One of the few bright spots in the COVID-19 pandemic: a decrease in motor vehicle traffic. As more people explored their cities and towns on foot, they may have noticed that our streets are primarily designed for cars—not for people.

The real solution to that problem lies in city planning. As a lawyer, I can only address it as it relates to Washington State Law.

Summary of Washington State Crosswalk Law

Every intersection is a crosswalk, unless there are posted signs.

Drivers are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at every crosswalk, marked or unmarked.

Here’s the full text of the Washington State crosswalk law, RCW 46.61.235 (in italics), with my interpretation and comments included.


(1) The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian, bicycle, or personal delivery device to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian, bicycle, or personal delivery device is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway.

Translation: Every intersection is a crosswalk, and drivers need to stop for pedestrians to cross. 

If a bike or other personal vehicle is on the sidewalk, then they count as a pedestrian.

If the person is waiting to cross from the other side of the street, and there’s more than one lane in each direction, drivers need to stop when that person starts to cross.

(2) No pedestrian, bicycle, or personal delivery device shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or otherwise move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.

Translation: People walking shouldn’t step in front of a car. 

(3) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply under the conditions stated in RCW 46.61.240(2).

Translation: The first section of this law doesn’t apply to every single circumstance.

Drivers don’t have to stop for pedestrians who are:

  • Crossing far outside of the crosswalk;
  • Waiting at intersections with traffic lights (until signaled); or
  • Waiting to cross the roadway when a pedestrian tunnel is overhead.

(4) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian, bicycle, or personal delivery device to cross the