Making crossing the street safer for pedestrians has been a priority for pedestrian and bicycle attorney Ray Thomas, the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and other local activists. Their efforts bore fruit this week when Gov. John Kitzhaber signed the Crosswalk Safety Bill into law.
The Crosswalk Safety Bill clarifies the state’s crosswalk law to allow pedestrians to move any part or extension of their body – such as a wheelchair, crutch or cane – onto the roadway to signal intent to proceed. Previously, the law stipulated that every intersection has a crosswalk, whether visible or not, and that motorists must stop for pedestrians who are crossing. However, it offered no means for pedestrians to signal to motorists that they wished to cross.
This meant many pedestrians had to actually begin crossing the street, putting themselves in harm’s way, in order to exercise their right to cross the roadway.
Under the Crosswalk Safety Bill, motorists will be required to stop for pedestrians who place a body part or extension into the road, communicating that they intend to cross.
“This marked an important moment for crosswalk law that will help all road users communicate better as they navigate our streets,” the Willamette Pedestrian Coalition said in a recent blog post.
Of course, pedestrians will still need to exercise their right to cross responsibly; suddenly stepping off a curb into the path of a vehicle that is close enough to pose an immediate hazard will result in the pedestrian being found at fault. It’s important for pedestrians to understand their responsibilities as well as their rights under the law.
Read more about pedestrian legal rights and responsibilities.