City increasing pedestrian safety

Arianna Paquette

Pedestrian crossovers are a new sight at many Ottawa intersections, and you can expect to see more of them dotting city intersections by 2018.

The bright and flashing lights surrounding the “Yield to Pedestrian” signs at all crossovers alert drivers of a pedestrian’s intention to cross.

Crossovers were introduced to Centretown streets in June 2016 as part of the City of Ottawa’s ongoing project to make Ottawa a more pedestrian-friendly city. There are 59 crossovers so far, with 60 more expected to be added by 2018.

Crossovers are unlike crosswalks because they are placed at low- to medium-traffic areas with fewer intersections. They require cars to yield to pedestrians to make it easier for them to cross longer stretches of road.

Some crossovers even have a button for pedestrians to push that will cause flashing lights to go off, alerting drivers that a pedestrian wants to cross.

On Dec. 22, the city added new crossovers along Queen Elizabeth Drive near the Bank Street Bridge at Lansdowne Park and near Commissioners Park.

Jen Powroz, a media spokesperson from Infrastructure Canada, wrote that the new crossovers were identified and added “based on a local need and given priority for funding.”

Under the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, municipalities prioritize a list of projects and submit them to their respective province or territory. The provinces and territories then prioritize projects overall and submit them to Infrastructure Canada for consideration.

The city also undertook several precautions to improve the sightlines of the Queen Elizabeth crossover near Lansdowne, including adding a sign with flashing lights, adopting a reduced speed limit near the crossover and slightly raising the pedestrian crossing lane.

The additions were part of the City of Ottawa’s campaign to increase pedestrian safety.

The biggest obstacle facing pedestrians is the amount of time they have to cross the road, said John Woodhouse, a member of the pedestrian awareness group Walk Ottawa.

He said that the crossovers introduce a “curb to curb” rule, where cars must wait for a pedestrian to be out of the crossover and onto the curb before continuing to drive.

“I have a crossover right near my house that I use, and it is very strictly enforced. I’m in a wheelchair, so I’m quite distinguishable when I’m at the curb, waiting to cross,” said Woodhouse. “The crossovers are helpful because cars actually have to stop for pedestrians, and wait for them to get to the other side of the road.”

The penalties for failing to obey a crossover are severe: three demerits on your driving record, and a fine of up to $500 for drivers and cyclists alike for failing to yield.

Drivers and pedestrians are encouraged to understand their roles at crossovers. “Continual collaboration with the MTO will continue to ensure that both pedestrians and drivers are aware that it is their responsibilities to obey the crossovers,” said Phil Landry, the director of traffic services at the City of Ottawa.

The area along Queen Elizabeth Drive will be a busy tourist hub, especially now that the canal is open for skating. The usual number of 19,000 daily canal visitors is expected to increase significantly this year due to Ottawa’s 150th anniversary celebrations.