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New roundabout rules look to boost pedestrian safety

Crossing a roundabout, and other intersections, in the Region of Waterloo is about to become a little bit safer for pedestrians.

After working with the province’s Ministry of Transportation for nearly a decade, changes have been made to the Highway Traffic Act, says the region’s manager for transportation engineering, Bob Henderson.

“It has been a long time coming,” he said. “We are excited to get these new signs and devices installed as soon as possible.”

The changes were made official in the Highway Traffic Act on Jan. 1 of this year, but the installations of new signs and new speed limits won’t be in place until the fall, he said. It is a matter of money and education.

“We have to get funding in place. The ministry sort of surprised us with the changes to the Highway Traffic Act. We were anticipating it maybe a little bit later, but it came up sooner which is actually good,” he said. “But, we have to get funding in place, and we need time to educate the public about the changes, so we are planning on doing some education before we refit the roundabouts. We are trying to get the pamphlets out as soon as possible, but right now, it is looking like July.”

The changes include new pedestrian crossing signs, reduced speed limits approaching roundabouts and increased penalties for failing to obey the signage.

“The signs will change from our 45 cm by 45 cm yield to pedestrians signs, to a 75 cm by 60 cm rectangular, larger sign. It will be white with a pedestrian symbol on there, and it will have a tab underneath that will say, ‘Stop For Pedestrians,’” said Henderson. “You could say that the signs will be bigger, so they might be a bit more predominant and prevalent to a driver, however, there are now fines associated with disobeying these signs as well. They are enforceable. Drivers if they don’t yield to a pedestrian could be subject to a fine of up to $500, and three demerit points. Under the level 2 pedestrian crossing legislation, in order to legally implement these devices, the speed limit approaching the roundabout has to be 60 km/h or less.”

There isn’t a set plan for which roundabouts or intersections will be getting the new signs and speed limits quite yet, but the work will start in the fall.

“We are leaving that up to the field staff, to determine some kind of schedule and to see where they go. We haven’t given any priority to any locations in the region at this time,” said Henderson.

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