The Toronto Star today published an article on the front page, with the all-caps headline above the fold, “JAYWALKING CITY“.

In the article, the reporter stood on Yonge St. north of Front during lunch hour and watched people cross in the middle of the block. The reporter then wrote that this behaviour was illegal, and said as much to some of the pedestrians. The gist of the article was about all these pedestrians behaving illegally, and relating it to the rash of recent pedestrian deaths in the city.

One problem: Crossing mid-block is NOT illegal.

The reporter had the law wrong, and the basis of this story is false.

It is perfectly legal to cross the street mid-block in Toronto. The law says you can do it as long as you don’t interfere with traffic, and you’re not right beside a crosswalk.

Since there are lights at either end of that block, I’m guessing that there were plenty of gaps in traffic that the walkers used to cross safely. Furthermore, traffic in this area is dense and slow, which also makes it easy to cross without interfering with traffic. No doubt a few of these pedestrians forced cars to slow or stop to avoid hitting them — those few were indeed in breach of the bylaw. But the vast majority of pedestrians who cross mid-block wait for a gap, for the simple necessity of self-preservation.

The cutesy “info-graphic” that accompanied the story showed just how far off base the story was in its assumptions. Two of the four species of “illegal jaywalkers” described, the “peacock” and the “chicken”, are in fact crossing completely legally by waiting for a gap. The other two, the inattentive and the speedsters, aren’t necessarily illegal — it would depend on circumstances.

The reporter could have found out the real law easily. They could have called Toronto Police; they could have talked to the Star‘s resident urbanist, Christopher Hume, who actually understands pedestrian issues; they could have talked to one of the five other Star reporters who have called me in the past two weeks and written good stories about pedestrian deaths; they could have called me, or any other pedestrian activist; they could have looked it up online; they could have talked to a lawyer. Instead, the Star put an article on the front page with no research, based on false assumptions, and disseminating a false interpretation of the law across Toronto.

It gets worse, though. The location where the reporter stood is right downtown — an area where there are tons of pedestrians, and no recent fatalities (as shown in the Star‘s own map). One of the reasons there are no recent fatalities is, specifically, because there are so many pedestrians that drivers drive carefully and know to watch for them.

Of course, the large number of pedestrians makes for an easy story for the reporter. The fact it’s conveniently only a few blocks north of the Star‘s offices might have helped too. Why not instead go to an intersection where a pedestrian actually got killed? You wouldn’t have to go far – Broadview and Danforth, for example. And then maybe look at driver’s behaviour as well as pedestrians.

The worst thing is, stories like this are actually dangerous to pedestrians. They reinforce drivers’ perceptions — as expressed on radio talk shows and the comments section of the Star and Globe, among many other places — that it’s all pedestrians’ fault and that drivers have no need to examine their own behaviour. So drivers do not look at what they can do to drive more safely. But drivers DO need to examine their own behaviour. Many of the recent deaths were the result of driving inattentively or dangerously and hitting pedestrians crossing on a green light.

I’ve often heard people say that the difference between traditional media and blogs is that traditional media have the resources to do in-depth research. So what to make of Canada’s largest newspaper splashing an incorrect and unresearched story on its front page?

I think it’s important not to let the Star get away with this irresponsible laziness. You can write a letter to the editor at Fortunately, the Star is also one of the few newspapers with a public editor. Please write to the public editor too at: to complain about this inaccurate and misleading story.


  1. Dylan Reid, good call! I mentioned this in a comment on: ‘TORONTO STAR ALL CAPS FAIL’.

    Do you think we can get a retraction? Maybe Christopher Hume should write about the idiocy of this incorrect, and uninformed, way of writing on urban issues. The Star is supposed to be the paper with a clue on urban issues, despite the neanderthal ‘Wheels’ section. Just how lazy does a writer and editor have to be?

  2. If I am stopped by police for “jaywalking” (which seems likley), what portion of legislation should I refer to? Highway Traffic Act? Which section?

