Noticed More “Continental” Crosswalks? They’re Now Standard on SF Streets

Irving Street and 10th Avenue on Halloween. Photo: Aaron Bialick

It’s not your imagination — crosswalks around San Francisco are being upgraded more rapidly to the “continental” striping style, also known as “ladder” or “zebra-striped” crosswalks, to make people more visible to drivers when they’re crossing the street.

The SFMTA has ditched its traditional crosswalk design comprised of two white lines along the length of a crosswalk, since studies from the Federal Highway Administration have shown continental stripes are much more effective at getting drivers to yield the right-of-way, said Ben Jose, spokesperson for the SFMTA’s Livable Streets subdivision.

“Until recently, San Francisco primarily implemented continental crosswalks at mid-block and school area crosswalks,” Jose wrote in an email. “The SFMTA’s current goal is to gradually enhance all crosswalk markings to the high-visibility continental marking pattern.”

The SFMTA adds the treatment whenever there’s an opportunity like a street re-paving, Jose said. Those are occurring more rapidly with the bond funds made available by Prop B. I’ve recently spotted the new crosswalks on streets from Irving in my neighborhood, the Inner Sunset, to Powell Street in Union Square, one of the busiest pedestrian streets in the country. (Finally!)

Walk SF Executive Director Nicole Schneider applauded the agency’s move to adopt zebra crosswalks on a wide scale. “The ladder-style striping helps drivers distinguish the crosswalk from other roadway markings much sooner than the old fashioned double lines,” said Schneider. “This is one example of a quick, cheap, and smart way to prevent pedestrian injuries.”

As a reminder, 964 pedestrians were injured on SF streets last year. This year, 12 have been killed. In 2011, motorists’ failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk was the most-cited cause of pedestrian injury, comprising 40 percent of cases, according to the SFMTA’s 2010-2011 Collisions Report [PDF].

  • Sean Rea

    I wish Patxi’s drivers would stop blocking the crosswalk / curb-cut in this intersection.

  • Hear, hear. I told the owner after they opened that his double-parked drivers had suddenly made bicycling on the block much more dangerous, and asked that he find a solution like more loading zones. Nothing has changed, and the block remains a danger zone in the name of pizza delivery. (Come back, Darla!)

  • Sean Rea

    Here is a reply (dated 6/5/12) from their then GM, Bree, regarding this very subject:

    Thank you so much for your feedback! I’m so sorry that our driver’s have caused you any inconvenience. We have started having them wait for their orders on 10th Avenue and this should hopefully stop any hazards that cyclists in the neighborhood are enduring. I will work with my whole team on making sure this happens.

    Hope you have a great weekend. And I’m so glad you enjoyed our online ordering.”

  • Mario Tanev

    I grew up in Europe and “Zebra crossing” was so tightly ingrained in the vocabulary that it amazed me that there isn’t even an agreed upon name for it in the US. BTW, this article is very timely, since yesterday was the 62 birthday of the Zebra crossing (here is an article from 2 years ago showing the birthday was October 31, 1951, in the UK:

  • Ah, and now it’s better!… sort of (I just took this photo). This is the same thing the Pasquale’s drivers do on 8th Ave. A lesser evil, I suppose… if they’re going to be on 10th, I’d rather see them double park than do this.

  • Rojo

    just curious if anyone knows…
    while SF is putting these type of crosswalks in, Berkeley has been implementing a different kind. is there something that Berkeley sees that is more beneficial with this new type of crosswalk or is it just experimental?


    (btw…the crosswalk looks like the standard parallel line ones + these new SF ones, but with the middle erased, such that it looks like someone’s two rows of teeth when saying “E”)

  • mikesonn

    I’ve been wanting to contact North Beach Pizza about their drivers for years. Maybe I should finally get on that.

  • Sean Rea

    Do you know what they’re turning Park’s into?

  • Nope.

  • Ted King

    Here’s a link to a taxonomy of crossings for peds., bikes, etc. :

    Zebras, Puffins, Pelicans or Hawks for Pedestrians?

  • Ted King

    On a lighter note here are some alternate treatments :

    Council defends new breed of zebra crossing (29 Feb. 2012)

    Cool Pedestrian Stuff #4: Crosswalk Art
    NB – Possible ROFL trigger at the nether end of the second link.

    P.S. The image below goes with the first link (credit : SWNS).

  • M.

    Suggest they deliver pizzas by bike.

  • Upright Biker

    Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in North Beach delivers by custom electric bike, and it’s great advertising for them. Astonishing to see the guy riding the thing up Russian Hill.

  • Tony Dang

    I checked in with Berkeley’s bike/ped coordinator a while ago on this and the design was a recommendation from the city’s ADA coordinator. By removing the middle, the ridges from the thermoplastic no longer cause jarring to people with disabilities (particularly those with spinal issues). This design can also be seen all over downtown Sacramento.

  • citymaus

    Ah, I had been wondering about those! if berkeley was copying sacramento for some reason.. like to save a little money on paint.
    what are those crosswalks called?


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