Special Report: Walkable Streets

Making Ontario's Roads Safer Act Passes

The Ontario Government has passed a new law that provides additional protection to vulnerable road users and beefs up penalties for distracted and impaired driving.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 02, 2015

this article has been updated

The Ontario Government has passed a new law that provides additional protection to vulnerable road users and beefs up penalties for distracted and impaired driving.

The newly passed Bill 31, also called the Making Ontario's Roads Safer Act, makes several important changes to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.

Walking

Cycling

Driving


Update: this article originally stated that distracted driving would receive a "300day" licence suspension, a fat-finger typo that should read "30-day". RTH regrets the error. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

Update 2: updated to add a link to the text of the new legislation. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 16:21:37

Some good stuff here!

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By Kevo15 (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 18:06:26

The one thing I'm not entirely clear on is the lights rule. My bike always has reflectors, but if I'm riding during light hours I don't attach my lights.

Does the new law mean lights have to be attached all the time now (not necessarily on)?

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By Moniz (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2015 at 06:17:02 in reply to Comment 111935

As far as I understand it, no. The stipulation is still that they are required if riding up to a half hour before sunset or after sunrise (and of course during the night) or when atmospheric conditions make it difficult for other vehicles to see you from 150 metres.

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By Johnny Hamont (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 18:41:38

What would "unrestricted provincial highway" mean exactly, like including Hamilton examples?

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 21:38:07 in reply to Comment 111936

A "restricted" provincial highway is a 400 series freeway or a highway like #11 near Orillia that has ramps and is divided. #6 from the 403 up to #5 is a good example too. The type where there are signs up that indicate no pedestrians or cyclists allowed. "Unrestricted" highways would include #6 north of #5, a highway that has side street stop sign access, traffic signals etc, and on these types of highways shoulders can now be paved and designated as cyclist operating areas legally.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 23:15:25 in reply to Comment 111937

I recall seeing this in Oregon a couple of years ago.

Wide, paved shoulders on a country highway connecting Portland to the Coast. Bike symbols and signs lined the side of the highway. They even had this button cyclists pushed before entering a narrow tunnel that caused the yellow sign in the background with 2 lights to flash and warn drivers that a cyclist was in the tunnel and to not pass them.

Here it seems most of our rural highways have gravel shoulders. Paving them would go a long way to encouraging country-side cycling.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 09:19:35

If I am reading it correctly, the new legislation removes the defined crosswalk (whether marked or unmarked) from all intersections not otherwise controlled by traffic lights. Which is a majority of intersections in Hamilton.

This has to be seen as a strong negative factor.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2015 at 10:07:51 in reply to Comment 111948

I'm not sure what you're referring to.

The new legislation makes the following changes to the Highway Traffic Act with respect to pedestrian crossovers.

When a pedestrian is crossing a street at a pedestrian crossover (Section 140 of the HTA), previously the driver merely had to yield the right of way by slowing down or stopping if necessary.

Now, the driver "shall stop before entering the crossover" and "shall not proceed into the crossover until the pedestrian is no longer on the roadway". In other words, the driver must now come to a full stop and wait for the pedestrian to completely cross the street.

In addition, the Minister of Transportation is authorized to make regulations allowing municipalities to define more places as pedestrian crossovers using signage and road markings. Those signs and markings are specified in the new revision of the Ontario Traffic Manula, Book 15.

An earlier draft of the law redefined a "pedestrian crossover" to mean "any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs on the highway and lines or other markings on the surface of the roadway as prescribed by the regulations", but that has been struck from the legislation as passed.

As a result, the original definition still stands:

"pedestrian crossover" means any portion of a roadway, designated by by-law of a municipality, at an intersection or elsewhere, distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs on the highway and lines or other markings on the surface of the roadway as prescribed by the regulations;

In other words, municipalities must still pass a bylaw to specify a pedestrian crossover in a location other than an uncontrolled intersection.

Of course, IANAL etc.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 10:32:31 in reply to Comment 111951

That's an understandable confusion given the two terms "crossover" and "crosswalk":

  1. The definition of “pedestrian crossover” in subsection 1 (1) of the Highway Traffic Act is repealed and the following substituted: “pedestrian crossover” means any portion of a roadway distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs on the highway and lines or other markings on the surface of the roadway as prescribed by the regulations; (“passage pour piétons”)

http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_d...

