Special Report: Walkable Streets

Making Ontario's Roads Safer Act Passes

The Ontario Government has passed a new law that provides additional protection to vulnerable road users and beefs up penalties for distracted and impaired driving.

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 02, 2015

this article has been updated

The Ontario Government has passed a new law that provides additional protection to vulnerable road users and beefs up penalties for distracted and impaired driving.

The newly passed Bill 31, also called the Making Ontario's Roads Safer Act, makes several important changes to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.

Walking

Cycling

Driving


Update: this article originally stated that distracted driving would receive a "300day" licence suspension, a fat-finger typo that should read "30-day". RTH regrets the error. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

Update 2: updated to add a link to the text of the new legislation. You can jump to the changed paragraph.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus and HuffPost. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 16:21:37

Some good stuff here!

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By Kevo15 (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 18:06:26

The one thing I'm not entirely clear on is the lights rule. My bike always has reflectors, but if I'm riding during light hours I don't attach my lights.

Does the new law mean lights have to be attached all the time now (not necessarily on)?

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By Moniz (registered) - website | Posted June 03, 2015 at 06:17:02 in reply to Comment 111935

As far as I understand it, no. The stipulation is still that they are required if riding up to a half hour before sunset or after sunrise (and of course during the night) or when atmospheric conditions make it difficult for other vehicles to see you from 150 metres.

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By Johnny Hamont (anonymous) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 18:41:38

What would "unrestricted provincial highway" mean exactly, like including Hamilton examples?

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By matthewsweet (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 21:38:07 in reply to Comment 111936

A "restricted" provincial highway is a 400 series freeway or a highway like #11 near Orillia that has ramps and is divided. #6 from the 403 up to #5 is a good example too. The type where there are signs up that indicate no pedestrians or cyclists allowed. "Unrestricted" highways would include #6 north of #5, a highway that has side street stop sign access, traffic signals etc, and on these types of highways shoulders can now be paved and designated as cyclist operating areas legally.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 02, 2015 at 23:15:25 in reply to Comment 111937

I recall seeing this in Oregon a couple of years ago.

Wide, paved shoulders on a country highway connecting Portland to the Coast. Bike symbols and signs lined the side of the highway. They even had this button cyclists pushed before entering a narrow tunnel that caused the yellow sign in the background with 2 lights to flash and warn drivers that a cyclist was in the tunnel and to not pass them.

Here it seems most of our rural highways have gravel shoulders. Paving them would go a long way to encouraging country-side cycling.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 09:19:35

If I am reading it correctly, the new legislation removes the defined crosswalk (whether marked or unmarked) from all intersections not otherwise controlled by traffic lights. Which is a majority of intersections in Hamilton.

This has to be seen as a strong negative factor.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted June 03, 2015 at 22:03:13

I see that the City of Hamilton has done its part by passing a by-law defining a crosswalk to exist at unmarked intersections. From the link:

(h) "crosswalk" means:

(i) that part of a highway at an intersection that is included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway; or,

(ii) any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface;

Comment edited by KevinLove on 2015-06-03 22:03:22

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By concerned (anonymous) | Posted August 28, 2015 at 14:41:58

I see this causing traffic congestion at large intersections with 4 or more lanes. I am also curious as to why the responsibility and fines are primarily geared to motorists. Pedestrians and cyclists should have fines and accountability enforced as well. I see cyclist and pedestrians often crossing unlawfully through traffic, weaving in and out through traffic jams, passing stopped cars, travelling towards oncoming traffic, etc. This is dangerous behaviour but nothing seems to be done about it. If it came down to an accident based on these foolish behaviours who should be at fault.

Yes motorists should be more careful, no arguuing that. Cyclist and pedestrians should be more aware and careful too.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted August 31, 2015 at 19:13:00 in reply to Comment 113694

The obvious reason is that motorists have far more ability to cause harm to others than pedestrians, and the fact that thousands of Canadians are killed and tens of thousands are seriously injured by motorists each year should make this obvious. Almost no one is killed or seriously injured by pedestrians and cyclists (almost all cyclists deaths and serious injuries are due to collisions with vehicles).

Pedestrians and cyclists are especially vulnerable as they are completely unprotected.