  3. I sent this letter, with hyperlinks to the articles:

    “Please note that the article pointing the finger at pedestrians for being the authors of their own demise not only reinforces a widespread attitude among Toronto drivers that pedestrians are an obstacle, and ‘in the way’, but that the writer of the article is completely incorrect about the law. That the author and editors allow such inaccurate and inflammatory comments into The Star does far more harm to the livability of the city than the good the inestimable Christopher Hume does with his articles: drivers will have their poor driving habits reinforced by the article.

    Spacing Magazine’s blog has pointed out the poor reporting. Perhaps you should let someone from there edit your retraction. I would prefer to see Christopher Hume point out, in The Star, the article’s inaccuracies to its author.”

  4. Brad: Thanks, knowing the specific portion of legislation that defines what jay-walking is and isn’t would be quite helpful.

    I may have missed a post that states what these damned jay-walkers are being ticketed with.

    Suppose we could also ask the officer to specifically cite the law that was seemingly broken to initiate the ticket. Presumably they would know or have access to this information. Whether they’d share it with someone ‘giving them lip’ is another matter.

  5. I agree with your wise comments and I would like add some suggestions.

    Many of the accidents happen on intersections when cars make a left or right turn. Although cars should yield to pedestrians and slow down before they make a turn ,they do not always do so.

    In the current situation many cars do the opposite. They speed up before they turn in order to be able to make it on time before the coming traffic ,and they do not look to the other direction to pay notice to potential pedestrians.

    The best solution is to decide that when pedestrians have a green light, cars will have a red light, as it is the case in Europe, where the rate of pedestrians causalities is much lower than Canada.

    This can be implemented easily at least in intersections with a traffic control signal showing a circular flashing green indication or a solid or flashing left turn green arrow. In these intersections pedestrians can have an exclusive green light and cars on the left lane will have to wait in a new red light for their turn.

    In this way pedestrians will feel much more secure when they cross the street while they do not have to weary from fast cars trying to make a quick left turn.

    In other intersections the law can also be changed and cars will have to come to a complete stop before they turn left or right. Furthermore I would suggest to make it unlawful to turn when pedestrians are starting to cross the road . There are cars who try to make a risky turn just before them.

    These proposed changes might slow traffic a bit but they will save many lives and might reduce not only pedestrians accidents but also cars accidents.

    I appreciate your concern

  6. It is not even just the reporter. To have this make it to the front page, the editor must have allowed it too.

  7. Excellent point! A weak Star story that ignores the context and divides Torontonians. More fuel to add to my suspicion that the Star is creeping toward an anti-downtown, pro-905 bias to attract more readership for a flagging print product via the confirmation bias (people like to read stuff that confirms their stereotypes). Of course my own bias is that people who drive cars from the 905 into downtown are in too big of a hurry to think very hard about facts.

  8. Dear Editor,

    I have enjoyed reading Mr. Hume’s columns lately about pedestrian deaths and his stance that the environment as well as pedestrians and drivers need to be careful. But, perhaps you can help me disabuse Noor Javed of his belief that jaywalking is illegal (there is no email for Mr. Javed listed). In todays’s Star Online:–is-jaywalking-part-of-toronto-s-culture#article

    Articles on pedestrian deaths are full of commentors laying blame at the feet (pun intended) of pedestrians. Almost all who mention jaywalking incorrectly seem to think it is illegal. In fact, jaywalking is legal in Ontario:

    Cars have the right-of-way when you are jaywalking, and either cars or PEDs have the right-of-way at marked or signaled crossings based on established rules. Pedestrian’s can be fined if the cross against signals at marked crossings, or if they “impede traffic when jaywalking”.

    I have not met Dylan Reid of Spacing, but to me he is a clear, studied voice on the topic. You are likely already acquainted with him, but he can surely help you cover this issue better.

    Finally, I think the Star should print a prominent correction on this topic.

