Pedestrians Don’t Always Have the Right of Way

While I normally write about cyclists, I wanted to clear up a confusing issue for people who run or walk in Florida. Many think that "Pedestrians always have the right of way". This is actually a common misunderstanding.

First of all, nobody “has” the right of way. There are only those who must “yield” the right of way. It is the motorist’s responsibility to do everything possible to avoid colliding with a pedestrian. Motorists must not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light, or allow a part of their vehicle to invade the crosswalk. While Florida law says who must yield the right of way, all motorists, motorcyclists, moped riders, cyclists, and pedestrians must do everything possible to avoid a crash.

So Where Can You Cross the Street?

When should a pedestrian a cross to the street? At an intersection? What if the blocks are really long and far apart?  What if there is no “block”?  What if there is a long stretch with no visible intersections?  Consider Florida law:

  • Florida pedestrians are allowed to cross the street at any intersection, whether a crosswalk is marked or unmarked. Motorists must yield to a Florida pedestrian who is already in an intersection crosswalk.
  • Florida pedestrians are always allowed to cross the street in the middle of a block – if there is a marked crosswalk.  Motorist must also yield to such a pedestrian who is already occupying the mid-block crosswalk.

What about Crossing in the Middle of the Block?

What if a pedestrian wants to cross the street in the middle of a block, and there is no marked crosswalk? Florida laws on this subject can be very confusing. The answer is – IT DEPENDS.

A pedestrian may not cross in mid-block between adjacent signalized intersections §316.130(11), Florida Statues.  Pedestrians must use only marked crosswalks when crossing between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic signals. There are no legal unmarked crosswalks between these controlled intersections.

In the below diagram, the pedestrian is crossing between a north intersection with a signal and a south intersection with a signal.  The intersections are adjacent and signalized (if they are close enough together).  This pedestrian is ILLEGAL.  He/she has to cross at one of the intersections.  The pedestrian cannot legally cross in the mid-block unmarked location.

Illegal pedestrian crossing

But below is another example.  A pedestrian is crossing between a north intersection with a signal, and a south intersection with no signal.  So the “adjacent” intersections are not both signalized.  Just the north intersection has a signal. This pedestrian is LEGAL to cross the street in the middle of a block, even though the area has no painted crosswalk.

Legal pedestrian crossing

But here is some additional confusion – what does “adjacent intersections” mean?  Why does it matter?  By Florida law, the pedestrian may not cross in the middle of the block if the signalized intersections are close enough together to be defined as “adjacent”, a word which is not defined in the Florida Statutes. In the central business district, where city blocks are close together, most intersections may be considered as “adjacent”.  But in suburban or rural locations, the long distance to detour to the nearest signalized intersection crosswalk is often perceived as impractical by pedestrians. It may be too far to be realistically considered as “adjacent”.

Here is a summary of pedestrian laws in various states.  Florida is not the only state with this funny law about adjacent signalized intersections. Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Georgia has several others have the adjacent signalized intersection law.

Have questions or need help? Please don't hesitate to ask by contacting me.