Should all crosswalks be painted?

Crosswalks are the locations where we expect pedestrians to cross roads and streets. There are plenty of crosswalks that are unmarked. A poorly maintained crosswalk, such as the one shown below, can be more of a liability than no markings at all.

Photograph of painted crosswalk with worn paint

It is not necessary to paint all crosswalks. Just like signs, over-use causes them to be less effective, not to mention it costs more to paint a crosswalk. They should painted only in the following cases:

The MUTCD does not recommend an engineering study for crosswalks unless they are used at non intersection areas (mid block crossings) in which case an engineering study should be conducted to determine where to mark crosswalks. The study would look at pedestrian volumes, traffic volumes and accident history to determine where markings are warranted.

Drivers tend to stay out of pedestrian crosswalks if the crosswalks are delineated with paint striping. Painted crosswalks serve as another reminder for motorists to stop clear of the intersection. They also encourage pedestrians to cross at the intersection rather than risk a mid-block crossing. The painted area of a crosswalk is often considered the legal boundary of the crosswalk, so it can have legal implications as well.

Diagram of intersection with 4 different types of crosswalk

Figure 24 from the Traffic Sign Handbook for Local Roads, Third Edition

Additional Information

National MUTCD, Section 3B.18 Crosswalk Markings

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