  9. CBCRadio’s report this AM from Bay and Front made the same assumption. They also said police were cautioning pedestrians who crossed at a crosswalk when the countdown was underway but close to being done. Which in my understanding is also not illegal.

  10. Very good report and I’m sure it’s not the first or the last time they will be so lazy. But to blame it on pedestrians is wrong, many of the deaths have been caused at intersections when vehicles were turning. I have often noticed this when I’m making a left turn. If someone is crossing, sometimes the “frame” of the car that comes down from the roof to the hood on the left side of the window blocks the view of the person. It is up to the driver to be aware of this. I find in some cars this “frame” is way too wide and blocks the view of people crossing. I have been saying this for many years, why are these not clear so we can see through them? We share the roads, everyone must be aware on both sides or someone could die.

    Daniel ………… Toronto

  11. Thank you for writing this.
    While I agree it was completey irresponsible of the editor to let this go to press – not to mention the awful journalism – the above comment by Pat Tanzola is ridiculous.

    Where you live in the GTA has no bearing on your driving skills – to suggest so while attacking said drivers thought processing ability is just ignorant and makes you sound like a tool.

    Grow up, focus on the facts, and quit whining about a newspaper dividing Torontonians while you do the same.

  12. @Elizabeth – If you read actually my comment, I never implied 905ers can’t drive, but I did imply they would be attracted to the Star’s take on the story. I am all for admitting my own biases, and all for people actually reading my comments.

  13. Hello:
    Thank you to everyone who has raised this issue with the Star. The public editor’s office is investigating this now. At this point, we have received much conflicting information about the interpretation of the Highway Traffic Act. I am not prepared to publish a correction or clarification until I can properly verify the information many of you have sent to my office as a result of reading this article.
    Thanks again,
    Kathy English
    Public Editor,
    Toronto Star

  14. Hey, anyone wanting to email the Star can use my own msg if they’re short on ideas:


    Toronto Star front page – “JAYWALKING CITY”

    Posted on Twitter earlier:

    Toronto Star front page all-caps *FAIL* – [we’re not a “JAYWALKING CITY!” Know the facts; know the law!]

    Please have a look at the _Spacing_ article and reader comments.

    Yes, there _are_ jaywalkers in Toronto, but by taking an exaggerated, one-sided and poorly researched (if at all) approach, the Star completely lets motorists off the hook for making streets safer. We all need to work together on this!

    Thank you.

  15. Since when is the responsibility for not getting hit by a car totally in the hands of pedestrians? This is what ALL of the mainstream traditionals are feeding us.
    Every single one of them was at Front and Bay this morning, which is ridiculous given the fact that the traffic lights are closer together, cars are naturally going slower due to traffic and the sheer volume of pedestrians is greater making them more visible.
    Why not go to Broadview and Danforth where they will see cars continually speeding through that light, or perhaps along streetcar routes where you have drivers constantly trying to beat the ttc? Or maybe they should post from one of the many designated crossings. The amount of times I’ve seen drivers go right through them without so much as blinking is really dangerous – and annoying.
    The amount of times I’ve had close calls with my young son in all of these instances really worries me. And the media wants to say it’s my fault? Like I would put my son’s life at risk by crossing illegally or dangerously? Get real and stop sucking up to your suburban, gas guzzling demographic. Hardly anyone I know that lives in the city core owns a car, so who else would they be sucking up to?
    Don’t get me started on red light right turns. They should be illegal.
    If it’s a red, there’s no turning anywhere. No one even stops or slows down anymore – they just keep going.

    We all live in this city, we all use it, and how could anyone sleep at night knowing they killed someone just so they could get to work 5 minutes faster? Ridiculous.

  16. i added my voice to the angry choir:

    i’m not happy about the fallacy exposed by Dylan Reid in this article, about your recent front-page story covering jaywalking and the recent spate of pedestrian deaths in and around Toronto:

    A young father of two, i walk to work every day in the winter through Toronto’s core, and i ride my bike in the summertime. i’m on constant high alert throughout the half-hour walk – particularly on Beverly Street, where there are numerous crosswalks, and one sketchy four-way stop. It dismays me that when cyclists or pedestrians are killed, there tends to be rampant media support of drivers. The blame is deflected back to the victims in almost every circumstance.

