OOPS! - Elephant's Feet and Crosswalks

elephants feet crosswalkMany people think that you cannot ride your bicycle in a marked crosswalk. This is a holdover from the past and is no longer always the case. Today crosswalks that cyclists are allowed to ride across may also be marked with "elephant's feet," a line of squares on the outside of each solid line that forms the crosswalk.

This is actually one example of a crossride, which is a path marked at an intersection indicating where cyclists should ride.

As the law sits right now, the Motor Vehicle Act is sadly out of date when it comes to recent cycling provisions being used in some municipalities. A review is underway but it may be some time before the Act is rewritten to bring it up to date. Until then, it will be difficult for us all to know what to do when a new highway feature presents itself during our travels.

My best advice is that if you are not sure, exercise even more caution than you would otherwise.

Reference Link:

There are none of those elephant cross walks in the Comox Valley. However, after the rash of serious injuries and deaths in Crosswalks in the area, it has been encouraging to  recently observe several cyclists dismount and walk their bikes across the road in the crosswalk.

Cyclist severely injured after being hit at Galloping Goose trail crossing

Consistent cycling and pedestrian crossings needed for trails: advocate

I thought I was a well informed driver.... I come here after all....!

I knew nothing of these elephant's feet! One more reason for mandatory knowledge or skills testing at each renewal!

That said, I see nothing in the BC MVA as of yet to indicate what the driver is supposed to do.... Sure the cyclist can ride in the crosswalk, but am I, as a driver, obligated to yeild to a cyclist? There are no duties for a cyclist to slow down or give fair warning before getting in front of a few tonnes of moving metal either.

I don't want to beat on the cyclist, but it seems the punishment handed the driver was charged with "drive without consideration" which seems like a harsh charge when there was no obligation to yeild to a cyclist (let me qualify that with I don't know all the details, just what was reported in the story.)

Any well reasoned input is always appreciated!

Our Motor Vehicle Act takes no notice of elephant's feet crosswalks. However, the Street & Traffic Bylaw in the City of Vancouver does and this may apply within other BC municipalities.

The Vancouver bylaw defines a vehicle as:

"Vehicle" includes any device by which any person or property may be transported on a roadway,  irrespective  of  the  motive  power,  but  does  not  include  railway  cars  running  upon rails.

Here a bicycle is a vehicle, where it is specifically excluded by the MVA:

"vehicle" means a device in, on or by which a person or thing is or may be transported or drawn on a highway, but does not include a device designed to be moved by human power, a device used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks, mobile equipment or a motor assisted cycle;

The Vancouver bylaw refers to pedestrians and vehicles lawfully within the crosswalk and sets out circumstances for yielding to them.


Clicking on the plus sign lists and gives links to the different laws and bylaws that deal with low powered vehicles, cycles, bicycles....  

Does the MVA allow a municipal bylaw to contradict the MVA? Is Vancouver different because of their Charter?

The different definitions of "vehicle" seems to be problematic.

but Vancouver's bylaws include:

60G. No person shall ride a bicycle, skateboard, or push scooter, or use non-motorized skates in a marked crosswalk, unless it is also marked by elephants’ feet markings on one or both sides of the crosswalk, or it is otherwise signed to permit cycling

60H. Subject to the provisions of section 60I, a person may ride a bicycle, skateboard, or push scooter, or use non-motorized skates in an unmarked crosswalk.

60I. A person riding a bicycle, skateboard, or push scooter, or using non-motorized skates in, through or out of a marked or unmarked crosswalk, must yield the right of way to pedestrians who are entering into, walking in or walking out of the crosswalk. For the purposes of this section, a marked crosswalk includes the area of the crosswalk delineated by elephants’ feet markings.

It is challenging enough know the differences between provinces, sigh.

In my experience - and I work in Driver Training with experienced adults - many drivers are unfamiliar with Elephant Crosswalks. So yeah, some kind of education (not a new Knowledge Test when you renew) would be useful.

Education for Drivers.

Education for Cyclists.

But if you have eyes in your head, and continuously scan around you, it's pretty obvious when the bicyle path is running adjacently to the road you're using, and connected to the crosswalk. There's a lot of signs and lines telling you this.

So the key thing for motorists to realize, is that cyclists can come into conflict with a turning vehicle much more swiftly than even a jogger. Also, many of them don't ever check to see if they're riding into a crash.

The Galloping Goose trail is just a perfect example of lousy sightlines, and massive presumption on the part of the cyclists that they're somehow impervious to being hit by something bigger and possibly quicker crossing their path, until it happens.

Elephants feet are the name given to the small square paint blocks that make up guide markings for cyclists in all cases. They're called elephants feet whether they are used to:

  • extend a lateral line (or lines) through an intersection
  • create a combined crossing by being placed around a crosswalk (although the MVA gives this no meaning so a bylaw or sign is also needed)
  • create a bike crossing area (a crossride/crossbike) through an intersection or conflict area

The latest version of the MUTCD for Canada says:

Elephant's Feet markings define crossing areas reserved for bicycle movements. Normally these are exclusive to bicycles, with pedestrian crossing areas defined separately. The typical markings are shown in Figure Cl-3.

The "normally" part is worth noting. The combined crossing configuration is going out of style because engineers are finding it's too small an area for bikes and pedestrians to share. It may also not be a good design because turning vehicles need to look for road users approaching from too many directions going too many different speeds.