Yellow Street Stripes, also known as “Cross Walk”

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If a truck is 50 meters away, traveling West at a speed of 40 km per hour, a car is 30 meters away traveling East at 45 kms per hour, and the street is 10 meters wide, how fast do you have to run to make it to the opposite sidewalk unsquashed?

Montrealers implicitly master this kind of calculation at a young age as we learn to navigate our city.

How many times have I been shocked – even embarrassed – when cars quickly braked after I stepped off the sidewalk in Ontario or another province? My first instinct is generally to chastise these drivers for considerably complicating my calculation with their deceleration.

None-the-less, it seems that other parts of the world have devised a system for significantly reducing pedestrian squash-ratios: thick yellow lines painted across the street at intersections signify that cars must adjust their velocity to allow pedestrians right of way.

Several boroughs in Montreal have recently attempted to demystify this system to Montreal drivers. The sign pictured above, observed in the South-West borough, translates the yellow stripes into three locally understood dialects: pictogram, French, and “threat of fine”. Meanwhile, in Ahuntsic-Cartierville small stop signs have been attached to pedestrians as they step into the crosswalk.

Furthermore, this month Projet Montréal sent a letter to Quebec’s minister of Transportation demanding an widespread education campaign about the crosswalk concept.

Montréalité Urbain’s Benoit Gratton recently observed what he describes as a strange phenomenon: a large proportion of drivers were respecting crosswalks downtown, in Verdun and in the Sud-Ouest. He wonders whether this surprising behavior signals a new trend among Montreal drivers.

Have any Spacing readers observations supported such a trend?

23 comments

  1. I live in Pointe-St-Charles (on Wellington, right near a crosswalk) and have noticed drivers slowing down since the yellow pop-up signs were installed in the centre of the street. It certainly increases visibility of the cross-walk itself, and the cops did a bit of enforcement which helps raise awareness. However, an awareness campaign is really needed. Many many drivers (and many pedestrians too) do not know who has the right of way.

  2. The only reason people notice these crosswalks is because crossing guards use them when they happen to be close to a school.

  3. Quand je conduis à Montréal, je m’efforce d’arrêter aux passages pour piétons, mais c’est presque toujours au risque de me faire emboutir par l’automobiliste qui roule derrière moi…

  4. I frequently drive on Angrignon. There are several crosswalks where it passes by Angrignon metro station. I always stop for pedestrians when they want to cross at the cross walk but I cannot tell you how many times I have almost been rear ended by the car behind me. I am sure it will happen one of these days. Also, at least twice, I have had cars behind me change lanes and zoom around me while honking and almost killing the pedestrian I stopped to let cross. It is pure chaos there. Seriously, the crosswalk almost makes things worse since 90% of drivers completely ignore them or are oblivious to them. The police should park themselves there one day. They will make a fortune in tickets.

  5. Being European, this is one of the traffic issues I have most problem with. I have become convinced that a significant number of drivers are willing to kill a child to be home 3 minutes early.

    I cannot explain the incidents I witnessed otherwise: A drivers verbally attacking and insulting a father of 3 kids despite the pedestrians having a green light, not a single car stopping in front of Parc Lafontaine near the playground with multiple small kids waiting to cross (every time I am there!), police watching some of these scences without stepping in – it is incompehensible to me.

    Well, the number of traffic related dead in Quebec speaks volumes.

  6. I’m really angry at the city for not putting together an awareness campaign before actually starting to place those yellow cross-walks. The only sign that was placed near those yellow cross-walks were white signs placed on the sidewalk with a pedestrian and an arrow pointing to the street. Montreal drivers need more than this to notice a change in regulation.

    I am relieved that they are more and more present in montreal, but often, they tend to cause extremely dangerous situations since the majority of Montreal drivers are not aware of their meaning or of the fact that this change was made to the street.

    How many times have I seen a taxi fly by the right side of a car that decided to stop in front of the “Univeristé de Montréal” metro, nearly killing the poor pedestrian? .. too much to remember.

