How far would you walk to cross at a crosswalk?
Along a ten mile length of Baton Rouge's Florida Boulevard, stretching from South Acadian Drive to the Parish line at the Amite River, there are precisely ZERO marked or signalized crosswalks where one could safely and easily cross that stroad. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Florida Boulevard, which at points along that length averages up to 50,000 motor vehicles daily, has been the scene of several recent pedestrian and bicyclist deaths, including one involving a law enforcement officer who was disciplined for speeding moments before the crash.
In most of these cases, the victims of the crashes were blamed for crossing mid-block, something that is illegal per Louisiana State Law.
So, with no marked crosswalks, and with mid-block crossings being illegal - what's a pedestrian to do?
Crosswalks are 'helpfully' defined by Louisiana State Law as "That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks, shoulders, or a combination thereof on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway or if there is neither a sidewalk nor shoulder, a crosswalk is the portion of the roadway at an intersection that would be included within the prolongation of the lateral lines of the sidewalk, shoulder, or both on the opposite side of the street if there were a sidewalk or shoulder."
In simpler terms - the crosswalk is the area at an intersection between the sidewalk or shoulder on one side, and a sidewalk or shoulder on the other - OR - the area between where those sidewalks or shoulders would be if they existed.
Note that this definition makes no mention of painted lines or markings - so intersections have legally defined crosswalks (known as 'unmarked' crosswalks) even if no crosswalk markings or pedestrian signalization exists.
With this information, then, comes some pedestrian specific rights and responsibilities regarding crossing roadways.
1) DON'T CROSS MID-BLOCK BETWEEN SIGNALIZED INTERSECTIONS - "Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk."
2) YIELD TO TRAFFIC IF CROSSING SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN A CROSSWALK - "Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway."
3) TRAFFIC MUST YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS IN CROSSWALKS - "When traffic-control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or the roadway onto which the vehicle is turning."
4) DON'T CROSS AN INTERSTATE - "It shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to cross an interstate highway, except in the case of an emergency."
For crossing Florida Boulevard (or any other busy road), then, the advice is pretty clear. You must either a) cross at a marked, unmarked, or signalized crosswalk (available at any intersection); if no signalized intersections are nearby, you may cross mid-block while yielding to motorists; or if at an un-signalized intersection, you have the right of way and motorists must yield to you (but seriously, don't try this - being in the right won't undo the hospital trip, or worse).
Sadly, the simple act of crossing a road can be much harder and more dangerous than it should be, particularly for people of colour, who are less likely to drive, and for whom motorists are less likely to yield to.
Why is crossing a road so complicated? We asked the proverbial chicken and they referred us to this video on the history of jaywalking, and how the automobile lobby conspired to take streets away from pedestrians and other users in the name of 'safety'.
If this strikes you as absurd or foolish, then consider supporting Bike Walk Louisiana's efforts to make Louisiana a better place to walk and bike.
NOTE : We're not lawyers. We're not legal experts. Sometimes we don't wear pants while we're writing this stuff. Don't take our word (or anyone else's word) for anything. Read the law yourself so that you can be well informed!