Allowing motorists to proceed while pedestrians are still in the crosswalk is dangerous as it encourage motorists to take chances by approaching pedestrians too closely. Having stopped cars is also a clear signal to other motorists that a pedestrian is crossing and they need to slow down and yield.

And, of course, cyclists and pedestrians can and are ticketed by police for unsafe behaviour.

But they just are not as dangerous as motorists and they are far more vulnerable which is why motorists are more strictly regulated.

These recommendations are the direct result of recent Coroners recommendations on pedestrian and cycling injuries and deaths.

p.s. It is completely legal for cyclists to overtake slow moving vehicles on the right provided there is sufficient space. Some motorists seem to feel that cyclists should never be allowed to overtake a car (either on the right or left)!

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-08-31 19:17:02

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By Cultosaurus (registered) | Posted August 31, 2015 at 17:55:51 in reply to Comment 113694

Because statistically speaking motorists are more often at fault, also it is easier to enforce.

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By Brampton (anonymous) | Posted August 31, 2015 at 10:50:36

This change is going to cause traffic chaos, most particularly involving right or left turning vehicles, if pedestrians are not educated regarding the use of controlled crossings, and the laws regarding entering the crossover once the flashing hand or countdown timer has commenced.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 02, 2015 at 08:44:37 in reply to Comment 113715

gasp Cars might actually have to wait before turning instead of just nudging pedestrians in the shins to move them along?? Insanity

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 01, 2015 at 16:12:23 in reply to Comment 113715

omg chaos

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By highwater (registered) | Posted September 02, 2015 at 09:52:13 in reply to Comment 113731

Sure, it'll save a few lives, but millions will be late!

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By Vas (anonymous) | Posted September 01, 2015 at 14:26:07 in reply to Comment 113715

Not educated. If the decision is to fine the drivers then it makes sense to fine pedestrians starting to cross while on red or flashing lights with the same amount. We either educate both or fine both.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted September 01, 2015 at 14:58:44 in reply to Comment 113727

We either educate both or fine both.

I see: 'cause walking and driving are the same.

So ... shall we having walking insurance in case we bump into someone and put them in the hospital or destroy their shoes? We will have a licensing regime for walkers? Because, as you point out, walking is just like driving.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 01, 2015 at 14:35:14 in reply to Comment 113727

These are only similar in that they are both laws. In one, the driver is risking the life of another person, while in the other, the pedestrian is risking no lives but their own.

Drivers face a stricter roadway because they're the ones who chose to bring a high-speed 2000-lb machine into it.

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By Crispy (registered) | Posted September 01, 2015 at 15:52:38 in reply to Comment 113728

I disagree. A pedestrian crossing illegally is risking his own life, and the life of a driver who could swerve to avoid a collision, and run into another pedestrian, cyclist or another vehicle.

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 01, 2015 at 16:36:57 in reply to Comment 113730

Theoretically, yes, in practice, no.

There is a big difference between something that is technically possible and something that is a significant risk.

Can you come up with even a single Canadian example of an illegally crossing pedestrian who caused a motorist to be killed?

There are hundreds of examples of motorists killing pedestrians, several each year here in Hamilton. And many, many, examples of motorists killing legally crossing pedestrians in crosswalks and having to pay just a $500 penalty:

https://raisethehammer.org/article/1809/...

Another point is that most motorists are unaware that they are legally required to yield to crossing pedestrians even at unsignalzed intersections (i.e. where there is no stop sign or traffic light for the crossing pedestrian).

https://raisethehammer.org/article/1939/...

But try exercising this right anywhere in Hamilton ... almost no drivers will yield and many probably believe that the pedestrian is crossing illegally.

Again, pedestrians should cross legally and safely and can and are ticketed by police for not doing so.

But, as others have pointed out, overall the risks posed by pedestrians to others (and even themselves) are insignificant compared to the risked posed by motorists. That is why the regulations and sanctions should be much more stringent for drivers.

Comment edited by kevlahan on 2015-09-01 16:41:08

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By kevlahan (registered) | Posted September 01, 2015 at 17:07:34 in reply to Comment 113732

Just to drive home the point about the relative risks, in 2013 300 pedestrians and 62 cyclists were killed in Canada. That represents 18.8% of all road deaths.

https://www.tc.gc.ca/media/documents/roa...

This is a very significant risk, compared with the risk caused by pedestrians to motorists.

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