Street Smart

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Pedestrian and bicyclist injury by motorists is a common problem nationwide. The life of every person involved in a traffic accident can drastically change in a matter of moments, and it is usually due in part to some lack of safety by all parties involved.

UW Tacoma's Stay Street Smart campaign is an effort to help University faculty, staff, students and even those living around the community stay safe when navigating around campus. Please pay attention to the safety tips prescribed here to help make the Husky community that much safer!

Safety Tips


  • Cross streets safely. Cross at corners using cross walks and traffic signals. Make eye contact with drivers and do not assume that the driver can see you. If you are not in a crosswalk wait until there is no traffic to cross.
  • Look left and look right. And keep looking as you cross the road. Do not run.
  • Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks walk facing traffic to the far left as possible, this increases the drivers’ chances of seeing you.
  • Watch for cars. Be especially aware of cars backing up or turning.
  • If using a phone, stop walking. Phones are distracting.
  • Remove headphones when crossing the street. You want to be aware of all possible dangers such as approaching vehicles. Many times cars will use horns or yell if you are in danger. You want to be able to hear them.
  • Don’t assume others will follow all the rules. Just because drivers are supposed to be observing traffic laws doesn’t mean they will. It is ultimately up to you to protect yourself from dangerous situations by observing these safety tips.
  • Be predictable. Stay off freeways and other restricted zones. Use sidewalks when possible. Keep a straight path.


  • Ride in a way that is predictable for those around you. Ride in a straight line, obey traffic signs and signals, and do not weave in and out of traffic. Riding predictably diminishes your chances of being involved in a crash with another vehicle.
  • Look, signal then look again. When making lane changes make sure you look to see whom you’re signaling to, signal and then make sure to see they’ve noticed or no new vehicles have appeared. Make eye contact with the driver and make sure drivers see you before executing the turn.
  • Watch out for car doors and pedestrians. Be alert that car doors may open or pedestrians may step out from between cars, around corners or other blind spots. Put at least three feet between yourself and cars in order to avoid unexpected hazards.
  • Stay visible. Wear brightly colored clothing and use reflective materials at night.
  • Use a bell. A bell alerts drivers, pedestrians and other bicyclists of your presence so they can avoid swerving into your path.
  • Don’t wear earphones/headphones. Keeping your ears clear is a good idea considering motorists may warn you with their horn, bicyclists may communicate with you by using their bell and pedestrians may yell. Whatever the method of communication is, being able to hear it is important.
  • Ride with traffic in the same direction. Riding with traffic not only allows you to make right turns, but it protects you. Drivers aren’t expecting oncoming traffic to be going the wrong way, so when they make a turn they won’t be expecting you.
  • Ultimately, bicyclists are not pedestrians so they should follow similar traffic patterns as motorists. Stay out of crosswalks, pedestrian walkways and off of sidewalks, unless you are walking your bike.


  • Be alert especially in residential areas and school zones. However, you can encounter pedestrians anytime and anywhere – even in places they should not be found.
  • Keep a look out and slow down if you can’t see clearly. Pedestrians can be very hard to see, especially in bad weather or at night.
  • Stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. Stop well behind the crosswalk so cars in other lanes have time to see the pedestrian and also stop.
  • Stop for pedestrians already crossing the street, even if there is no crosswalk. Although pedestrians must yield to traffic if they’re not in a crosswalk, sometimes they do not – if they’re in the midst of crossing, stop for them. Drivers must make every possible effort to avoid hitting a pedestrian.
  • Do not automatically pass cars stopped in the middle of the street. If a car is stopped in the middle of the street, it could be to let a pedestrian cross. Make sure there are no pedestrians before you pass.
  • Don’t assume pedestrians see you or that they will act predictably. They could be physically or mentally impaired – or even drunk.
  • When making a turn wait to see if a pedestrian has crossed into your path. Many times drivers must wait for a gap in traffic in order to turn, make sure no pedestrians have wandered into your path before turning.

Mopeds & Scooters

(Note: Though moped/scooters require steps unique to them to ensure safety, one must also observe all safety regulations for motorists.)

  • Ride with the flow of traffic. This allows you to make turns with the traffic and decreases the risk of crossing paths with another vehicle.
  • Obey the speed limits and never travel faster than your skill level allows. If your skill level does not allow you to travel at a certain speed, refrain from traveling on roads where the flow of traffic moves at that speed.
  • Do not operate your scooter at night. Scooters are not equipped with the proper lighting to be used at night and are not easily visible to motorists or pedestrians.
  • Obey all traffic laws and use hand signals. A scooter/moped is a motorized vehicle, thus you are subject to all the same laws as cars.
  • Use your headlight, even during the day.
  • Drive defensively. Realize that other drivers are used to looking for larger vehicles and you may be “invisible” to them, so try to anticipate the actions of others on the roadway and assume they do not see you.


(Note: Though skateboarders have a set of safety tips unique to them, they should also observe all safety tips related to pedestrians.)

  • Obey city laws. Skateboard only in places where the activity is allowed. Skateboarding anywhere else not only puts you in physical danger but also puts you at risk for legal trouble.
  • Never ride in the street. Unlike a bike, you’re still considered a pedestrian while on a skateboard. Use the sidewalks.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Collisions may not only harm you but other pedestrians. Even worse, collisions may cause you to fall into traffic where you can be injured further.
  • Be aware of your abilities. Progress at your own speed, don’t try to ride too fast or do a maneuver you may not be comfortable with. Falling may hurt, but it can also cause harm to others around you.
  • Get off your skateboard when crossing the street. Don’t skateboard across intersections, falling in the road may put you in harm's way.

Pedestrian Myths vs. Reality

  • MYTH #1: Pedestrians always have the right-of-way.

    REALITY: Not always. Legally, pedestrians have the right-of-way at controlled intersections and in marked crosswalks, but the law also states that “no pedestrian shall unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.” The pedestrian must give the motorist the right-of-way at all areas other than marked crosswalks and controlled intersections.

    Motorists are required to bring vehicles to a complete stop when a pedestrian is crossing in the crosswalk of the roadway and remain stopped until the pedestrian has cleared the lane (half of the roadway) in which the vehicle is traveling.

    Remember, if you are on a bicycle, you are a vehicle subject to traffic laws, not a pedestrian. Cyclists should dismount and walk across if they wish to use a crosswalk at a busy intersection.

  • MYTH #2: You are safe in a crosswalk.

    REALITY: Painted lines do not protect you from harm, even if you have the legal right of way. This is particularly important at crosswalks without a traffic signal or stop sign.

    Pedestrians have a specific duty to exercise care, caution and good judgment for their protection. They should not leave a curb or other place of safety unless there is adequate distance for a motorist to stop and yield.

  • MYTH #3: A green light or walk signal means “Go.”

    REALITY: A green light or walk signal indicates that it is your turn to cross, but first make sure that the intersection is clear and watch for red light runners. Also, make sure that any right-turning cars will yield to you.

  • MYTH #4: If you see the driver, the driver sees you.

    REALITY: Drivers may not see you in time to stop, particularly if you are coming from the right and they are looking left for oncoming cars. To be safe, make eye contact with any driver whose path will cross yours and proceed only when certain the car will stop. On multi-lane roads, do not start across until vehicles in all lanes have stopped. If there is a median, make separate decisions about crossing each direction of traffic.