Q&A - Pedestrians at Bertram & Bernard in Kelowna

We have an intersection at Bertram and Bernard in Kelowna that has a pedestrian controlled light on one side that stop Bernard traffic for pedestrians.

Drivers coming south on Bertram can only take a right at Bernard and arrive at a stop sign.

A bit of confusion ensued when a woman and her two children, who were walking east on the north side of Bernard waited while the light was red for traffic. Since there is no signal controlling the pedestrian crosswalk across Bertram it's my thought that pedestrians do not need to heed the light.

Talked to Kelowna Bylaw and they don't have an answer. Suggested I call ICBC. But I was interested in getting you to weigh in.

This is certainly something that would be confusing!

Our Motor Vehicle Act defines an intersection as follows:

"intersection" means the area embraced within the prolongation or connection of the lateral curb lines, or if none, then the lateral boundary lines of the roadways of the 2 highways that join one another at or approximately at right angles, or the area within which vehicles travelling on different highways joining at any other angle may come in conflict;

If you look at it directly from above:

You can see that the curb lines of Bertram extended across Bernard do not meet on either side, nor do they fall one within the other. I would contend that we don't have an offset intersection, we have two adjacent T intersections. Bernard being the top of the T in either case and the leg being Bertram to the north and south.

There are 5 crosswalks involved:

  1. The south leg of Bertram crossing Bernard northbound
  2. The north leg of Bertram crossing Bernard southbound
  3. A shared crossing of opposite sides of Bertram between 1 and 2
  4. Bernard crossing Bertram on the south side of Bernard
  5. Bernard crossing Bertram on the north side of Bernard

Whew! I had to think about that one...

In the context of these 5, let's look at the controls a pedestrian faces when the are standing on the curb looking to cross:

  1. No control
  2. No control
  3. Pedestrian control signal
  4. Traffic light
  5. Traffic light eastbound, no control westbound

So here is what happens:

  1. Pedestrians cross with caution at their discretion
  2. Pedestrians cross with caution at their discretion
  3. Pedestrians follow the indications of the pedestrian control signal
  4. Pedestrians follow the indications of the traffic light
  5. Pedestrians eastbound follow the indications of the traffic light, pedestrians westbound cross with caution at their discretion

I'll bet that leaves drivers scratching their heads, but their duty is to avoid colliding with pedestrians in general and to yield to pedestrians lawfully in the crosswalk specifically.

In reply to by DriveSmartBC

I firmly believe that when pedestrian-controlled lights were invented around 1960, the practical application of them was only ever intended to be mid-block, and typically used around the middle of a long block, where it would be somewhat onerous for the pedestrians to walk to the nearest intersection in order to enjoy crosswalk right-of-way rules.

That's why it's OK in that situation for drivers to proceed through the red after stopping, and of course yielding to the pedestrians, per MVA Section 129(5)(a) without waiting for it to go green.

Some years back, ignorant traffic engineers started using these things (they're unique to BC) at intersections; when this is done, you'll find that in every case the 'main road' will only have regular traffic lights (no pedestrian signals at all) while the vehicular cross street traffic will be controlled by stop signs - or one stop sign, in the case of a T-Intersection - and the pedestrians will be controlled by some kind of 'Walk/Don't Walk' lights.

In the absence of pedestrian 'Walk/Don't Walk' lights, the law is clear, see Section 127 and read it through, please; there is far more information there for pedestrians than there is for drivers! The fact is, at an intersection with any kind of traffic light, but without a pedestrian signal facing them, the pedestrians must obey the traffic light.

Amongst municipalities, the City of Vancouver is surely the worst for installing these devices at intersections. The result? A potentially lethal combination of pedestrians lazily and illegally walking against the red light (which, when traffic is busy, should be the best opportunity for drivers on the cross street to proceed after stopping) and/or traffic on the cross street, seeing the situation as they approach - but often with no idea how long it is until the light is going to change again - blitzing through the stop sign as they grasp their chance to turn onto, or cross, the main road.

It's all very stupid, really; they should get rid of these devices at intersections, they were never meant to be there in the first place.