CanbikeBC Blog

Elephant’s Feet Cycle – Pedestrian Crossings


Have you noticed when you cross some streets in your city that some of the crosswalks have a combination of markings painted on the ground?  Have you thought much about it?  What does it mean? Does it mean anything?, or is it just someone’s idea of what to do with extra paint. Are you knowing what I’m referring to?

  I have added a diagram that explains the Elephant’s feet crossing, as per the City of Vancouver web site.  Along with pictures I took of actual Elephant’s feet crossings in the Cities of Vancouver and Maple Ridge British Columbia.

From the City of Vancouver BC web site, Streets and Transportation section


Well, I can tell you that these markings do very much mean something, in particular to two groups of people using those crossings.  I will explain.  Those markings are a combination of two markings for both cyclists and pedestrians  to safely cross the intersection at the same place, at the same time, without conflict.  Okay, with as little conflict as can be hoped for.

Traditional crosswalks are an extension of the sidewalks on either side of the intersection the pedestrian is wanting to cross.  Bike lanes are also an extension of the bike lanes on either side of the intersection.  These are the combination of both.


Elephant Feet crossing in front of Stadium Skytrain station, Vancouver BC (taken by me)

The reason I use the Vancouver examples is that the City of Vancouver has made a concerted effort to expand cycling infrastructure in/ across Vancouver.  Vancouver has an excellent, larger cycling network right across the City and these combination crossing’s – Elephant’s feet crossings are a natural progression.

Elephant Feet crossing at entrance of a single lane
round-a- bout, Maple Ridge BC (taken by me)

 In recent years, Cities – large, mid-size, and small, across North America and most of the world have added painted bike lanes/ separated bike lanes/ bike boxes at those same intersections. We’ve all seen them and a lot of us have ridden them. 

What you are seeing is two sets of painted lines, one set are solid painted, and one set are slotted or a combination of individually painted spots.  Another way to describe them is dash lines, similar to but very much shortened than the passing lane markings you see on the highways. 

When you combine traffic light signals and cycling light signals at the same corners, then you have found a way to combine, traffic turning, pedestrians crossing, and cyclists passing through and turning. 

Is everyone going to be happy, likely not.  But if we can find a solution that can function, and the least amount of people are unhappy then we have a workable solution!!  And I believe this is it.

When the situation and location is right, then Elephant’s feet crossings are a good idea.  If you think along the same lines as real estate – Location, Location, Location.

As we have seen over and over and over again, cycling infrastructure can be very polarizing, and that is a bad thing.  Cars and bikes can co-exist and safely use the limited land provided, but they can also co-exist with the addition of separated lanes.

The Elephant’s Feet concept is a very good idea of how to make the roads/ bikes lanes/ separated bikes safer for cyclists.

Where the name ‘Elephant’s Feet ‘ came from, I have no idea, but I will continue to dig to find an answer.  Once found, I will update.  I’m already hoping the explanation is as interesting as the name.

Thanks for stopping by

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