Is walking while a Don't Walk sign flashes against the law?

I believe that Walk/Don’t Walk signs are essentially advisory. In particular, while the light is still green, I believe that a pedestrian should be able to walk across the street even if the sign is flashing. Maybe not always wise, but not illegal. The light flashes to signal to pedestrians to hurry out of the intersection because the light will soon change. It’s a heads-up, not a proscription against walking. Am I correct?

No cite, but my understanding is that it is illegal to enter the intersection while it’s flashing

If it somehow is illegal, it’s definitely not enforced. The police could make a killing enforcing that in any downtown area.

If they’re timed properly, a person walking at 2 ft/sec can safely traverse the crosswalk if they enter before the sign flashes. That’s slow. I can usually make it across if I enter before it shifts to non-flashing. Again, that’s assuming that the ped signal is timed properly.

Stockton has been experimenting with countdown ped heads. Those strongly imply that no one cares when you enter the intersection, they just care that you exit it before the signal change is complete. Folks really like the countdowns.

Milwaukee News:
Bid to relax jaywalking laws is voted down

Newer signs have the white walk sign for about five seconds and then go flashing with a count down timer. When it hits zero, you better be out of the intersection. I think this is a genious idea that caters to both granny in a walker and the high schooler training for a track meet. My only pet peeve is that some of them still give a lag time between zero and the actual lights changing of a few seconds. That makes it just as bad as the old style - you have to just go and hope you make it in time since you can’t really tell when the damn thing is going to change.

Newer signs have the white walk sign for about five seconds and then go flashing with a count down timer. When it hits zero, you better be out of the intersection. I think this is a genious idea that caters to both granny in a walker and the high schooler training for a track meet. My only pet peeve is that some of them still give a lag time between zero and the actual lights changing of a few seconds. That makes it just as bad as the old style - you have to just go and hope you make it in time since you can’t really tell when the damn thing is going to change.

My understanding is that the lag is so that drivers won’t watch the crosswalk sign countdown and then peel out when it hits zero.

In Ontario, I believe that the crosswalks are timed assuming a walking speed of 1.5 m/s. Technically, you’re allowed to be on the crosswalk when the hand is blinking, but not to enter it. This gives time for pedestrians to clear the crosswalk at their assumed speed.

The law may depend on your location. In Illinois, at least, you’re allowed to finish crossing while the DON’T WALK sign is flashing, but not to start. Cite

It will of course depend on the state law (and in some places on the municipal ordinances) but in general:

It is always legal to exit an intersection which you have entered legally, even if the traffic control devices have changed to prohibit entry. Translated, stop lights prohibit you from entering the intersection, not from leaving it. This is significant, e.g., where you are attempting a legal left turn at a busy intersection without turn-only lights.

A steadyamber/yellow light says, in essence, “Be warned that this light is about to change to red. Do not enter the intersection if you can safely stop.” (Slamming on one’s brakes abruptly while progressing at normal driving speed for the circumstances because the light controlling the intersection you are about to enter has just turned yellow is unsafe driving – it is likely to cause following drivers to rear-end you.)

The parallel for pedestrians: A flashing “Don’t Walk” means “This pedestrian signal is about to turn to a steady red ‘don’t walk’ prohibiting pedestrians from entering the crosswalk. Do not begin to cross unless you are capable of jogging across prior to the light change.” It has the same significance as a steady amber on a stoplight: caution is advised. and a warning of an imminent red light is being given.

From this I take it that a flashing walk sign is an advisory message (my bolding in Polycarp’s post). It is not illegal to be in the crosswalk at that time. It is not illegal to cross while the sign is flashing. Thank you.

In Toronto, the countdown lights are pretty consistent - ‘0’ on the countdown is synchronized with the traffic light turning yellow. I have a friend who checks the countdown to see if he has enough time to clear the intersection safely.

As noted above, statutes vary, but in Los Angeles, you should NEVER jaywalk, as they enforce it as much as possible.

I was crossing 7th St. at Alvarado, and stepped off the curb while the light said “walk.” But between the moment when I initiated the step, and the moment when my foot hit the street, it started flashing “don’t walk.” A traffic cop took me aside on the other side of the street and issued me a ticket ($10), pointing out that the only thing that mattered was the state of the light when my foot touched the street.

Yes. Believe it or not, they’d set up a sting operation for jaywalking. Two cops had been waiting there at that intersection all day issuing tickets.

I believe you will find that this is incorrect. I believe you will find that most states require that you not enter as a pedestrian once the hand flashes.
Please note, also, that some states will ticket you if you are in the intersection and impeding traffic after the light turns red, even if you legally entered the intersection as a car.

Walk or Don’t Walk always seems a strange choice of words. If you run then I assume you are complying with Don’t Walk :slight_smile: . In New Zealand it was always Cross or Wait.

The best countdown signals I’ve seen are in Seville, Spain. Both the “walk” and “don’t walk” are counted down, so you also know how long you have to wait. and they are synched with the traffic lights.

That Milwaukee guy was wrong anyway. He stated it wasn’t illegal to walk outside the lines, but it is. It’s called jay walking if your not between the lines and it’s never legal to cross that way.

This is actually a pretty big problem in downtown Chicago during busy periods. There are a lot of intersections with ‘No Turn on Red’ signs, so cars turning right have to wait for both a green light and for pedestrians to clear. However, there is a continuous stream of pedestrians so its impossible to turn right, or maybe one car gets through at the end. Same with the cars trying to turn left.

So suddenly you have a big traffic jam for no reason because pedestrians aren’t following the rules. I’ve never seen jaywalking laws enforced in Chicago, although it might happen occasionally.

As someone who was actually ticketed for jay-walking in Washington DC I can tell you from first hand experience that walking against the light is very much against the law. It probably didn’t help that I laughed when the patrolman gave me the ticket.