Pedestrians vs Drivers

Pedestrian CrossingI was a bit taken aback after reading a discussion on Twitter the other day. The conversation was between a driver and a pedestrian who seemed to hold opposite points of view. The pedestrian felt that they should not have to wear reflective clothing and carry a flashlight to be seen at night. The driver countered with the warning that if you can't be seen, you can't be given the right of way. Wearing protective clothing was a wise thing to do.

Our rule book, the Motor Vehicle Act, defines how drivers and pedestrians must relate to each other when they use our highways.

If there is a sidewalk on one or both sides of the highway, a pedestrian must not walk on the roadway. They may choose not to use the sidewalk if they walk on the shoulder. This exception would allow a pedestrian to walk on the side of the highway, outside of the path of vehicles, if the sidewalk is on the opposite side of the road for their chosen direction of travel.

Depending on how far you are walking, it may make sense to cross over and use the sidewalk when there is only one. Chances are greater that drivers will expect you to be there.

If there are no sidewalks, pedestrians must walk on the left side of the highway, using the shoulder or extreme left side of the roadway.

Here is where I pause. The law says that pedestrians may use the extreme left side of the roadway in some circumstances. This is a place where I dare say that drivers might feel that they are entitled and pedestrians are not. These drivers may be wrong, but in a collision they win. As a pedestrian, do you want to be dead right?

When we reach an intersection pedestrians in crosswalks who are following the directions of the appropriate traffic signal must be granted the right of way to cross. If they entered the crosswalk lawfully when signals are present, they have right of way to complete the crossing, even after the signals have changed.

Strangely, many people do not consider a T to be an intersection while they will readily agree that an X is. Either configuration is a proper intersection.

If a pedestrian is crossing the highway anywhere other than in a crosswalk, they must yield the right of way to vehicles. In fact, municipal bylaws may prohibit crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.

Crosswalks may be marked or unmarked, but they always exist at intersections.

If it is necessary, the rules say that drivers must sound their vehicle's horn to warn pedestrians of their approach.

Ultimately, a driver must always exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian who is on the highway.

It's not all one sided. Pedestrians have duties toward drivers too.

You must not walk or run out in front of a vehicle when it is not practical for the driver to yield the right of way. Remember this when you step into a crosswalk. If there are lines painted on the roadway, they will not protect you from your bad decision.

Pedestrians cannot be on the roadway to hitch-hike (except in case of an emergency), solicit business or employment from the occupant of a vehicle. Hitch-hiking from the shoulder is permitted, except on freeways.

Having said all of this, we make mistakes, even when we are trying very hard not to. These rules are an effort to minimize mistakes.

When it makes sense, we wear all sorts of protective clothing and use other safety tools. I was never without my yellow jacket with reflective stripes and a flashlight when I worked on the road at night. Just because you can see the driver does not mean that the driver can see you.


Crosswalks may be marked or unmarked, but they always exist at interestions.

Well, not quite. For an unmarked crosswalk to exist, there must be a sidewalk at each end of the unmarked crosswalk, I do believe.

'What's a sidewalk?', you may ask. 

"sidewalk" means the area between the curb lines or lateral lines of a roadway and the adjacent property lines improved for the use of pedestrians;

So it doesn't have to be made of concrete or asphalt, nor does there have to be a curb at the road edge.

Incidentally, this is why sometimes - like when you have a cul-de-sac intersecting an east/west street where there's no sidewalks present - the traffic engineer won't even bother with a stop line at the stop sign.

Drivers and pedestrians must share the responsibility because as you say it's usually the car that wins.

My biggest beef are pedestrians that do not think before stepping on to the road. They just step out without looking or have their faces in their phones or headphones on. This especially so on those dark, rainy nights. How can anyone expect to be seen in the dark wearing black clothing?

A family member drives transport truck up and down the Island. They said it's awful out there, frightening, especially at this time of year as you have people walking along the highway in the dark. And of course they are wearing dark clothing. Imagine how close one might come to being hit by the trailer on a corner if they are walking the line? Add rain to the dark drives and it's just a matter of time before someone is killed.  Supposedly, entering and leaving Duncan is the worst. Lighting on the north end of town would sure help, up to Green Road. But we can't fix all the highways or in-town intersections that are dark.

So, how can this be fixed? Drivers can pay more attention but pedestrians need to wear reflective gear and put the phones away. People don't like to be ruled but if no one listens then must we resort to fines?

>If there are no sidewalks, pedestrians must walk on the left side of the highway, using the shoulder or extreme left side of the roadway.

I had to think about what the heck this means. I guess it means they must walk facing traffic, not in the same direction as adjacent traffic. Which I guess means they can't go down a one-way street unless in the "wrong way" which is the right way for pedestrians. Seems this is not that well thought out or expressed.

... that law probably got written before they ever invented one-way streets, or laned traffic, even.

But the concept is solid, that pedestrians should be facing what's most likely to hit them.

Did you know that during WW2 in the UK, a great number of pedestrians got hit and killed when walking at the side of the road, as a consequence of the blackout?

It was many long years ago that our legislators gave the "Right-of-Way" to pedestrians.  This was a mistake that has caused more injuries and deaths over the years.

A pedestrian is far more agile at staying out of harm's way or dodging a dangerous situation than any vehicle driver. Many pedestrians, particularly recently, do not drive and have no concept of the difficulties to see them or to react to their unpredictable movements.

The suggestions and or rules about pedestrians walking facing oncoming traffic is simply a no-brainer. In the "Before Cell Phone" days, a pedestrian could see an oncoming vehicle far sooner than the driver would see them. If it appeared that they were about to be hit, a pedestrian could move a few feet out of the way far faster than a driver could change direction.

But what has happened?  As the lead post says, we have generated a culture that believes it has the God given right to walk wherever they please with immunity.

BTW - If you think it's hard to dodge them in a car, try it it a fully loaded semi!

There are several videos around showing traffic in other countries, particularly Asia, where pedestrans scoot across being just missed by vehicles. But you don't see pedestrians buried in their cell phones.

I noticed that there was no mention of pedestrians walking on bike paths.

Are these paths like roads where pedestrians must move off them to make way for bikes? What are the rules?

For example, are pedestrians allowed to walk on bike paths and if so, are they supposed to walk facing oncoming bikes, or are they free to walk in any direction?

Similarly, what are the rules for bikers? Are they supposed to ride in the same direction as motor vehicles or are they free to ride in either direction?

Also, what are the rules if pedestrians are walking on a bike path, there are several bikers approaching, and there is no additional space between the path and the drainage ditch? Are they supposed to move out onto the highway or are the bikers supposed to move out?

I raise these questions because I walk 4-5 km every afternoon and like to walk on bike paths, where available, and, although most bikers move out onto the highway, not all of them do!