Note that the existing definition is repealed and the new definition means that a "pedestrian crossover" must be marked by signs and pavement markings. This might seem to mean a crosswalk must be marked with signs.

However, the Act still includes the definition of an unmarked crosswalk:

“crosswalk” means,

(a) that part of a highway at an intersection that is included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway, or

(b) any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface; (“passage protégé pour piétons”)

http://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90h08

This is confusing, and the problem still remains that almost no one seems to understand that at a crosswalk (i.e. any intersection) drivers must yield to crossing pedestrians (i.e. must yield to pedestrians once they are on the roadway) and that pedestrians must wait until there is a gap large enough that motorists can safely yield.

It might be worth following up with the Ministry to confirm that the duties of motorists an pedestrians at unmarked crosswalks remain unchanged.

The use of both "crosswalk" and "crossover" is confusing, and the only difference I can find is that crossovers may be mid-block, while crosswalks are at intersections. Crossovers must also be marked by signs and painted lines.

The duties of drivers and pedestrians at crosswalks and crossovers appear to be the same: it seems that crossovers just make the crosswalks safer by making them more visible. The problem, again, is that most motorists think they have the right of way over crossing pedestrians at unmarked crosswalks!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-06-03 10:46:02

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By kevinlove (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 12:00:37 in reply to Comment 111953

Thank you! This is what I meant and it is good to read that this part of the law did not change.

Look like what is now needed is proper enforcement. For example, where I live near Herkimer and Park streets, car drivers mostly DO NOT yield right of way to pedestrians crossing Herkimer. Particularly children going to school! Many of them also drive at speeds of 80-90 km/hr.

Needless to say, these both have the effect of threatening, intimidating and terrorizing innocent children off the roads. And many other people as well.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 12:35:01 in reply to Comment 111958

Before someone claims that 80-90km/h is sheer hyperbole, I'd like to remind the readers that the 2002 Durand Traffic study found that the 40% of traffic on minor-arterial streets (e.g. Herkimer/Charlton) exceeded 50km/h and 200 vehicles per day exceeded 65 km/h. With 200 vehicles per day exceeding 65 km/h it seems reasonable that there will be several vehicles each day approaching 80-90km/h.

Indeed, even the speed data from the mobile radar trailer (which displays vehicle speeds) that was set up on Herkimer next to Durand Park last year registered maximum speeds of 80-90km/h each day of its operation:

March 25: 80 km/h (at 11:00 pm)

March 26: 80 km/h (at 6:00pm and 11:00pm)

March 27: 80 km/h (at 8:00am)

March 28: 80 km/h (at 11:00pm)

March 29: 80 km/h (at 2:00am, 6:00am, 10:00pm)

March 30: 90 km/h (at 3:00 pm, with 80km/h max at 1:00pm and 11:00pm)

March 31: 80 km/h (at 8:00am)

April 1: 80 km/h (at 9:00am)

Many of the hourly max speeds were 70km/h (e.g. 11 hours out of 24 on March 28). And you'll note that many of the highest daily speeds occurred during daytime hours when children would be playing in the park!

This is especially surprising since the goal of the visible speed indicator is to slow traffic by advertising the vehicle's (illegal) speed. And the trailer was adjacent to a children's playground!

Then again, maybe it's not so surprising after all that people are often driving 70-80km/h: these streets (shockingly) are actually designed for 70km/h: https://raisethehammer.org/article/2143/...

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-06-03 12:50:49

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By Stephen (anonymous) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 11:27:02 in reply to Comment 111953

Thank you. I was a bit confused by the difference between a "crosswalk" and a "crossover," too. That cleared it up for me.

Does anyone have information about these "new tools" that municipalities have for crossovers? I was told by City staff just the other day that they were waiting for the approval of "the new Pedestrian Crossings" in order to do work on certain pedestrian crosswalks. I have no idea what is in store for the crosswalks in question, and couldn't seem to find on the provincial web pages which "tools" are being given to municipalities.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 11:41:59 in reply to Comment 111956

The "new tools" will be listed in the regulations accompanying the HTA.

The problem with the old system was that the only options officially available to municipalities for marked crossovers/crosswalks was either to install a pedestrian activated traffic light (at $150k each!), or to install Toronto style PXO's (which are also expensive and which Hamilton refuses to install for safety and cost reasons). Obviously, this meant almost no marked crosswalks were installed in Hamilton, and unmarked crosswalks are not helpful since motorists don't know what their duties are.

