Use of Crosswalks and Pedestrian Refuge Islands

The Town of Chapel Hill urges motorists and pedestrians to be cautious at pedestrian refuge islands and crosswalks along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and East Franklin Street.

The pedestrian islands and crosswalks are located mainly at mid-block crossing locations with bus stops on both sides. The pedestrian refuge islands and crosswalks add to the convenience and comfort for pedestrians crossing major roads.

Chapel Hill Police caution that pedestrians should not feel overly secure when using a marked crosswalk – to the degree that they may aggressively place themselves in a hazardous position. Unfortunately, some drivers fail to obey the North Carolina law that says they must yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. For this reason, pedestrians should remain alert while crossing.

Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as well as Franklin Street are multi-lane roadways. Therefore, drivers should yield to pedestrians entering the crosswalk on their side of the roadway only. If pedestrians are in the crosswalk but crossing in front of the opposite lanes of travel, drivers do not have to yield. Drivers are cautioned, though, to be vigilant and watchful for pedestrians that place themselves in a hazardous position by crossing the street at unmarked crosswalks or failing to make sure that it is safe before crossing. Drivers should remain alert as they approach all pedestrian crosswalks.

Drivers should also be cognizant of other drivers when approaching crosswalks, anticipating that the vehicle directly in front may have to stop suddenly to either avoid hitting a pedestrian or another vehicle.

Beginning in October 2013, the Chapel Hill Police Department will conduct enforcement operations at crosswalks throughout town. Officers will be citing motorists for failing to yield to pedestrians within the crosswalk and citing pedestrians for crossing against the signals or crossing outside the crosswalk. Fines and court costs for these violations begin at $213.

Safety tips for pedestrians:
• Pedestrians should ensure before entering a crosswalk that drivers have stopped their vehicles and that it is safe to cross.
• Before entering the crosswalk, pedestrians should make sure that traffic in the closest lanes of travel has stopped. Upon reaching the pedestrian islands, pedestrians should check again to make sure that it’s safe before continuing through the cross walk to the other side of the roadway.
• At these marked crosswalks (where traffic control signals are not in place) drivers of vehicles should yield the right of way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within the crosswalks.

Safety tips for drivers:
• When approaching a crosswalk, be prepared to stop for pedestrians.
• Failure to yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk is a violation of North Carolina law.
• Similarly, North Carolina law also prohibits drivers from passing other vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians.
• Do not wave people across or flash your headlights; this could be dangerous if another vehicle is approaching.
• Instead, try to make eye contact with pedestrians to reassure them that they have been seen.
• Chapel Hill Police may ticket motorists who do not yield to pedestrians or attempt to pass vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians, and the monetary penalty can be $235 or more

Crosswalks Locations
• Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Piney Mountain Road and Timber Hollow Court
• Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near Estes Drive
• Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near UNC Highway Safety Research Center/Hillsborough Street
• Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near Town Hall
• East Franklin Street near Elizabeth Street
• East Franklin Street near Couch Road