    Some of the recent pedestrian deaths may well have been due to poor judgment on the part of the pedestrians, but in many of these cases, driver error was evident. And when it comes down to reporting on massive multi-ton gas-powered monstrosities killing defenseless and comparably delicate flesh-and-bone human beings, please be careful not to side too often with Goliath over David.

    More importantly, please try your level best to commit to due dilligence. There’s no excuse for your reporter to have incorrectly described the street-crossing by-laws in this city. The facts are ubiquitous and easy to research.

    Get your facts straight. Report fairly and honestly. Fact-check your stories. My life, and the lives of many others, may depend on the public opinion you incite.

    – Ryan Henson Creighton

  17. Well done Spacing.
    I am also interested for Christopher Hume’s reaction.

  18. Apparently the Police are feeding the Star an incorrect interpretation of the Highway Traffic Act. Since I got my information about the laws from Police officers too, it means that there are officers who know what the law really is, but other officers are either ignorant of them or have decided to push the law way beyond its reasonable interpretation.

    The police are now claiming that Section 144, subsection 22 – which governs behaviour *at intersections* and says that pedestrians have to cross within the marked crossing if there is one – somehow applies along the whole street. They didn’t use to say this, and if you actually read the act it’s absurd – the whole section clearly refers to intersections.

  19. A cynic might predict that all this will lead to amendments to the HTA – making it illegal to cross anywhere but at intersections.

  20. Thanks for the update, Dylan. I don’t believe Micallef’s cynicism for a second!!

  21. There’s always going to be some conflict within roads given all the interests and forces, but the carism of our culture and pollutocratic press is showing strong with misinformed blame the victim sensationalism.
    Sure we need to be alert and responsible, but in many civilized parts of the world, such pressure to cross the road and such overall kill rates would bring a clear message that the serial killer is the one that needs restraining, not the victims. Why should the time and convenience of the car driver/motorist be put above pedestrians, who are being squeezed to walk a lot further then wait, to keep traffic flowing? With all the great pedestrian volumes spilling out from GO at Union Station, why not turn Bay into a true pedestrian zone up to Queen?

  22. This whole issue raises several points.

    First, most police drive, and their view of the world is resolutely from behind the wheel of a car. Some serious re-education is needed on this point before some hot-shot decides to start handing out tickets like confetti (j-walking pedestrians are probably more numerous than parked cars, and you don’t have to check back to see if the meter has run out).

    Second, there is a major urban design question which is typified by my home station, Broadview. This station has a steady stream of j-walkers crossing between the east side (where the station is) and the west side (the access to many residences including mine). Since the TTC did not deign to put an entrance on both sides of Broadview, everybody walks across the street, not down to the traffic light at Danforth.

    If we’re going to start getting snotty with mid-block crossings, expect many more demands for crosswalks and traffic signals which will, wait for it, slow down those pesky motorists. We will also need to consider the induced j-walking caused by any new development with significant pedestrian flows.

    Hamish raises the issue of more space for pedestrians. This is part of the scheme for reconfiguration of Front Street from Bay to York, and I expect there will be mayhem at Council when this actually gets through all the studies and comes up for debate. In the suburbs, wide arterials simply will have to become a quaint relic of bygone days.

  23. I’d propose everyone here write to his/her city councilor protesting today’s policy crackdown on jaywalking. This jerk-reaction response has to stop now.

  24. From what I heard, the police blitz this afternoon was on pedestrians that were crossing during the “flashing don’t walk” signal. Strictly speaking, that is against the HTA (“No pedestrian approaching pedestrian control signals and facing a solid or flashing “don’t walk” indication shall enter the roadway.”)