Now, the signage requirements will be much lighter and cheaper to implement (simple signs and pavement markings, possibly with basic lighting) and I believe they can be implemented in more locations.

I believe the City of Hamilton is also considering implementing "courtesy crossings" at unmarked crosswalks, but I'm not sure whether these will be regulated provincially.

(Note that many municipalities incorrectly claim that motorists have right of way at unmarked crosswalks, e.g. http://archive.cityofkingston.ca/residen... https://www.milton.ca/MeetingDocuments/C... and include signage warning pedestrians "motorists not required to stop". This is clearly wrong, as confirmed by the Ministry http://raisethehammer.org/article/1939 , and it is irresponsible for municipalities to promote this incorrect interpretation of HTA, even if they think it makes pedestrians safer to tell them that motorists have right of way. Neither motorists nor pedestrians have right of way at an unmarked crosswalk, i.e. an intersection: pedestrians have to wait until there is a large enough gap that motorists can stop safely, and motorists must yield to crossing pedestrians.)

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-06-03 11:44:51

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By StephenBarath (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 13:14:28 in reply to Comment 111957

Thanks again! I’ll be curious to know what these other approved “tools” are.

I would personally question how light is too light. Cheaper is better since it means the possibility for wider implementation, but if motorists don’t understand their responsibilities, a crossover with painted lines but without a traffic light might give people crossing on foot a false sense of security. I can think of many instances in Hamilton where painted crosswalks exist, but a miniscule number of motorists yield the right-of-way to people on foot properly. In these cases, since motorists are not educated and not held accountable, it seems to me that there is little difference between crossing at a crosswalk and crossing midblock where there is no marking in place- drivers react the same way.

(The solution is either to educate motorists, or enforce the law, or both.)

I’m still glad that municipalities will be able to install more crosswalks. I hope other measures are taken to make sure they work as they should.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 14:48:19 in reply to Comment 111961

I hope there will be a big public information campaign to educate motorists about their responsibility to yield to pedestrians crossing legally at crosswalks.

That being said, McMaster installed its own "courtesy crossings" several years ago that inform motorists that they must yield to crossing pedestrians and they seem to be safe for pedestrians (occasionally motorists interpret them as a stop sign and stop even when pedestrians aren't present ... but that seems to be the only problem).

Note that McMaster did not install signs informing pedestrians (and motorists) that they are not required to stop at the courtesy crossings, which is obviously counter-productive and dangerous!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-06-03 14:55:17

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2015 at 15:03:05 in reply to Comment 111963

Not just yield but come to a complete stop - until the pedestrian has completed crossing the street. That is an important change in the law.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 22:03:13

I see that the City of Hamilton has done its part by passing a by-law defining a crosswalk to exist at unmarked intersections. From the link:

(h) "crosswalk" means:

(i) that part of a highway at an intersection that is included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway; or,

(ii) any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface;

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-06-03 22:03:22

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By concerned (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2015 at 14:41:58

I see this causing traffic congestion at large intersections with 4 or more lanes. I am also curious as to why the responsibility and fines are primarily geared to motorists. Pedestrians and cyclists should have fines and accountability enforced as well. I see cyclist and pedestrians often crossing unlawfully through traffic, weaving in and out through traffic jams, passing stopped cars, travelling towards oncoming traffic, etc. This is dangerous behaviour but nothing seems to be done about it. If it came down to an accident based on these foolish behaviours who should be at fault.

Yes motorists should be more careful, no arguuing that. Cyclist and pedestrians should be more aware and careful too.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 31, 2015 at 19:13:00 in reply to Comment 113694

The obvious reason is that motorists have far more ability to cause harm to others than pedestrians, and the fact that thousands of Canadians are killed and tens of thousands are seriously injured by motorists each year should make this obvious. Almost no one is killed or seriously injured by pedestrians and cyclists (almost all cyclists deaths and serious injuries are due to collisions with vehicles).

Pedestrians and cyclists are especially vulnerable as they are completely unprotected.

Allowing motorists to proceed while pedestrians are still in the crosswalk is dangerous as it encourage motorists to take chances by approaching pedestrians too closely. Having stopped cars is also a clear signal to other motorists that a pedestrian is crossing and they need to slow down and yield.

