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Ask A Cop: When is it legal to enter a crosswalk?

When the “Don’t Walk” (or other approved symbol or words) signal starts flashing, it is like a yellow light for cars. It means the light is about to change and, therefore, you should not enter the intersection (or crosswalk in this case).

Pedestrians who keep entering the crosswalk until the countdown ends prevent drivers who now have the green light from making a turn, and that backs up traffic in the lane. If you have already entered the crosswalk when the light starts to flash or the countdown has begun, then you should move to the other side of the road (or to a safety island if there is one) without delay.

Ultimately, it’s about safety. The pedestrian signal changes to flashing or begins counting down to warn you that cars in the other direction are about to have a green light. If you have not entered the intersection and see a flashing “Don’t Walk” or “Wait” or the countdown has begun, Oregon law requires that you obey the traffic control device and wait to cross the intersection (ORS 814.010). Failing to do so may result in a citation for Failure to Obey a Pedestrian Control Device — ORS 814.020(1)(b) — or more importantly, serious injury or death. Please be careful and obey the pedestrian signals! 

— Sgt. Tom Hamann