Red Means Stop, but not Always Stay

Red Traffic SignalThere is a mid-block pedestrian controlled light in our neighborhood and drivers frequently proceed through it after stopping if no one is in the cross walk. Is this legal?

Ask most drivers in B.C. and they will tell you that when you are facing a red traffic light, you must stop and stay stopped until the light turns green. The exception that may be raised is when you are making a permitted left or right turn and have come to a complete stop first and yielded as necessary.

This is correct if the traffic signal is at an intersection. Section 129(1) MVA says that a driver will stop and remain stopped until the traffic signal instructs the driver to proceed. There are two parts to the rule, stopping and remaining stopped until instructed otherwise. Here in B.C., that instruction would have to be a green signal.

Section 129(5) MVA covers a red light exhibited at a place other than an intersection. In this special case, the driver must stop and a pedestrian may proceed across the highway. There is only one part to this rule, and that is the stop. Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red.

I agree, this seems contrary to what we usually practice and is not mentioned in Learn to Drive Smart or Learn to Ride Smart. None the less, if done with care, this is legal and can save time and fuel by reducing the wait. It is also safe because it is not at an intersection and there is no vehicular cross traffic to interfere with.

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Submitted by E-Mail

You quote Section 129(5) MVA pertaining to stopping at a red light that controls a pedestrian crosswalk. The one in question is at Comox Avenue and Rodello Street and services not only the hospital but an elementary school up the hill. My concern is that because most of us stop at red lights and expect other drivers to as well, that pedestrians trying to make the walk light will get hit by either this person or another reading this article when they carry on through the intersection thinking it is still clear. I have read section 129(5) in particular and it does not state that you can proceed even thought the light is still red. The crosswalk in my neighbourhood is on a corner and not mid-block, so I don't know if this makes it a bit different. In any case, it makes me very worried for anyone trying to "catch" the light in the future.

The Word "Intersection" is Critical to This

As you can see from the Google street view below, the place that the person making the comment is talking about is at an intersection. I've gone back to the article above and highlighted the text that explains that this can only occur where the traffic signal is NOT at an intersection. At this intersection drivers must stop and remain stopped for the duration of the red light unless they intend to turn right, in which case they must stop, yield and then proceed only if it is safe to do so.

what about 2 red lights?

On king st,and cranbrook st,  When heading south on king st,approching cranbrook st,,you are faced with 2 lights, and 2 lanes. The first light,is at the railway crossing,(with arms and flashing lights,if there were a train) then there are 2 tracks to cross,Left lane can turn left,or go stright,after the tracks,at the 2nd light,(with room for 2 cars,from the 2nd light back to the tracks,,the 3rd car,if it were to follow,would be partially on the tracks) The right lane,can fit 2 cars as well,but also has an island,with a right turn lane,So it spits to 3 lanes after the tracks.the right turn lane has a yield sign,

I had the driver Examiner from town here,in my taxi,and I was in the right lane.As me and the car in the left lane beside me,both just missing the green light,stopped at the first light,I looked both ways,no train comming,so I proceded to the 2nd red light and stopped.He could,nt answer me if I could get a ticket for not waiting till the first light had changed to green,before I proceeded to the second red light.He said no one had recived one yet,so we will have to see what would happen in court,if someone got one and fought it.

In heavier traffic,2 cars,moving up(after stopping) frees up the 3rd car to turn right. so better flow of traffic.

So is this legal,to proceed through the first red,after comming to a stop,and Obviouslly if there is no train comming?

With one caveat

"Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red."

Non-intersection pedestrian controlled lights are typically marked as crosswalks. The one caveat to proceeding on a red light at a pedestrian controlled light is that the driver does not overtake another car that is slowing down for or stopped at the crosswalk of the light.

What about 2 red lights

It appears you are talking about Kings Street and Hwy 95 (at some locations called "Cranbrook Street").  From Google Maps it appears you are talking about travelling South bound on King.  Unless there are new lights, (Street View indicates in their photo's taken Oct 2018), the first set of lights are railway crossing lights and Street view does not show additional traffic lights.

None the less, the law is basically the same, although a different MVA section, this time Sec 185(6). After stopping at railway crossing lights one may proceed if he/she can do so safely.

The circumstance as you described was present on Clement Street in Kelowna. (the tracks has since been taken out)  A railway line crossed Clement a short distance before an intersection controled by a traffic light.  Where the railway crossed Clement there was a traffic signal that activated to match the traffic signal at the intersection (I think it was Gordon) 100 or so feet further on.  In that case the signal at the railway crossing, was a regular traffic signal.  After stopping, since it wasn't at an intersection of two highways, a vehicle could proceed through the red light when safe.

Is there a definition ...

... of what constitutes a red light AT an intersection?

The situation on Comox here, near the hospital, deserves consideration, in this respect. Because there is an adjacent cross street. So although proceeding 'against' that red light once all is clear is sensible, so long as the pedestrians have completed their crossings, and there is no potentially conflicting traffic on Rodello is clearly a safe action.

But I think my5cents might want to clarify his statement, in this respect, as I don't think that Section 185 was written with this situation of a flashing green light / amber / solid red (sequentially) was designed with this typically pedestrian control in effect. 

None the less, if there's a mid-block red light and a stop line, you must stop there. But once you've given right of way to crossing pedestrians,  bicycles, whatever, you can then drive through that red light. Why not? If you think about it.

People need to realize, traffic laws are designed both to prevent collisions with other road users AND to keep everything moving as efficiently as possible.

As an aside, I think that drivers turning right on a red, without any attempt to actually stop and look and think about all the possible conflicts - real or pending - should be clobbered by waiting police enforcement, on a regular basis.  But this does not happen and it will not happen, unless the practical policing of our roadways once again becomes a priority in society.

And sorry, I also just took this subject off topic.

Is there a definition...

The Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) does define an "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;

Section 185 pertains to Railway Crossings.

Perhaps there is some confusion as to when a vehicle can drive through a red light after stopping and yielding.  The criteria is "When a red light is exhibited at a place other than an intersection by a traffic control signal

The criteria does not involve a pedestrian activated signal it involves a signal not at an intersection.

As for Rodello St, and I gather Comox Ave in Comox.  Comox is an East/West through street, controlled at the intersection of Rodello St. by traffic lights.  Rodello St. is a side street controled by stop signs.  Rodello is offset by about 50 feet at this location forming two "T" intersections with Comox Ave.  The two streets intersection at a 90° angle.

Although this is an offset intersection, it is never the less is two intersections as defined by the MVA.  At these intersections there are basically two locations at which a vehicle must stop, in each direction.  Travelling in either direction, East or West bound a vehicle first arrives at a marked stop line.  If, on a yellow light a driver can't safely stop before that marked stop line it is not an offense to continue, however facing the same light, 50 feet along is a marked crosswalk at the second intersection of Rodello Street, where the vehicle would have to stop.

If a vehicle does stop at the marked stop line, and since this is a "T" intersection to the left, and Rodello Street is a two way street and there is no continuation of Rodello to the right (Rodello continues to the right about 50' further along), a vehicle must stop and remain so until a green light is exhibited.  (you can't turn left on a red light unless the street being turn onto is a one way)

Section 129 (5) doesn't apply because it is an intersection. 

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