Comment 91246

By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 22, 2013 at 14:56:48 in reply to Comment 91237

Waiting for a 'safe gap' does not mean that pedestrians should cross such that motorists never have to yield (i.e. stop) for pedestrians.

It means that pedestrians must wait for a large enough gap in motor vehicle traffic that an alert motorist can come to a safe and controlled stop to fulfill their duty to yield to the pedestrian in the crosswalk. In practice, waiting for a gap will often mean that motorists do not need to stop. But not always, especially on busy streets.

Here is what the Ontario Traffic Council website says on the issue (i.e. the official voice of Ontario municipal traffic engineers), which tells us how traffic engineers actually design streets and signals, and how they interpret the Act and regulations:

"Uncontrolled crossings are locations where pedestrians cross without the aid of traffic control measures and a dedicated pedestrian right-of-way. At these locations, pedestrians need to wait for safe gaps in traffic before attempting to cross on the roadway while drivers must always be in control of their vehicle and have due concern for the safety of other road users, including pedestrians. At an uncontrolled location, the pedestrian must not enter the roadway if vehicles are not able to stop and drivers must make every effort to avoid a collision. This dual responsibility puts the onus on both road users for each other's safety as there is no prescribed right-of-way. As pedestrians are the more vulnerable road user, they must take extra care to ensure that all approaching drivers have seen them and have or will be able to stop safely, before ocnsidering entering the roadway. "

The bizarre aspect is that the although Act is crystal clear on who has the right of way at uncontrolled pedestrians crossings, traffic engineers persist in claiming there is no right of way, even thought the Act is indeed the ultimate authority.

This confusion is highlighted in another part of the Ontario Traffic Council website that points out that

'In Ontario, the Highway Traffic Act defines crosswalks without distinction between controlled and uncontrolled crossing locations. In spite of this, the rules of the road are distinct. In the absence of stop/yield signs, pedestrian crossover, or half or full traffic control signals, pedestrians at an uncontrolled crossing location are required to wait for gaps in vehicular traffic before crossing. '

In other words, as I have state previously, conventional motorist behaviour in Ontario (unlike BC and other provinces) has come to ignore their duties at uncontrolled pedestrian crosswalks under the Act and traffic engineers have accommodated what motorists actually do, rather than what they should do (hence the "in spite of"). This is strange as everywhere else, as far as I can tell, the "rules of the road" are determined by what the Act says! Why the exception for pedestrian crossings?

The ultimate solution is to use enforcement, education, and new standard (i.e. economical unsignalized) crosswalk markings to bring driver behaviour back into line with the Act.

However, municipal traffic engineers shouldn't lie to us: the Act does not distinguish between controlled and uncontrolled crosswalks with respect to the duty of drivers to yield to pedestrians, and the current "understanding" is dangerous and has no grounding in the Act.

As Ryan and other have stated, the problem is precisely that municipal traffic engineers long ago stopped treating uncontrolled pedestrian crosswalks according the the Act, and decided simply to accept drivers flouting the Act. This needs to stop.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2013-08-22 15:00:08

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