And, of course, cyclists and pedestrians can and are ticketed by police for unsafe behaviour.

But they just are not as dangerous as motorists and they are far more vulnerable which is why motorists are more strictly regulated.

These recommendations are the direct result of recent Coroners recommendations on pedestrian and cycling injuries and deaths.

p.s. It is completely legal for cyclists to overtake slow moving vehicles on the right provided there is sufficient space. Some motorists seem to feel that cyclists should never be allowed to overtake a car (either on the right or left)!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-08-31 19:17:02

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted August 31, 2015 at 17:55:51 in reply to Comment 113694

Because statistically speaking motorists are more often at fault, also it is easier to enforce.

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By Brampton (anonymous) | Posted August 31, 2015 at 10:50:36

This change is going to cause traffic chaos, most particularly involving right or left turning vehicles, if pedestrians are not educated regarding the use of controlled crossings, and the laws regarding entering the crossover once the flashing hand or countdown timer has commenced.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 02, 2015 at 08:44:37 in reply to Comment 113715

gasp Cars might actually have to wait before turning instead of just nudging pedestrians in the shins to move them along?? Insanity

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 02, 2015 at 08:59:58 in reply to Comment 113736

Just yesterday afternoon, I was crossing Dundurn at Main and a left-turning van racing to turn in front of me came within a couple of feet of plowing into me. It roared by so closely that I was able to slap the side of the van with my hand. Sooner or later, that asshole is going to mangle or kill someone with his aggressive driving.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 01, 2015 at 16:12:23 in reply to Comment 113715

omg chaos

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 02, 2015 at 09:52:13 in reply to Comment 113731

Sure, it'll save a few lives, but millions will be late!

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By Vas (anonymous) | Posted September 01, 2015 at 14:26:07 in reply to Comment 113715

Not educated. If the decision is to fine the drivers then it makes sense to fine pedestrians starting to cross while on red or flashing lights with the same amount. We either educate both or fine both.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted September 01, 2015 at 14:58:44 in reply to Comment 113727

We either educate both or fine both.

I see: 'cause walking and driving are the same.

So ... shall we having walking insurance in case we bump into someone and put them in the hospital or destroy their shoes? We will have a licensing regime for walkers? Because, as you point out, walking is just like driving.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 01, 2015 at 14:35:14 in reply to Comment 113727

These are only similar in that they are both laws. In one, the driver is risking the life of another person, while in the other, the pedestrian is risking no lives but their own.

Drivers face a stricter roadway because they're the ones who chose to bring a high-speed 2000-lb machine into it.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted September 01, 2015 at 15:52:38 in reply to Comment 113728

I disagree. A pedestrian crossing illegally is risking his own life, and the life of a driver who could swerve to avoid a collision, and run into another pedestrian, cyclist or another vehicle.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 01, 2015 at 16:36:57 in reply to Comment 113730

Theoretically, yes, in practice, no.

There is a big difference between something that is technically possible and something that is a significant risk.

Can you come up with even a single Canadian example of an illegally crossing pedestrian who caused a motorist to be killed?

There are hundreds of examples of motorists killing pedestrians, several each year here in Hamilton. And many, many, examples of motorists killing legally crossing pedestrians in crosswalks and having to pay just a $500 penalty:

https://raisethehammer.org/article/1809/...

Another point is that most motorists are unaware that they are legally required to yield to crossing pedestrians even at unsignalzed intersections (i.e. where there is no stop sign or traffic light for the crossing pedestrian).

https://raisethehammer.org/article/1939/...

But try exercising this right anywhere in Hamilton ... almost no drivers will yield and many probably believe that the pedestrian is crossing illegally.

Again, pedestrians should cross legally and safely and can and are ticketed by police for not doing so.

But, as others have pointed out, overall the risks posed by pedestrians to others (and even themselves) are insignificant compared to the risked posed by motorists. That is why the regulations and sanctions should be much more stringent for drivers.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-09-01 16:41:08

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 01, 2015 at 17:07:34 in reply to Comment 113732

Just to drive home the point about the relative risks, in 2013 300 pedestrians and 62 cyclists were killed in Canada. That represents 18.8% of all road deaths.

https://www.tc.gc.ca/media/documents/roa...

This is a very significant risk, compared with the risk caused by pedestrians to motorists.

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