons) may be helpful in alerting drivers of a busy crossing at a wide or higher speed street. These are usually placed at mid-block crossings but can be used at intersections with uncontrolled crossings. Overhead signs are easier for drivers to see in cases where on-street parking, street trees, or other visual obstructions. Flashing beacons at a marked crosswalk may draw additional attention to the crosswalk. In a busy urban environment, flashing beacons may not provide much benefit, while on a rural road, they may increase driver awareness of the crosswalk. In other locations the beacons are set with a timer to flash only during crossing times, or are pedestrian-activated by an automatic detector or push button and only flash when pedestrians are present.
Image: Provided by PBIC Designing for Pedestrian Safety Course.
Rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFBs) are active warning devices used to alert motorists of crossing pedestrians at uncontrolled crossings. They remain dark until activated by pedestrians, at which point they emit a bright, rapidly flashing yellow light, which signals drivers to stop.
Studies suggest that RRFBs can significantly increase yielding rates over standard pedestrian warning signs. Results have shown that motorist yielding can be increased from baselines averaging 5% to 20%� with the standard pedestrian warning sign treatment to sustainable yielding rates of 80% with this device.
RRFBs should be installed on both the right and left sides of the crosswalk, or in a median if available. They are not currently included in the MUTCD, but jurisdications can use them if they obtain approval from FHWA.
In-pavement flashers at crosswalks are also an option that can be considered..
Crosswalks with in-pavement flashers, or ‘flashing crosswalks,’ consist of embedded lights that are activated when a pedestrian pushes a button or starts walking across the crosswalk. The 2009 MUTCD allows them at uncontrolled crossings to further alert drivers to crosswalks at night but does not allow them at crosswalks controlled by traffic signals, STOP signs or YIELD signs. Crosswalks with in-pavement flashers are expensive to install and maintain, and should not be selected without first considering other solutions.
A 2009 review of literature on in-pavement flashing lights may be found on the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center's website. For more information on case studies related to in-roadway warning lights visit 2004 PEDSAFE "School Zone Improvements" Cupertino, California case study. Evaluations of use of in-roadway warning lights are available from Washington and Florida.
Painted triangles (shark's teeth) are used as the yield line at unsignalized locations.
Advance stop or yield lines encourage drivers to stop further back from the crosswalk, promoting better visibility between pedestrians and motorists, and helping to prevent multiple-threat collisions particularly at mid-block or uncontrolled crossings.
A multiple-threat collision is a pedestrian crash type that occurs when pedestrians have to cross more than one lane in each direction. A motor vehicle in one lane stops and provides a visual screen to the motorist in the adjacent lane. The motorist in the adjacent lane continues to move and hits the pedestrian.
The 2009 MUTCD recommends that yield or stop lines used at uncontrolled multi-lane crossings be placed 20 to 50 feet in advance of the crosswalk; however, a distance of 30-50 feet is preferable. This distance is far enough away to provide for improved sight distance in the adjacent lanes. If the bars are placed more than 50 feet away, motorists are more likely to ignore the line and stop only a few feet prior to the crosswalk. At signalized midblock locations, the 2009 MUTCD recommends separation of at least 40 feet between the stop line and the nearest signal indication.
Problem: Car 1 stops to let pedestrian cross; car 1 masks car 2, obstructing the pedestrian's and car 2's view of one another. Car 2 doesn't stop and may hit the pedestrian at a high rate of speed.
Solution: place advance stop/yield line so car 1 stops further back; car 1 no longer masks car 2, which can better see and be seen by the pedestrian.
The following signs can be used to reinforce advance stop or yield lines.
Figure 3: Examples of STOP and YIELD here to pedestrian signs. Image provided by PBIC Designing for Safety course.
Removing parking from corners can improve visibility between pedestrians and approaching motorists.
Restricting parking at corners will improve visibility of the crossing for both drivers and pedestrians. At a minimum, 30 feet should be kept clear in advance of marked crosswalks to help pedestrians and drivers see each other better. Distances greater than 30 feet are generally better, but parking restrictions have to be balanced with the needs of motorists. For example, if parent parking is severely restricted or completely removed near schools, parents may ignore all parking restrictions.
Treatment: Parking Restrictions at Corners
Restricting how close motor vehicles may park to a crosswalk (20 foot minimum per MUTCD) to improve pedestrian and motorist sight distance.
Eliminating parking spaces too close to a crosswalk will improve pedestrian and motor vehicle visibility, which can reduce the likelihood of pedestrian-vehicle conflicts and collisions.
Keys to Success
- Accurately identifying problem locations and appropriate improvements.
- Educating the public about the purpose of proposed improvements.
- Enforcing parking restrictions.
Key Factors to Consider
- Potentially strong resistance to the loss of parking spaces by business owners and local residents, especially in areas with limited parking.
- Number of crossing pedestrian crashes.
- Number of pedestrian-vehicle conflicts.