9 Crosswalk Laws & Pedestrian Rules Every Californian Should Know person on crosswalk in California

At Case Barnett Law, our Orange County personal injury attorney team specializes in helping injury victims find the justice they deserve. If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by someone else, you do have legal recourse. Contact our law firm online or give us a call at (949) 409-0055 to set up a free consultation. 

By now you’ve probably heard about California’s new law, the Freedom to Walk Act. Celebrated as the legalization of jaywalking, it’s been the subject of many catchy articles online. 

However, headlines can be misleading. The reality is that this new law only decriminalizes jaywalking in certain instances. Pedestrians can no longer be ticketed for safely crossing the street (whether they use the crosswalk or not), but they can still be ticketed for jaywalking if they cross in a reckless or unsafe manner.

The bulk of the Freedom to Walk Act, however, is about protecting pedestrians from unfair or discriminatory ticketing practices. It removes the pretext for over-policing in Black and Latinx communities and ends a traffic enforcement practice that puts undue financial strain on low-income individuals. 

Although the Freedom to Walk Act makes some much-needed changes to traffic laws, legalizing jaywalking isn’t one of them. In light of this misconception, we think it’s important to review a few essential crosswalk laws and pedestrian rules that every Californian should know about. 

Ready to test your pedestrian safety knowledge? You may be surprised at how few you know! Even if you never become a traffic law buff, committing these nine laws to memory may keep you or a loved one safe one day. 

Has a pedestrian accident left you injured and broken? Don’t wait until it’s too late to reach out for help! Contact us online to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our compassionate pedestrian accident lawyers and start exploring your options for compensation. 

1. Who Is Considered a Pedestrian in California?

Contrary to what most people think, you don’t have to be on foot to be considered a pedestrian in California. According to California Vehicle Code (CVC) 467, a pedestrian can mean anyone doing the following:  

  • Walking
  • Riding a motorized assisted mobility device because they’re unable to walk
  • Riding something they have to propel by themselves (other than a bicycle)

According to this definition, a person traveling by skateboard, scooter (as long as it’s not motorized), skates, rollerblades, skis, ice skates, wheelchair (including a motorized wheelchair) or crutches may be considered a pedestrian. However, this label does NOT apply to people riding bikes (motorized or not), e-scooters or hoverboards.

2. Are All Crosswalks Marked by White Lines?

No, not every crossing point is marked by white lines. According to CVC 275, a crosswalk can be a portion of road painted with distinctive white lines OR sidewalks that extend through the intersection where two roads meet at an approximate right angle.

3. Can Pedestrians Travel in Bike Lanes?

According to CVC 21966, pedestrians must stay out of bike lanes when there is an “adjacent adequate pedestrian facility,” including sidewalks or designated walking paths. However, pedestrians can use bike lanes to circumvent sidewalk obstructions.  

4. Who Has the Right of Way at a Crosswalk?

Motor vehicles must to yield to pedestrians who are crossing the street using a designated crosswalk, according to CVC 21950. This law requires drivers to slow down and exercise caution to ensure pedestrian safety. However, it also requires pedestrians to cross cautiously and prohibits them from running in front of vehicles, leaving the curb suddenly or unnecessarily stopping or delaying in the crosswalk. 

5. Do Pedestrians Still Need to Use Crosswalks at Intersections? 

Before the passage of the Freedom to Walk Act, pedestrians were required to stick to crosswalks when traveling across intersections that had traffic lights or signals, according to CVC 21955. However, the new law means that as long as pedestrians cross safely, they can’t be ticketed for violated CVC 21955. 

6. Do Pedestrians Have to Follow Crossing Lights?

Crossing lights are electronic signals that tell pedestrians when it’s safe to cross an intersection. They typically depict a walking man or the word “walk” when it’s safe to cross, or they display the words “don’t walk” or “wait” when it’s unsafe. They may also flash countdown signals that let pedestrians know how long they have to finish crossing. 

Even if a crossing light tells pedestrians to walk, they must yield to cars that are already in the crosswalk and allow them to pass through first, according to CVC 21456. Additionally, walkers are allowed to start crossing when the light is blinking, but they must to reach the other side before the countdown stops or the signal says not to walk.

7. Are Drivers Allowed to Block Crosswalks or Sidewalks with Their Cars?

Drivers are prohibited from blocking a crosswalk unnecessarily, according to CVC 21970. This includes both marked and unmarked crosswalks. However, this law does not prevent drivers from blocking a crosswalk at a red light before making a right turn. 

8. Who Has the Right of Way When Crossing a Sidewalk?

Under CVC 21952, pedestrians have the right of way when crossing over a sidewalk, and vehicles crossing a sidewalk must always yield to pedestrians. This rule applies to all sidewalk crossings, including instances in which cars need to pass over a sidewalk in order to turn into (or back out of) a driveway. 

9. What Are the Rules for Blind Pedestrians?

California offers special protections to blind pedestrians under CVC 21963. Blind pedestrians who are using a cane or a guide dog have the right of way at all intersections, and drivers must take extra precautions to ensure their safety. Drivers who fail to do so may be subjected to heavy fines and even serve jail time. 

Case Barnett Law: Top Pedestrian Accident Lawyers in Orange County

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you remember which vehicle code prohibited or allowed which action—what matters is that you have a firm grip on laws pertaining to pedestrian safety. Committing some of these rules to memory won’t just spare you from an expensive ticket, but may also keep you safe as you navigate busy urban areas. 

However, there may be a time when no amount of precaution can keep you safe from a reckless driver. If you or a loved one are injured in a pedestrian accident caused by someone else, you have options. Our Costa Mesa personal injury lawyer team may be able to help you secure compensation. Contact us online or give us a call at (949) 409-0055 to schedule a free consultation.

Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law
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