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New Pedestrian Crosswalk Law – and Safety Tips for Pedestrians

Pedestrians Crossing

Back in September, we wrote about recently enacted traffic laws in Canada. One of the newly minted laws taking effect this month is the “Pedestrian Crossover and School Crossings” section of the Making Ontario Roads Safer Act in Ontario: requiring cars to wait until pedestrians have completely crossed the road at pedestrian crossovers and school crossings before proceeding through the intersection.

The reason for this new law is, obviously, to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities. And while this law is coming into effect currently only in Ontario, other Canadian municipalities are considering similar laws. This sounds great in principle - but knowing how some of the crosswalks in Vancouver are (pedestrians often start to cross at the last possible second, especially in my East Van neighbourhood), I wondered how anyone would ever be able to turn left - or right -again.

Apparently, I was not alone in my confusion. This Globe and Mail article (written by Globe columnist and (full disclosure) my friend, Jason Tchir) answers a similarly confused reader’s question about the law. Basically, it comes down to the difference between a “pedestrian crossover” and a “crosswalk”:

"So what’s a pedestrian crossover? ... (I)t’s a painted crosswalk with overhead lights that flash when the pedestrian pushes a button. “A pedestrian crossover is a pedestrian crossing facility identified by specific signs, pavement markings and overhead lights in combination with pedestrian-activated flashing beacons,” the MTO said. “A school crossing is any pedestrian crossing facility where a school crossing guard is present and is displaying a school crossing stop sign.”

So drivers do not have to wait for pedestrians to fully cross at EVERY intersection with a crosswalk – just at those defined as pedestrian crossovers and at school crossings. Whew!

That makes much more sense. Now, before my expressed relief makes me sound like a Cannonball Rally participant, I want to mention that I am also a frequent pedestrian. A frequent pedestrian who is out at all hours with the most unpredictable of creatures - a wiggly young puppy. And whether I’m using a crosswalk or crossover, I always appreciate it when drivers wait until the dog and I reach the far sidewalk before continuing on their way.

I also know that pedestrians and drivers need to share the road – that’s why when our little Effie needs a nighttime potty break, I try to make sure that we are both visible to drivers. I have reflective strips on my raincoat (Vancouver!) and Effie has a reflective leash as well as a glowing light on her collar.

The Insurance Bureau of British Columbia (ICBC) ran a campaign promoting pedestrian safety called “Look, listen and be seen”. Their top tips for being a safe pedestrian:

  • Look. Always make eye contact with drivers. Never assume that a driver has seen you.
  • Listen. Focus your full attention on what's happening around you. Remove your headphones don't use electronic devices while crossing.
  • Be seen. Wear reflective clothing or use reflective gear to make it easier for drivers to see you.

The ICBC also has tips for drivers and for transit users

I find that using both gas power and foot power on a regular basis makes me have an appreciation for who’s on the other side of the windshield. Do you make a point of being both a pedestrian and a driver? What precautions do you take as a pedestrian to make sure that you’re seen? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

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