It's Not Easy Being a Pedestrian

Pedestrian CrossingOur provincial driving manual Learn to Drive Smart devotes an entire chapter to the concept of See - Think - Do Method. See: The pedestrian waiting to cross the street in the intersection. Think: There are no lines painted on the pavement, but it is an unmarked crosswalk and I have to stop for the pedestrian. Do: Yield the right of way to the pedestrian and allow them to cross the street.

In a perfect world, drivers would have no hesitation in stopping for pedestrians, pedestrians would use a crosswalk properly and the authorities would construct roads to facilitate both.

All of these things ran through my mind this week as I waited to cross Craig Street at Lee Avenue in Parksville carrying a load of materials for my Elder College seminar on Safe Driving for Seniors.

Drivers were looking at me as they passed by, but none of them stopped to let me cross. Had my hands not been occupied, I could have chosen to hold an arm out at shoulder height pointing across the road to indicate to them that I wanted to cross. This would make my intention obvious and their duty to stop more likely to occur.

As a driver, I know that I find the decision to stop for pedestrians can be difficult at times. The tendency is to carry on through rather than change what you are doing. This failure can be seen in many other driving situations such as following the slow down, move over rules or by passing other traffic on the right.

To make matters more difficult, if I walked straight across the T intersection, I would walk right into the side of a car parked at the curb on the opposite side.

The Motor Vehicle Act in section 189(1) prohibits the stopping, standing or parking of vehicles inside an intersection unless permitted by a sign. It also forbids parking on a crosswalk.

In the case of McKee v McCoy, Mr. Justice Shaw examines the conditions required to show the existence of an unmarked crosswalk at a municipal intersection. Virtually any improvement of the shoulder of a highway would qualify as sidewalk area and result in the presence of an unmarked crosswalk in the intersection. This is not needed here as there is a sidewalk on both sides of the street.

The City of Parksville has painted lines on the pavement that would give drivers the impression that parking is permitted on Craig Street across from Lee Road but did not carry through by posting the necessary signs. It would appear that there was also no consideration of the unmarked crosswalk locations, but provision was made for a fire hydrant. This situation repeats itself at other nearby intersections.

The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure does publish a Pedestrian Crossing Control Manual for British Columbia that is intended to act as a guide for implementing pedestrian crossing standards.

While there are rules governing how pedestrians must conduct themselves, there is a strong onus on the driver to watch out for them on the highway. It is better to stop for a pedestrian when you do not need to than to drive on when you should not.

Further Reading:


Looking at the aerial photo

Looking at the aerial photo of the intersection and being on the older slower side I personally would not cross at this location. It just does not appear safe. You have rounded curves providing easier egress and ingress for vehicles and with no sidewalk on the far side of the street when you get there along with the vehicles blocking your way. I would have walked the extra distance to Jensen and used the crosswalk which is what I feel the town is implying by not having a crosswalk. I'm not suggesting you do it but going with the photos provided I would feel safer J-walking in the middle of the block.

There is a long section between the two marked crosswalks and I would have suggested at your Elder College seminar on Safe Driving for Seniors that it be taken up with the city to install a pedestrian controlled crosswalk light and a proper crosswalk along this section of Craig St. Local knowledge of traffic etc. could make this idea impractical.

My pet peeve with pedestrians is that back in the 50's and 60's every highway had signs telling pedestrians to "walk on left facing traffic". Why were these removed and why is this not enforced. It is in the MVA Section 182(2) "If there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian walking along or on a highway must walk only on the extreme left side of the roadway or the shoulder of the highway, facing traffic approaching from the opposite direction."

I am both a driver and a pedestrian unfortunately I feel all to often we fail to look at both sides of the equation. Safety and traffic flow take a back seat to our own convenience. On the other hand civil engineers, and you can use this very situation, lack common sense. You have 5 blocks between Jensen and Stanford with no designated crosswalk with a University on the other side of the street. I do not know the area so it could be perfectly logical as it is but????



There is a Sidewalk

There is a sidewalk on the other side of the intersection from Lee Avenue, it's just separated from the curb by a strip of grass. There is no consideration there for people in motorized wheelchairs who would choose to cross. They have no way of gaining the sidewalk on the far side.

No doubt government policy has changed with regard to the signs. I can speak about enforcement however. I issued a traffic ticket to an older man who was walking down the middle of a lane with his back to traffic, but only after it was apparent in coversation that he didn't have any intention of changing his behaviour. He disputed the ticket and the JP presiding at the trial dismissed the ticket, I gathered in deference to his age. When that sort of thing happens, you sometimes decide that there is no point in writing them if the courts won't uphold the law and go on to other issues.

Why I went with my comment regarding sidewalk

The reason I said there was no sidewalk on the other side was because of the strip of grass between the curb and sidewalk.

I see your frustration regarding writing tickets only to have it dismissed. Do too many of them and your supervisor will be looking for answers from you. Unfortunately this supports my complaint that the only violations of the MVA that are enforced is speeding and failure to wear a seatbelt.    


I remember when you posted

I remember when you posted the statistics.

What I would like to see is a break down by region. I have a feeling if one was to take the rural areas the stats would change. And that would mean keeping any towns or cities out of the figures.

Just for fun over the next few months I will try to attend all traffic court cases. Impaired and immediate road side suspensions do come in here, otherwise I have not heard on one person getting a ticket for using a cell phone, failure to signal, running the amber or red light (only have one), following too close, speeding up while being past, using the HOV lane (don't have any), etc. etc.


Thanks for the 2015 update

From interest, do you know if those tickets written under Section 129(1) Red Light at Intersection are all on-the-spot tickets where the driver gets pulled over by a real cop, or does this include Red Light camera tickets levied against the vehicle owner after the fact?

