Poor design of Elmira crosswalk has councillor worried about school crossing

A new-format crosswalk on Church Street West in Elmira, designed largely for students crossing the road to get to the new Riverside Public School, is an accident waiting to happen, suggests a Woolwich councillor.

Mark Bauman questions the design of the crosswalk, which has no flashing light, wondering if drivers are even aware of new rules regarding crosswalks in Ontario that took effect this year.

“What brought it to a head is [council was] talking about the region not even doing pedestrian counts to understand how many school kids would be crossing at this intersection. The school crossing guard was having trouble with people ignoring her when she even walked across with her sign up,” Bauman said.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation states as of Jan. 1, drivers – including cyclists – must stop and yield the whole roadway at pedestrian crossovers, school crossings and other locations where there is a crossing guard. Pedestrians must be out of the road completely, not just the driver’s side of the road. This does not apply to pedestrian crosswalks at intersections with stop signs or traffic signals, unless a school crossing guard is present.

He says they’re “begging to have accidents” with just a small sign with a black hexagon indicating drivers must stop for pedestrians.

“My concern is you can’t read the sign until you’re pretty much in the intersection,” Bauman said.

He’s waiting to hear back from regional police whether the sign is a regulatory sign, like a stop sign or a yield sign. It’s unclear who would be at fault if a pedestrian was hit in the crosswalk.

“That’s ultimately the question that needs to be asked,” Bauman said.

MTO media liaison Bob Nichols attempted to clarify the new rules for pedestrian crossings in an email. Pedestrian crossings are divided into controlled and uncontrolled crossings under the Highway Traffic Act.

A controlled crossing is one where vehicles are legally required to stop and pedestrians have the right-of-way. Controlled crossings include traffic signals, stop and yield control, pedestrian crossovers and school crossings when in the presence of a crossing guard. An uncontrolled crossing is one where pedestrians cross without traffic control measures.

At an uncontrolled crossing, pedestrians and drivers both have a responsibility.  Pedestrians must not attempt to cross unless there is a safe gap in traffic and drivers must also have control of their vehicles and due concern for the safety of all road users, including pedestrians.

“Any time there’s confusion between what a pedestrian and a vehicle is supposed to do or may or may not do it doesn’t end well. And you know who loses,” Bauman said.

He’d like to see a flashing amber light, like at the pair of crossings on Arthur Street in downtown Elmira, that grabs your attention and makes it clear someone is about to or already crossing.

“One of my other pet peeves with the region is if it’s not explained well why they put up another sign. You see so much stuff that you almost glaze over it and don’t see any of it,” Bauman said.

He says the design is “atrocious” and worries the tall grass and trees could obscure a driver’s vision of someone crossing.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen. It’s just a matter of when you’re going to put that story in the paper that someone got hit by a car at that crosswalk,” Bauman said.

While the region plans to remove some of the landscaping that impairs drivers’ sightlines, flashing lights aren’t on the agenda, noted Mayor Sandy Shantz during a discussion last week at Woolwich council.

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