Should cars stop for pedestrians?

On my way home from the region in my car today, I had to stop on Albert St. for several university students standing in the middle of the road. The traffic was stopped while a line of summer camp kids crossed the road and headed to the park. The university students were their counsellors.

Presently in Ontario, those councillors were disobeying the Highway Traffic Act because pedestrians do not have the right of way like they do in many other jurisdictions.

But Albert St. is so busy, they would not have been able to get the kids safely across the street or across the street at all if they had to wait for traffic to clear. They could, of course, gone to the pedestrian light a little further up the road.

This was an interesting moment for me as I had just finished a conversation with one of our planners who is on a provincial committee looking into making our province safer for pedestrians. Right now pedestrains have the right of way at roundabouts only and cars must stop for them.

The provincial committee is suggesting changing the traffic act so pedestrians always have the right-of-way. So the campers would be legal.

I wonder what it would do to jaywalking by-laws? Make them redundant, I guess.  In Waterloo, I can cross the street in downtown Waterloo  in mid-block without getting a ticket but in Kitchener, I would get a ticket.

Studies of pedestrians note that they tend to move in a diagonal pattern from store to store if say they are in a mall or on a quiet street.  Does the fact that I can cross mid-block in Waterloo while dodging traffic (though many politely stop) create another reason why Waterloo’s Uptown is healthier than downtown Kitchener?

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6 responses to “Should cars stop for pedestrians?

  1. Are you sure this is illegal? According to what I’ve read, provincial law doesn’t have much to say about jaywalking, so I’m a bit confused about that reference. (It seems jaywalking is usually handled by municipal by-laws, which I assume explains the difference between uptown and downtown.)

    But that aside, I would like to point to this article, which sums many of my thoughts about pedestrians vs. motorists. In particular, this quote:

    Before the 1930s, children were free to play in the street and people could cross wherever they wanted. By the 1930s, motordom managed to convince people that the pedestrian, not the car, was the interloper and had to be restricted. The pejorative “jay walker” was introduced and public safety programs “educated” pedestrians to use signals and crosswalks.

    Streets are for people, not just vehicles, and the balance of power has shifted too far in favour of motorists. I think it’s time for pedestrians and cyclists to take back their right to use the road.

  2. The newly reconstructed parts of King street in downtown Kitchener is narrower than before. It seems narrower than Uptown, actually. Hopefully it will foster the kind of aesthetic that you are describing for Uptown.

  3. I think the point about jaywalking is moot. I walk several hours a day through Waterloo. 90% of the time even when I have the right of way at a designated pedestrian crossing, drivers will ignore my right of way. When they ignore us anyway, what’s the point in waiting for a “legal” crosswalk??

    Fix the drivers and you will fix the pedestrian behaviour.

  4. I believe they should always stop for people in designated cross walks. I live near a school and the kids cross against the light, jaywalk, and do whatever they want. This doesn’t happen where the crossing guards are stationed. But they are kids and the alternative of running them over doesn’t seem like a good idea. And I’m never in too much of a hurray to allow people to cross the street, because I too am a pedestrian. And courtesy is always warranted.

  5. If a driver slows down to allow a pedestrian to cross and is rear-ended by the driver behind, is the accident the fault of the polite driver who didn’t want to frighten or kill the pedestrian?

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