Pedestrian Rights and the Law

While walking is something most take for granted, it is one of the defining characteristics of what it means to be human. Walking offers the lowest cost and most sustainable form of transportation. Walking also supports fitness, promotes social interaction and community, and offers opportunities for discovery and fun. Yet too often, city streets marginalize people when they walk, putting pedestrians — particularly seniors, children, and people with disabilities — at added risk from traffic violence. Learn how to protect yourself and your family, and understand your legal rights should you or someone you know become the victim of a crash.


Pedestrian Right-of-Way

In San Francisco, all intersections of streets wider than 25 feet are legal crosswalks, unless they specifically say “no crossing” — and Walk San Francisco is working to open up all “closed” intersections in the city. Whether the crossing is marked or unmarked with crosswalk paint, it’s a legal crosswalk.

  • Pedestrians have the right of way; drivers and cyclists are required to yield, i.e., stop behind the line and leave crosswalks free for pedestrians (CVC 21954 (b), CVC 21950, and CVC 21455)
  • Cyclists must obey stop signs and red lights, just like other vehicles (CVC 21200)
  • Cycling on the sidewalk is illegal for anyone over the age of 13 (SF Transportation Code Sec. 7.2.12)
  • Parking on the sidewalk is illegal (CVC 22500(f) and MPC 675(b)); call 311 to report illegal sidewalk parking

Learn More: Read up on the California Vehicle Code and the pedestrian section and the San Francisco’s Crosswalk Policy. At 181 public and private K-12 schools citywide, Walk SF won the adoption of slower 15 MPH speed limit zones. During times when children are present, drivers must obey posted signs for the area within 500 feet of any school located on two-lane streets and reduce their speeds to 15 MPH. Walk SF is currently advocating for similar posted signs for Senior Zones as part of the Vision Zero goal to end all serious and fatal traffic-related injuries by 2024.

If You Are Hit By a Car, Know Your Rights

As a result of Walk SF’s advocacy for Vision Zero, the San Francisco Police Department changed its standing operating procedures. Effective February 2014, the SFPD now cites and charges at-fault drivers in cases of serious or fatal traffic injuries.

  • Get witness info: names and numbers of any witnesses. Sometimes police do not get the names and numbers of all witnesses. Take photos of the scene if you can.
  • Get the driver’s info: license plate number, name, address, phone number, driver’s license number and insurance information.
  • Call the police or get someone else to call the police before leaving the scene of the crash. Request a report and get the officer’s name and badge number.
  • Accept medical treatment at the scene of the collision. (If it turns out that you are injured and you refused treatment at the scene, the insurance company can use that against you.)

If you are hit by a car as a pedestrian, your own auto insurance may cover you if the policy includes uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. However, to protect yourself in cases where a driver in a collision has little or no insurance, or the identity of the driver is unknown (such as a hit-and-run driver), pedestrians with an auto insurance policy should consider purchasing higher limits of uninsured motorist coverage.

Legal Services/Firms

You may want to speak with a lawyer before proceeding with any insurance or legal action. A consultation should be free. Find out more below:

Law Office of Daniel H. RosePedestrian Accident Attorney One Sansome Street, Suite 3500, San Francisco, CA 94104 (415) 946-8900

GJEL Accident Attorneys 220 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94104 (415) 986-4777

Hassell Law GroupRated a 2014 Northern California Super Lawyer 4079 19th Avenue, San Francisco , CA 94132 (415) 334-4111

Jones | Cliford 1390 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 431-5310

RAHMAN LAW PC 369 Pine St Ste 600, San Francisco, CA 94104 (415) 956-9245

Sally Morin Law, Pedestrian Accident Lawyer, 25 Taylor Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 413-0033