Crosswalks: Who Has the Right of Way?




Rubén Morgan


Crosswalks and Pedestrians


I toured around Spain (and one city in Portugal) in order to find a remedy to Ohio State’s crosswalk dilemma. On the trip, I documented crosswalk signals and other public transportation features, such as bus stops. I followed up by documenting crosswalks and other public transportation features on Ohio State’s campus.

Before departing, I had the idea that Europe had public transportation figured out much more efficiently than compared to that of the United States’. While a good portion of this remained true, Europe (primarily Spain) wasn’t as efficient as I envisioned it to be. For example, many bus stops, metro stations, or other public works were in great need of repair. However, Europe has overcome two important barriers that the United States is still arrogant in defending: SI Units (Système International d’Unités) and the Convention on Road Signs and Signals. The prior refers to the measuring system using meters, grams, liters, etc. The latter refers to using shapes and designs to designate road signs that require no writing on them. Both have eliminated any language barrier and have made global communication much easier. I also found that Spain (and much of Europe) is a prominent advocate for pedestrians, yet still have a lot more that can be done. At the same time, the USA mostly favors automotive transportation. This difference, although cultural, has caused areas high in pedestrian traffic in the US (e.g. OSU campus) to be much more dangerous for commuters of all types.

In order to get the best results for my study, I had to immerse myself in the city as much as possible. Going between large and small cities, touristic and non-touristic areas, rich and poor neighborhoods, I was able to get a better understanding of the public transportation system in Spain. Noticeably, the wealthier and more touristic provinces and parts of cities in Spain typically had better public transportation attention than the poorer areas. However, the size of the city had little affect on the quality of the public transit.

I was able to come to these conclusions by walking around as much of the city as possible before having to go to the next city on the list. Doing so helped me experience the crosswalks on the Iberian Peninsula. From two weeks of walking around in Spain, I found it considerably easier to be a pedestrian in Spain than on campus at Ohio State. For example, Spain has the same crosswalk law as Ohio where the pedestrian has the right of way on a crosswalk in the middle of the street (not at an intersection). However, campus must remind car drivers of this law with a “State Law/Yield to Pedestrian/Within Crosswalk” sign in the road. Regardless of where in Spain you may reside, every driver is well aware of this law and abides by it consistently. Cars have ignored this rule quite often on Ohio State’s campus, causing many students to patiently wait for cars even though the pedestrian is supposed to be given the right of way.

Possibly the biggest surprise was the innovation that is taking place in Iberia. Although driving is less common in Spain than in the USA, Spain has more efficient parking lots. In multiple parking garages in Spain, there are sensors on each space that tell whether there is a parked car (red) or if the space is available (green). In addition, nearly every parking meter was powered by solar panels sitting atop of it. Street parking is much more common in Spain, and the parking meters were omnipresent and plentiful. As for biking innovations, there were roughly ten different types of bike racks that I was able to document. The encouragement of innovation for the public transportation sector has allowed for better and more efficient methods to be discovered.

As a big fan of European progress in the public sector, I was awestruck by my experience. I was able to explore the many pros and cons to public transportation. Currently, I am studying civil engineering at Ohio State and have a dream of bettering the infrastructure of the USA. This trip has opened my mind to new and creative ways to make public transit more efficient. I am hoping to bring forward many of the pros to the USA so that we, too, could create a better and more efficient society.