How soon to stop for a pedestrian in a roundabout

The in basket: After writing recently about peril to pedestrians at the Manette Bridge roundabout in Bremerton, it occurred to me that I hadn’t addressed an issue of interest to motorists.

How soon must a driver stop for a person in a roundabout crosswalk?

The question occurred to me when I saw a pedestrian crossing the large Highway 166 roundabout at what used to be called the Hi-Joy Y in Port Orchard. I was in the lane on the other side of the “refuge island” midway that provides walkers a relatively safe place to wait for a break in traffic. He was a long way from my lane and stopping for him then would have caused a lengthy delay for me and all traffic behind me. I didn’t stop.

The law requires a driver to stop for a pedestrian who is in a crosswalk, marked or unmarked, within one lane of his own. On a two-lane street, stopping is required when the walker enters the street on either side. On a three-lane street, when the walker enters the center lane. On a street with four or more lanes, when the walker enters the lane next to yours.

But what about in a roundabout?

The out basket: There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer to this. As a practical, if not a legal, matter, the size of the roundabout could make the difference.

State Trooper Russ Winger says, “I do not have a definitive answer to this question. I personally think the driver should stop and let the pedestrian cross when they are ready to enter or already in the opposite lane. This ‘refuge island’ is nothing more than a few feet of asphalt and puts a person very near a moving vehicle if the vehicle does not stop.

“I think the roundabout in Manette is a unique example of roundabouts,” he said, “due to the fact that it – at times – has a high volume of pedestrian traffic and (vehicle) traffic at the same time. It is also a very small roundabout with a short radius and the sight distances are not great.

“I have driven in it many times and it seems trickier than most. You have to be alert to traffic and pedestrians at all times. It can be a very busy intersection and I think pedestrian safety is the more important aspect.”

But he conceded he might feel otherwise with a larger roundabout with more room for error. “Rather a gray area with just the one RCW to deal with it,” he said.

As a guide, I might rely on what Lt. Pete Fisher of Bremerton police told me last year about the rules at the Warren Avenue center barrier between Burwell and Sixth Street.. He said motorist should stop for a pedestrian there when the pedestrian is in the gap in the barrier about to enter your lane.

That gap would be comparable to the refuge island in a roundabout.

One thought on “How soon to stop for a pedestrian in a roundabout

  1. In Oregon, the law is clear that an island is like the edge of a road, so you don’t have to stop for a pedestrian on the other side of the island you are approaching, until they get to the island.

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