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised last week, though, to cross Pierre-de-Coubertin, a large and intimidating street, to see all drivers stop. So, maybe there is hope and I sure hope the city accepts Projet Montréal’s idea.

  7. LeLutin, I don’t think this is a change in policy…as far as i know, crosswalks have always been here and have always been largely ignored. I apologize if my (admittedly sarcastic) post made it seem otherwise.

  8. Though now in Toronto where crosswalks are understood, I lived in Montreal for over 15 years, and I can say that I have never seen a driver respect a crosswalk. There used to be one in NDG, on Sherbrooke near Oxford, although I don’t think it is there any longer, likely it has withered from existence. On numerous occasions I tried to use it.

    I tried tactics such as extending my arm, stepping into the street and staring at the drivers, waving — at one point even standing stock still in the middle of the road, just to see if any driver understood what to do.  Nothing worked.  In the end it proved far easier to simply jaywalk — which I have to admit is one of the finer pleasures of Montreal living (but I’m young).

    I will also say that as a driver in Montreal I was no better than anyone else. Crosswalks are so rare, and the signage so poor, that coming across one was always a surprise, and encountering a pedestrian trying to use one so bewildering that I can understand the danger.

    A final comment: the crosswalk on Cedar behind the Montreal General needs to be rethought. Strangely, there is a stop sign there — directed at pedestrians! Just turn it 90 degrees and have done with it.

  9. I’m an ex-Montrealer and in Calgary I find *too much* consideration from drivers as a pedestrian. Some stop and wait when I know they would have had time to turn safely.

  10. Completely. I think I may even know who started it…About time, although I don’t long for the plodding civility of say, Victoria in British Columbia. That level of extreme politesse is, well, creepy.

  11. very good post! i like the sarcastic tone and how it highlights a big problem here in montreal (and the mentality behind it):

    let’s just take a look at those comments:

    “je m’efforce d’arrêter aux passages pour piétons, mais c’est presque toujours au risque de me faire emboutir par l’automobiliste qui roule derrière moi…”

    “but I cannot tell you how many times I have almost been rear ended by the car behind me”

    where i grew up (austria), i learned during doing my driver’s permit that you ALWAYS HAVE TO BE ABLE TO STOP IN TIME and not to trust any other traffic participant to keep to the rules.

    so this requires keeping safe distance of the car in front of you (in case it has to emergency-break), looking out for kids jumping into the streets, obstacles which may be in the street and so on.
    this attitude is very simply enforced by making you at fault if you rear-end another car, hit a pedestrian or a cyclist.
    if you collide with such a ‘weaker’ participant, you’re automatically at fault (as at least 50%).
    so, if you don’t take care to be able to stop, you may go to jail (in an extreme case). your assurance may not pay if you’re at fault.
    if you rear-end another vehicle, you’re usually at fault.

    as a result, drivers keep to the rules and as a result, also other participants keep to the rules. pedestrians (or persons’ lifes) are much more respected.

    whereas here in quebec, i read over and over in the papers that there was an ‘deadly accident’, the driver had right-of-way (not easy to disprove if the other one is dead), ‘did not see the victim’ and was aquitted without charges the same day (!)

    it’d just take a change of law in the province, and that would not even cost anything …’

    on another note, i think that drivers are due to give some respect (as in priority) to people using active or collective transport, such as walking or cycling, or 40 passengers in an autobus vs. single-occupant vehicles.

    it’s not painting bicycle shapes on the streets that will make most people start cycling, it is guaranteeing its safety and dignity.

  12. @Necromancer Yes, I was once going for a run in Victoria and approached a crosswalk to get ready to cross the street. A car stopped for me. And they had a green light on a busy 4 lane arterial street. Cars behind slammed on their brakes and one driver swerved dangerously into the other lane to avoid rear ending this stop-on-green maneuver…which is unbelievably dangerous.

    Personally, when traffic is light, I like when cars don’t stop at all. Just time your crossing/jaywalking with the traffic and nobody has to slow down, etc.

