Texas Tech University

Mailbag: Playing Chicken

Allen Ramsey

October 21, 2022

Exploring the world of campus crosswalks.

Mailbag

Welcome back!

After the shenanigans of last week's Mailbag, we took on a slightly more serious topic this time around. 

Let's start with the question from a staff member in the College of Education

How do the crosswalks on campus work? When do you walk? When should cars stop?

The staffer goes on to explain that their commute to work brings them down Flint Avenue every morning and, as a matter of course, there are games of chicken played between them and pedestrians all along that treacherous roadway.

Along Flint what you'll find are various crossings. At lights, the white painted stripes indicating a walkway are accompanied by signals that helpfully alert drivers when it's their turn to drive and walkers when it's their turn to walk.

But between the lights are a number of crosswalks with no signage, no signals and, often, no real understanding from either driver or pedestrian as to when exactly the chicken should cross the road. 

So, what are the rules? 

We reached out to the Texas Tech Police Department (TTPD) to find the answer. With the safety of those on campus the top priority for the TTPD, they helpfully supplied us with everything we needed. 

Here are the basics according to Texas law for crosswalks that do not have control signals:

“The operator of a vehicle shall stop and yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing a roadway in a crosswalk if:

  (1)  no traffic control signal is in place or in operation; and
  (2)  the pedestrian is:
       (A)  on the half of the roadway in which the vehicle is traveling; or
       (B)  approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.”

Basically, if there is somebody in the crosswalk it is the driver's responsibility to yield if there is any chance of contact.  

That doesn't mean pedestrians shouldn't protect themselves. In fact, Texas law says “a pedestrian may not suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and proceed into a crosswalk in the path of a vehicle so close that it is impossible for the vehicle operator to stop and yield.”

It is worth noting that a bit of common sense is called for when behind the wheel or walking across the street. 

Before any prizefight, you'll hear the words “protect yourself at all times.” That's sound advice for drivers and for walkers alike, but in case you don't know this, human bodies rarely win wrestling matches with moving cars. 

Crossing the street in places without crosswalks is discouraged, and the law in those instances makes it clear that pedestrians should yield to traffic. As a driver, moving to pass a vehicle that is stopped at a crosswalk is illegal. 

Texas isn't known as a place that produces walkable cities. Many of the fine people of this fine state simply aren't accustomed to dealing with the amount of foot traffic inherent on a university campus with 40,000 students and limited parking. It's also worth remembering that a substantial portion of our campus community has only been behind the wheel for a few years and may be lacking in the experience department. 

Walkers and drivers alike, we want every person on our campus to make it home safely at the end of the day, so we encourage drivers to slow down and pedestrians not to step out in front of moving traffic. 

In the course of writing this article and speaking to people on campus, a follow-up question arose from one of our esteemed professors. 

Is it true that bikes on campus don't have to follow traffic laws?

We asked about this as well and TTPD sent us the laws regarding the operation of “bicycles and mopeds, golf carts, and other low-powered vehicles” on roadways.

It's a lot to look through, but the opening line answers the question succinctly:

“A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle.”

If you're on a bike, moped, golf cart or scooter on a campus roadway, you are required to follow traffic laws. And if you're on a sidewalk we advise you to slow down, pay attention to your surroundings and do everything you can to keep yourself and others safe. 

Y'all have a great Homecoming weekend. Stay safe out there and keep sending us your questions!

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