    Perhaps a better question is whether this part should really be a law. I would argue that the “flashing don’t walk” should not be considered as a legal requirement, but as a tool for use by pedestrians to judge whether they have sufficient time to cross the intersection (especially now that countdown timers are becoming prevalent). Cars are required to stop during the yellow if possible, but the only enforceable legal requirement is to stop at a red signal. It should be the same for the pedestrian signals.

    In fact, there needs to be more leeway for pedestrians than for auto because of how the pedestrian times are set. The yellow time is set so that drivers will have enough time to slow and stop before entering the intersection, and the yellow time is generally sufficient to apply to all traffic (within reason). But pedestrians differ greatly in their walking speed, and the flashing don’t walk interval is usually timed so that it gives the slowest pedestrians time to get across safely. Most of us walk more quickly (some of us much more quickly) and can easily get across even if the countdown has already started.

    I suspect that most folks on here, if not most folks in Toronto, have caught on that they can use the countdown timers as a guide based on whether they can start to cross and make it before the red light, notwithstanding whether the flashing don’t walk is up. That’s not what the HTA permits — but perhaps it is time for a change to the HTA. Maybe a project for the Pedestrian Committee…

  25. Wasn’t this issue conspicuously absent from CBC’s The National tonight? The earlier, 5/6pm CBC news seemed to be doing an about face, focusing on drivers and infrastructure. And it seems the Star website is starting to bury the story and turn off some comments.

  26. The title of the article is just you run of the mill attention grabber and had little to do with the content. I am not a driver in this city but I do think cyclists and walkers get away with far too much. You’ll notice that in the article he mentions that they police were handing out tickets for people crossing at the wrong time and not at the wrong place as in the case of “jaywalking”. Point of fact, it is illegal to begin to cross at a light if the hand is already flashing or if the timer has started counting down. Those indicators are there to let the people who have already started crossing know how much time they have left. They are not there for people to use to aid in their rush across the street which is dangerous and just plain stupid. I think the drivers in this city are terrible as well, don’t get me wrong, but the idea that pedestrians have been getting a bad wrap is nothing compared to what motorists get. I would put my life savings on the fact that cyclist and pedestrians break more laws in their daily commute on average than car drivers… Just think of how many rush across yellow lights, how many cyclists ignore stop signs and cross through red lights when there is a gap. Really everyone is to blame for the crap that happens on our streets. A one weekend crackdown on pedestrians isn’t something to get all in a bunch about. It is a publicity stunt. I would, however, welcome a greater enforcement of pedestrian street illegalities and the like. Certainly there is a much greater percentage of police focusing on driving infractions, why not spread out the police more evenly?

    I am sure there are many who will look at what I read and scoff but I like spacing and I like how they stick up for our city but journalism is supposed to be as impartial as possible and the above article is anything but much like the Star article. Lets take t for what its worth. The tool that wrote the Star article is an idiot… but so is Spacing for stooping down to meet him.

  27. We had a similar ill-advised “crackdown” on jaywalking in Ottawa in the late 1980s.

    The police had two weapons in their arsenal – a city bylaw and the Highway Traffic Act. They stationed themselves on Sparks Street, a pedestrian mall, and hovered a few feet away from one of the gaps where auto traffic is allowed to cross the mall at a right angle. If a pedestrian scurried across the gap while the cars had the light, even if no cars were in sight, they got a ticket. If they “gave lip” they got a ticket under the more expensive HTA.

    Most just paid, but before anyone contesting the charges got to court, the Ottawa Citizen stationed a reporter and photographer across the street from the court house on Elgin and snapped photos of judges, lawyers, and police officers happily “jaywalking” across the busy street all the morning long.

    The next day the Citizen published the story, and the day after that the police stopped the campaign.

    I wonder, where is the courthouse in Toronto?

  28. The police are now claiming that Section 144, subsection 22 – which governs behaviour *at intersections* and says that pedestrians have to cross within the marked crossing if there is one – somehow applies along the whole street. They didn’t use to say this, and if you actually read the act it’s absurd – the whole section clearly refers to intersections.