    I understand how having cars stop is a good thing, but in places like BC where drivers pretty much always stop for you, I feel arrogant to “ask” drivers to stop for me. And there’s always that uncomfortable few moments when a car is slowing down that you’re thinking, “Is this driver going to stop…or do they not see me?”

    At least in Quebec you know what you’ve got to work with. Nobody stops. Less choice = easier decision making process.

  13. @kyle: i agree about clarity

    there is some problem in where you’re required to stop if a pedestrian ‘intents’ to cross the road at a crosswalk: trying to determine the action of somebody who’s at the very border, talking on their cellphone, is not easy …

    rules must be very clear, and imho favorise the weaker participant (and morally, the one who contributes less to congestion, pollution, danger, etc.)

    and i don’t think finding such clear rules even in a changing society is complicated as rocket science. traffic laws are typically something like 20 years (and the appropriate number of deaths) behind society’s needs.

  14. Both ways work perfectly well; it’s when we mix the two rules that things go wrong. I’d rather teach my kids not to get mad at others who don’t respect the rules, but more to see that although there are rules, not everyone follows them, so you kinda have to make up your own mind about some things. And to look both ways before crossing the street.

    Having grown up in Vancouver, I still get a ridiculous amount of pleasure crossing against a red light or jay-walking in the middle of the street, especially when there’s a cop car right there and they do nothing. Oh, the joys of being “bad” — please don’t take them away from me and start enforcing traffic rules when it seems, for the most part, to work pretty darn well here.

    If you think it would be better if we all respected the letter of the law: a brief google search turned up an article about how Vancouver is the worst city in Canada for pedestrian deaths, so perhaps even in our lawless anarchy we’re somehow doing something right after all.

  15. Montreal cross-walks offer only the illusion, or suggestion, of safety (un apercu de securite). But do not think that pedestrians have things so much better elsewhere in North America. True, drivers in other cities may stop for pedestrians in cross-walks, but one of the reasons that they willingly do this is because it is so rare for them to actually need to!

    The “rolling right-on-red” that out-of-province drivers frequently do here is no less of a threat, and in some ways it is even worse. At least when a car has a red-light in Montreal, it is generally safe to cross the street in front of it. If that car is from Ontario – don’t bet on it.

    Education and enforcement would certainly help in this area. But the police’s idea of improving pedestrian safety is harassing jay-walkers. European attitudes to road safety are far more progressive in this area: even if a driver is completely within the law, that does not exempt them from the responsibility for avoiding an accident. Ever.

  16. I would love one of these signs on the crosswalk i use almost daily..

    I’ve had so many experiences with cars not respecting the crosswalk, some that i’ve heard here by drivers such as cars swerving around a car stopped at a crosswalk for me and nearly being hit. Or a driver slowing down a fair distance from the crosswalk, then as i step off the sidewalk decide to speed up, honk and make obscene gestures.
    I have lived in Montreal my whole life, and it is only on the rare occasion that a car stops at a crosswalk. It feels strange to feel as though i’m risking my life to cross a street, but in true Montreal style, you get the hang of it.

  17. Assuming you are travelling northbound, a consistent speed of run and non-working brakes on the cars, you would need to run an average of approximately 7.5 km/hr in order to avoid getting squashed. On dry asphalt, a car travelling 50 km/hr will require approximately 14m to stop and one travelling 45 km/hr will require 11.4m. The running speed required is not very high (approximately twice that of walking), so you should be safe to jaywalk, even considering slow reaction times on the part of the drivers.

  18. I’ve seen cars basically run down old people, young people, moms with baby carriage and kids in tow, and everyone else who were in the crosswalk long before the dude or dudette in the car came to the crosswalk in their car. I agree that car drivers are out to kill any pedestrians that challenge their arrogant dominance of the street. How dare you make the car driver slow down!

    I like the sign in the photo that identifies a few vague concepts that car drivers ignore, have forgotten about, or just never learned like 1) PRIORITY PEDESTRIANS and 2) the $ amount of the fine, which should be TRIPLED.