Still high numbers for driving contary to restriction, and I'm guessing that these aren't people operating a motor vehicle without wearing their glasses or contacts. Probably, many Class 7 drivers in this category, which is good as it nips the problem in the bud, so to speak.

A staggering number of drivers out there driving without a license and/or without insurance.


Separately, I'm not at all sure that the basic Road Sense for Drivers guide properly addresses the concept of unmarked crosswalks, never mind all that 'See/Think/Do' stuff. So if an Applicant on a Road Test doesn't encounter a pedestrian wishing to cross at one of these, they will probably be ignorant forever, and that's what you'll see demonstrated in their behaviour on the road subsequently. Also consequently. I'm sure it's one of those.


Red Light Tickets

I'm not sure what that total includes. I asked for violation ticket information for the province when I requested it from ICBC. Are automated enforcement charged considered to be violation tickets? I'll have to ask them and find out.

Since I posted a link to the violations of the Act, those 25(15) convictions will not likely hold many new driver sign violations as they are generally written under the Regulations. So, these would be glasses, air brake equipped vehicles without an endorsement, disobeying new driver restrictions such as time of day or presence of a supervisor, etc.

There are probably many things either not trained for or forgotten by drivers. I know that if I don't practice things regularly, it is easy to forget.

Submitted by E-Mail

I would think that intersection should not have a crosswalk. Either the street to the left which has a crosswalk or they could put one at the first street to the right. The city would be liable for someone coming out from behind the parked cars if they wanted to cross on the opposite side as you.

There is a Crosswalk There Regardless

I'm thinking that you mean a marked crosswalk, because the way our Motor Vehicle Act is set up, there is an unmarked crosswalk there whether the city wants it or not.

My point was that the city has disregarded this when they marked parking and exclusions on the pavement and constructed the curbing on the opposite side of the T. Perhaps this could be a bigger liability than marking a crosswalk?

The legal disconnect

I'm thinking that sometimes there is a large disconnect between what's clearly written in the law and what is in the minds of regular folk, some bureaucrats and public servants.

I'm not sure why it is though, I'm guessing it's the same as with "Math is hard".

Legalese has gotten a bad rep. In some cases it certainly is hard, but in case of the MVA - legalese is logical and unencumbered by wordiness.

In this case the city, or the officials responsible for the markings were clearly not aware / did not regard the presencee of a cross-walk, and I bet if asked about it would outright state - "Do you even see a cross-walk there?".

Kind of like the police officer in my most recent story who was apparently convinced (likely by a simplified ICBC's brochure) that any u-turn at any intersection is a ticket-worthy offense.

Truth be told, this site and the host make great sense of legalese surrounding the driving topic. But how do you transfer the education success of such format to the general public? I guess you can't - unless everyone suddenly becomes much more interested in the topic.



I'm thinking that sometimes there is a large disconnect between what's clearly written in the law and what is in the minds of regular folk, some bureaucrats and public servants.

I'm thinking you never spoke a truer word.

Though it does bother me when supposed professionals - and I'm thinking about those who receive a salary, paid for by the public, lack the knowledge - and apparently can't be bothered to do the research - to do things properly.

If you look at the websites for major municipalities, you'll generally find that there is a Traffic Engineer in charge of this kind of issue; and, to be fair, they generally know their stuff.

But take a look at a small place such as the City of Parksville, and their Engineering Department, and you find a small group of people in charge of everything from trying to keep the Canada Gooses under control to ensuring the sewers aren't blocking up.  They will no doubt rely on the Operations Department to maintain things such as line re-painting, sign replacement, etc.  And it wouldn't surprise me if the main north/south thoroughfare falls under the purview of Provincial Highways (who should never be allowed to control intersections, they always make a supreme mess of things in terms of traffic flow).

Our site host's reference to Section 189 is absolutely worth a look, and should have been looked at and followed by the Parksville Engineers. Part 3 especially.


Meanwhile, we're all stuck with the crazy idea - in place across all of the US and Canada, so far as I can tell - that intersections are a good place for pedestrians to cross the road! This is absurd, as intersections are already complicated enough.

And painting crosswalks - perhaps with accompanying signage - may make them obvious (more than unmarked crosswalks at T-intersections that's for sure) the implication to many ignorant drivers is that the only crosswalks that exist are those with painted lines and signage.

Some Follow Up

After writing this article I e-mailed the City of Parksville and suggested that they should paint exclusionary markings on the pavement (similar to what they did for the fire hydrant) so that drivers would not park across the end of the unmarked crosswalk.

Drivers actually require signed permission to park within the intersecton (no such signs posted), but that's another thing entirely. One idea at a time.

After what I thought was a significant time without a response I went to the engineering department in person and asked about it. I spoke with an engineer and he acknowledged receiving the e-mail. Typically the initial response could take anywhere up to one year he said, depending on how busy they were and the inportance of the communication.

I tried to engage him in a conversation about this situation but it became clear to me that we were on different wavelengths when it came to what should or shouldn't be here. His main point seemed to be that if I wanted to be safe, then I needed to walk down the block and use the marked crosswalk at the intersection with the 4 way stop signs.

I occurred to me this morning that this shows either disdain of or no thought for people with disabilities. In effect, the engineer is saying if you want safety you have to significantly increase the distance that you travel because only people capable of walking can use the unmarked crosswalk at this intersection.

I did finally receive an e-mailed response to my initial inquiry. It stated that there was no real pedestrian demand nor other complaints about this situation. ICBC has no record of any crashes involving pedestrians here. So, sorry, but we won't be painting a crosswalk here as you requested.

If you have been paying attention, I did not request that they paint a marked crosswalk.

I shake my head whenever I walk there and think about all of this. Is it worth pressing the point?


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