    Of course this is an absurd definition. For instance, there is a crosswalk at Yonge and Queen (ie. it is “marked for pedestrian use”). As we all told, Yonge is the longest street in the world. If we accept the new police definition of “roadway”, then the fact that Yonge has a crosswalk at Queen means that it may be illegal to walk across the street in Holland’s Landing.

  29. From what I heard, the police blitz this afternoon was on pedestrians that were crossing during the “flashing don’t walk” signal.

    That’s how I understood the CBC radio story. And you are right that this is illegal under the HTA. The irony, of course, is that in replacing most of the “flashing don’t walk” signals with countdown timers* the city has actually made it much more difficult for pedestrians to actually break the law while crossing during the last few seconds.

    *(I don’t know the stats, but I’d guess no more than about 10% of the pedestrian signals are “flashing don’t walk” instead of countdown timers – interesting that the police would have to go so far out of their way to find one of the few such signals in order to effect their “crackdown”).

  30. A few more points worth noting:

    Many streets (sidestreets all over Toronto, rural roads) do not have marked crossings or traffic signals. If the intent of the HTA were that pedestrians cross only at signals, then I could not leave the block containing my own home as the street is not signalled.

    The HTA Section 144(22) is quite clear that “Where portions of a roadway are marked for pedestrian use …” all of the rules about where to cross apply. It is almost entirely silent about unmarked roads, although for rural roads without sidewalks, pedestrians and cyclists are expected to cross so that they can walk facing the traffic. How they would do so without a traffic light is a mystery.

    Also, 144(28) is clear that if you enter a crossing on a permitted signal (green/walk), and the signal changes while you are crossing, you have the right of way to continue crossing “as quickly as reasonably possible”. Anyone ticketing pedestrians had better be sure that the signal changed to “don’t walk” before they left the curb.

  31. I don’t think people are wrong to be upset about the Star getting the law wrong (although I think we need to be clear: jaywalking *is* illegal, it’s just that the Star is erroneously calling something legal jaywalking). But I think we miss the larger point by focussing solely on what is lawful, and in this I agree with Jaqueline’s points. The real issue is that cars are dangerous to pedestrians, while pedestrians are (almost certainly never) dangerous to cars. And so the focus needs to be on cars: a pedestrian can be walking lawfully and still be killed or maimed, while a car driver has a great deal of control over avoiding a collision with a pedestrian – even one operating illegally (or unwisely).

    I was struck (figuratively) when visiting Vancouver over how different the drivers there relate to pedestrians. I can’t tell you how many times I prepared to wait for traffic to clear so I could cross either mid-block, or when I didn’t have the right of way at an intersection, only to have cars come screeching to a halt to allow me to cross. It is actually disconcerting, because (especially living in TO) you aren’t sure that they really mean it or that it is nevertheless safe. But in any event, Vancouver drivers have a profound respect for pedestrians that is sadly lacking here.

    And as Jaqueline points out, why would the media (and police) focus on an area that is generally safe for pedestrians, rather than one of the places where pedestrians have been killed? In reviewing the Star map of where the recent fatalities have happened that almost none of these places had bike lanes. I don’t think that is (pardon the pun) an accident, since bike lanes are a traffic calming tool that usually make drivers more aware of their surroundings. I raise this point not just because I think it is important not to lose focus (pedestrian fatalities take attention away from cyclists, who are also vulnerable and in need of protection), but because one of the main challengers for the mayor’s seat seems to think we need *less* bike lanes on arterial roads so cars can go faster. How is that going to work to the advantage of pedestrians?

