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Toronto wages its own, different battle in the car wars

May 7th, 2009 · 12 Comments

Here, we’re all in an uproar about the Burrard Bridge. In Toronto, they’re all in an uproar about that council’s latest move to protect pedestrians — banning turns on red lights at certain intersections, as the Star has been reporting at length in the last few days.

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  • Mark A

    I wonder if this debate will come to Vancouver eventually.

    As someone coming to Canada from England, where a red light means “stop”, period, I quickly appreciated the logic of the right-turn-on-red rule. If everyone behaves well, it should result in a smoother flow of traffic – and for the most part drivers in Vancouver seem to behave well, actually they are a lot more pedestrian friendly than I became used to growing up in London.

    But… I’ve been here 8 years and increasingly I’ve seen exactly the same thing many of the commenters on the Star site mention – that drivers intending to turn right on red act like the pedestrian crosswalk is not there. There are some intersections – for example the northern corners of Burrard & Broadway, where you are literally taking your life in your hands if you step into the crosswalk on your “white man” without double checking for idiots in the right turn lane.

  • Darcy McGee

    It’s a sad and tragic day when Toronto’s cycling strategy outdoes this city’s. T-dot has a sprawl issue that we can’t even being to imagine, and gridlock that makes Vancouver look like like traffic flies.

    I actually know of the city council’s cycling advocates there though, and he’s a great guy. Rides to work year round…including Christmas time.

  • Darcy McGee

    Mark, I keep wondering when a Stop sign in Vancouver is actually going to mean Stop as well.

  • Len B

    Montreal banned all turns on red-alone for years, and is now experimenting with relaxing those rules.

    I find it somewhat amusing that what some think is a solution here, is turning out to be old and outdated elsewhere.

    So who’s right?

  • Bill Lee

    Headline in a city newspaper
    City to unveil master plan after call for more crosswalk safety

    and which city, not here in Vanslashcouver.

    ” A couple of women used walkers to cross Aurora Avenue North at North 130th Street. Three others had motorized wheelchairs. Several protesters were in their 70s.
    It wasn’t a typical demonstration, but the issue of pedestrian safety spans age brackets.
    “I sure as hell wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve gone through,” said Brandy Sebron-Kelley, 69, who was among the demonstrators last month. “I’m in more pain than I ever imagined I’d be in.”
    …. Sebron-Kelley was one of 468 pedestrians hit by motor vehicles in Seattle last year — in her case, last November at 130th and Linden Avenue North. She said a car turning right didn’t see her and the accident has caused months of pain.
    “People just need to be more aware of pedestrians,” she said. “We don’t have bumpers.” ”
    from http://www.seattlepi.com/local/405919_safety06.html

    and that city’s Pedestrian Safety plan
    http://www.seattle.gov/Transportation/ped_masterplan.htm

    Where they don’t close off one side a 1930s bridge to pedestrians it was designed for.

    Now if only all the cities in the Wet Coast mandated wide awnings (I think the Bay style is best, but the Lee building arcades are a good second choice like the Italian city of Bologna).

  • When I was in New Zealand, I was intrigued to discover that at some major intersections, the traffic lights stop cars in ALL directions…allowing pedestrians to cross east-west, north-south and even on the diagonal. They are sometimes referred to as ‘barn dances’.

    I wrote about this in my Vancouver Sun column, only to be told that at one time, some major Vancouver intersections were managed in the same way. However, changes were made since they slowed down the traffic.

    HELLO!!!

    As we rethink the focus from vehicles to cyclists and pedestrians, I agree it may be a good time to rethink how pedestrians and vehicles interact at major intersections in our city.

    And while we are at it….perhaps we should also consider whether to flash an ‘orange light’ along with the red light, when the traffic signal is about to turn green. This could serve as a notice to all motorists who are checking their email while the light is red, that it is time to get ready to start moving!

    This traffic signal pattern is used in many other cities and countries around the world, and could be a real benefit to Vancouver. If you don’t believe me, just watch how many people are checking their palms and blackberries at the red lights, and just how much time it does take for traffic to start moving after the lights change.

    Yes, I know, we could also ban the use of palms and blackberries by motorists, but I’m not quite ready for that!

  • Oh yes, and another thing…I would like to see us adopt another traffic convention popular in UK and other countries, namely the ‘box’ in the middle of an intersection, into which a motorist never ventures, unless he/she is absolutely certain they can get out of it before the lights change.

    There is a very significant fine payable if you violate this rule…because it has a serious affect on traffic flow.

    Again, just watch Vancouver intersections to see how often some careless, thoughtless person tries to get through an intersection before the light changes, only to end up blocking traffic in the other direction.

  • Not Running for Mayor

    Most alert drivers (not on the crackberries) already know when the red light is about to change, it’s called watching the flashing hand stop flashing, or you can watch the opposite light turn orange.

  • I have seen the diagonal crosswalk concept in Fredricton and Tokyo as well. In Tokyo, given the sheer number of pedestrians, it is likely the best option. I am sure Vancouver has a handful of intersections where this could work, though unfortunately the busiest intersections downtown happen to be on a major highway as well.

  • Stephanie

    They used to have those diagonal crosswalks in Saskatoon – don’t know if they still do. Called them “scatter corners”. Scared the living hell out of me the first time I saw people go barrelling into the intersection.

    As a pedestrian, though, my biggest problem isn’t people making unsafe right-hand turns on the red – usually they’re stopped, and you can see that they’re only looking left, and you can yell at them – it’s people making unsafe right-hand turns on the green, into the crosswalk where pedestrians have the right of way. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve almost been creamed by some idiot who wants to make the quick right as soon as the light changes.

  • Bill Lee

    Multicrossings, besides the late and fabled Portage and Main in Winterpeg, were Georgia and Granville, and Granville and Hastings
    despite streetcar turnings

    I seem to remember Granville and Broadway but would have to go through the VPL or city archives archival photos to check.

    How many cars enter downtown and stay the day, that is not transitting through downtown? How feasible, as we may find out from January to March 2011, is it to block all cars from
    downtown?

    Could Diane Watts take all the towers out to Surrey Central when she is mayor of Metro?

  • Not running for mayor

    There is a plan to introduce a scatter crossing at Granville and Robson as part of the Granville St redesign. And it makes sense there as car traffic isn’t too bad, if they tried it at Burrard and Georgia though it probably wouldn’t work nearly as well.