Pedestrian Crosswalk Laws in California You Should Know

by Staff Blogger | February 7th, 2023

As a driver or pedestrian in California, it’s essential to understand the laws surrounding crosswalks. Knowing your rights and relevant traffic laws can help you safely navigate busy streets and prevent you from involvement in a dangerous accident.

Learn the pedestrian crosswalk laws you should know when walking or driving in the Golden State and how an attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers can help if you’re involved in an auto accident. 

How Does the Law Define ‘Pedestrian’ and ‘Crosswalk’?

According to California law, a pedestrian is defined as anyone on foot or using a mobility device such as a wheelchair. Under the same statute, the term pedestrian can refer to a person using a personal conveyance, such as a skateboard or roller blades. However, bicyclists are not considered pedestrians in California.

A crosswalk is defined as a marked or unmarked crossing connecting sidewalks on opposite sides of a street or road. Painted lines typically indicate a marked crosswalk on the roadway. An unmarked crosswalk is an area where pedestrians can cross the road even if there are no markings.

All intersections are considered crosswalks in California, whether marked or not.

Do Pedestrians Have the Right-of-Way?

According to California Vehicle Code section 21950, pedestrians have the right-of-way when crossing the street at an intersection with no marked crosswalk or a marked crosswalk. This means that drivers must slow down and yield to pedestrians to allow them to cross the street.

This applies to crosswalks at controlled intersections, where there are traffic lights or stop signs, and uncontrolled intersections, where there are no traffic control devices.

While pedestrians are not required to use crosswalks, it is generally safer for them to do so. However, if pedestrians cross an area without a crosswalk, they must yield to vehicles that pose an immediate hazard. As a pedestrian, you must exercise caution and wait until it’s safe to cross.

Exceptions to California’s Crosswalk Rule

There are exceptions to California’s rule allowing pedestrians to cross without a crosswalk. Under the newly repealed California Vehicle Code Section 21955, pedestrians crossing between two adjacent intersections controlled by traffic lights were required to use a crosswalk.

However, on January 1, 2023, the Freedom to Walk Act was enacted in California, giving pedestrians the right to cross without a crosswalk when it is reasonably safe to do so. They must still avoid unsafe behavior, such as running in front of a vehicle or stopping traffic for an undue reason.

If the pedestrian signal is not functioning or is not present, pedestrians should treat the intersection as a four-way stop and proceed cautiously.

What Traffic Laws Do Cars Have to Follow Regarding Crosswalks?

In California, cars are required to yield to pedestrians crossing the street in marked crosswalks or at intersections. If a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, cars must stop and wait for the pedestrian to cross the street before continuing.

Under California’s Vehicle Code, drivers may not unnecessarily block intersections or crosswalks. Similarly, Section 21209 requires drivers to avoid driving in a bike lane with the following exceptions:

  • Parking in a legal space
  • When entering or departing the roadway
  • In preparation for a turn within 200 feet of an intersection

Can a Pedestrian Be At-Fault for an Accident?

A pedestrian can be at-fault for an accident in certain circumstances. If pedestrians do not follow traffic laws and cause an accident, they can be held at fault. For example, pedestrians may be responsible for their injuries if they dart into an intersection.

Pedestrians should also be aware of their surroundings to prevent accidents. However, even if a pedestrian acts negligently and causes an accident, vehicle drivers must still have a duty of care to take all measures possible to avoid hitting the pedestrian.

Negligence Per Se

In pedestrian accidents, the fault may be determined on a per se basis. Negligence per se is a doctrine that allows the court to determine fault based on the presumption of negligence.

For these cases, if a legal team can show that one of the parties broke a traffic law, it can be used as evidence of liability. This simplifies personal injury claims and acts as a shortcut to finding fault rather than establishing all facts of the case.

For example, if you can show that a driver was speeding and did not stop at the intersection, they can be found at fault without presenting multiple pieces of evidence.

Contact Berg Injury Lawyers to Review Your Case

Speak with a lawyer from Berg Injury Lawyers as soon as possible after an accident. Our legal team can help you protect your rights and discuss the possibility of recovering damages for injuries or losses you may have sustained.

The California pedestrian accident attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers have experience advocating for victims in pedestrian accident cases and can advise you on the best course of action. We will help you explore your legal options for compensation and take the next steps to file your claim.

Contact us today to start your case with a free consultation.