    Now, a few words about that other problem, the lack of enforcement by police. Hey Mr new police chief, it’s time to enforce the rights of the pedestrian to safely cross the street. Of course, having seen both police and “public security” (hello TMR) cars ignore pedestrians waiting at crosswalks, I am not optimistic that the men and women we pay to make the streets safe care about doing their job. (of course, I did see them harvest cash via checking all the cars on my street to see if the doors were locked, which certainly reveals to me where their priorities are….)

    Little known Montreal fact: the mayor of Outremont’s mother was killed by a car crossing the street. To her credit she has been improving safety for “active transport” users which I greatly admire. Now. let’s get these signs on every crosswalk, ASAP.

    My favorite ignored crosswalk is on St-Laurent at Bagg (i.e. at the famously ugly Pharmaprix). The Grand Prix de St-Laurent doesn’t even think about slowing down for pedestrians.

    The newspapers should take photos of cars and do Name and Shame of the perps, like some papers once did for cars trolling for hookers.

    And if 100 people want to take over a crosswalk, with signs and repetitive stopping of traffic (a la critical mass, but more polite) to cross the street, be sure to call the papers first to get a photographer and reporter, because this criminal action of montreal car drivers has gone on for far too long.

  19. I agree with GREG. I am willing to stop at crosswalks but every time i try the cars behind and beside me get irritated with me. This in turn reduces their awareness of the cross work and makes it even more dangerous.
    And just image if I do stop and a person does start walking (feeling happy and secure) and than get hit on the next lane …

    I am very torn on how I should be have when I am driving !

  20. FL: how did you arrive at these figures?
    at 50km/h alone reaction time (let’s say 1 second) is 50.000/3600 = 14m.

    according to this link, break distance are 35m for 50km/h and ~30m for 45km/h: http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/speedandspeedcameras/40kmhcbdspeedlimit/

    anyway, the car from the east will arrive at the intersection in 2.5s (assuming no breaking). the reduction in speed from breaking after 1s will not be very high, i.e. the car would still travel relatively fast as deceleration is an exponential curve and not be able to break before reaching the intersection. the truck has much slower breaking, due to its mass

    so, while ignoring that the two vehicles pass on different lanes and not knowing on which side you cross the street, you’d need to pass the street at 15km/h _average_ speed to avoid any collision. since you need to accelerate from 0km/h, any people but trained runners would be squashed (even the world champions take ~2s for the first 10m of their 100m run, not reaching top speed yet)

    i guess that was more a rhetorical question :-)

  21. The Verdun administration is very enlightened when it comes to crosswalk safety. The flashing orange lights at some crosswalks, raised roadway (speed bump), and signs that clearly indicate that the pedestrian has the priority. Along with this, there are the signs indicating a $100 fine for not respecting the priority of the pedestrian at the crosswalks. Toronto goes a step further by having illuminated signs reading “CROSSWALK” suspended over the crosswalks. It’s all about making the crosswalks more visible, educating the drivers, and actually enforcing the law.

  22. In Ontario, contrary to popular belief, while pedestrians have the right of way at school crossings, guard controlled crossings, street light crossings, and any other electronically indicated crossings, the pedestrian DOES NOT have the right of way on the crossings that are not monitored by any means other then simple lines. This is the ONLY province in Canada to allow this. I have no problem stopping for a pedestrian as I would hope a car would stop for me. But pedestrians should be watching for cars the same way we watch for them when we drive, not stepping out and assuming drivers will stop. There are crazy drivers out there who wont, and people are stupid to step out onto the street without looking

    I recently had a call from the police letting me know that a complaint was made because I “almost hit” a man. I had stopped at a cross walk (a MALL crosswalk, where charges cannot be made), the man walked by, and I slowly let off the brake and began on my way. Apparently, not waiting for him to be behind my car and walking away was not good enough. Start educating pedestrians on when they have the right of way, as I called this officer back the next day and had him call the man back to inform him of his rights as a pedestrian. The officer sided with me and thought it was a ridiculous call. 

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