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Ontario Roads Walking

Do I stay, or do I go now?

If I go will there be trouble?

Pedestrian crosswalks should be simple and clear for everyone.

Pedestrian crossing at Victoria Park, Cobourg

At the corner of King Street (former Highway 2) and College Street in Cobourg, adjacent to Victoria Park on the eastern edge of Downtown Cobourg, there‚Äôs a marked pedestrian crossing, with clear “zebra” road markings on the pavement.

The sign, in bright fluorescent yellow, reads “PEDESTRIAN X.” Below, a second sign, also in bright yellow, reads “STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS.” The message is clear enough.

However, a smaller white sign below, facing the sidewalk, reads “CAUTION – VEHICLES NOT REQUIRED TO STOP.”

So which is it?

The white sign, unfortunately, provides the correct information. Vehicles (or, more accurately, motorists) are not required to stop.

The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the US standard for road signage and markings, indicates that regulatory signs (meaning they must be followed) use black text on a white background, while advisory signs (meaning they warn of road conditions or hazards) are made of black text on a yellow background. The yellow pedestrian crossing sign is advisory, while the white sign facing pedestrians is regulatory.

The Ontario Traffic Manual (OTM) follows the basic conventions of the American MUTCD. (Canadian road signs and markings generally follow US conventions, but with more uses of pictograms, different railway crossing signage, and other minor differences that suit a multilingual country.) OTM Book 15 details how pedestrian crossings should be implemented on public streets and highways, and white pedestrian signage is required where ever motorists must stop at a crosswalk. Yellow (advisory) signage is used at school crossings, where traffic is controlled by a crossing guard displaying a stop sign while on duty.

Therefore, since the crossing is not compliant with the OTM standard, and the signs facing motorists are advisory, not regulatory, pedestrians must yield. In a smaller town like Cobourg, drivers will generally yield. But the signage is confusing and should be replaced by the new Ontario pedestrian crossing standard with flashing beacons.

Elsewhere in Ontario, “Courtesy Crossings” are found in smaller towns and the occasional suburban downtown, such as the one depicted below. Though they prioritize through vehicle movement, they are at least clear that there is no pedestrian right-of-way. Generally, motorists will stop, but there is no expectation to do so.

Again, a proper signalized crossing would provide better safety and prioritize pedestrians, while causing minimal delay for through traffic.

“Courtesy Crosswalk” at Highway 60, Barry’s Bay

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