  32. And one last point – I wouldn’t hold out much hope for the Star acknowledging their legal definition is wrong. Some time back they wrote an article about someone (I think it may have been a principal) who pleaded guilty to a very minor assault. In the article they referred to the principal being “convicted” of assault and receiving a discharge. I wrote the corrections dept. a polite note telling them that the imposition of a discharge meant very specifically that a “conviction” did not actually occur (anyone who has seen a discharge issued by a judge will know that the judge explains very carefully that there was a finding of guilt, but that with the imposition of a discharge there will be no record of conviction). In short, being “guilty” =/ “convicted”. They wrote me back to say they were running it by their lawyer. And then they wrote again to say their lawyer said they were right.

    So their lawyer is an idiot.

  33. McKingford — just to clarify, the same HTA clause applies equally to the countdown signals, since there is a “flashing don’t walk” signal at the same time as the signal is counting down.

    A recent Star interview with the gentleman in charge of traffic signals in Toronto noted that nearly all have been converted now — there are only a few where there is more complex programming required (because they are near fire stations, and the signals are set up so that fire trucks responding to a call can override the normal signal settings).

  34. David- give me a break. Virtually all drivers break the speed limit (speeding actually works out to a form of theft), to say nothing of the various other laws drivers routinely violate. I find that if I watch myself very carefully and pay attention, I may get to my destination in a car with only one or two laws broken, but if I do, I can expect to get honked at by drivers behind me who want me to let them speed, or make an illegal right.

    Also, your argument ignores the matter of the respective consequences of pedestrian and motorist lawbreaking. We should treat violations of the law with a car seriously, for the same good reasons we treat violations of the law with an Uzi seriously.

  35. Posted on behalf of David McDonald……..

    As noted many of these accidents are at intersections and my observation would be that both Drivers and Pedestrians have in the last 10 years developed bad habits and the traditional spacing that allows turning either right or left on a yellow is being squeezed by drivers running yellows and reds and pedestrians doing the same and not clearing the intersection on time. This puts cars and pedestrians in the same place at the same time which is bad. Drivers trying to turn either way getting frustrated as they have to wait for both cars and pedestrians to clear before they can turn and they don’t get the time. There was supposed to be a crackdown several years ago on drivers running yellows but have seen little result so that needs increased enforcement. And as per Dylan’s comment on the actual law jaywalking should be enforced at corners when pedestrians do not clear the intersection and are blocking traffic.

  36. I think in our city this is a problem by both drivers and pedestrians. I walk to work each day along Yonge street and it unbelievable how many pedestrians cross the street on red lights. Many times cars have to either slow down or come to a stop for them. And people just look at the cars as if they are the ones breaking the law.
    But I wouldn’t put all the blame on pedestrians. I also observed how cars making left or right turns are often in such a rush that they try to beat pedestrians often times only checking for oncoming cars and completely forgetting about pedestrians. Drivers need to remember that pedestrians come first…you check first for pedestrians, then cars…then proceed.

  37. Given the Star’s article and the police crackdown, it seems that a lot of people want Toronto to be like Edmonton, where there’s a $250 fine for jaywalking, the streets are superwide, parking is cheap and plentiful, and the sidewalks are mostly pedestrian-free.

  38. To clarify some confusion creeping into the comments – the Star story I refer to is clearly about mid-block crossing. Other stories about the blitz in the Star and other media might have been about crossing against the lights, but not the one I am talking about here.

    Today, in a sidebar to Christopher Hume’s article, the Star and the police seem to concede that it is in fact legal to cross the street when it does not interfere with traffic:

  39. McKingford,

    drivers used to stop mid-block to let pedestrians cross in Toronto too… but not since 1990. Since Torontonian drivers were so courteous twenty years ago, Torontonians still believe Montreal drivers are ‘crazy’, and they are better. Horse$#!++.

    BTW: Hume has an intelligent article on ‘jaywalking’ today. He did not refer to the ‘journalist’, Noor Javed, or the article. I can guess he was not allowed to. I do not get the print version, so I do not know if Hume’s article too got ALL CAPS on the front page.–hume-maybe-we-d-all-be-safer-jaywalking?bn=1

  40. re: McKingford’s experiences in Vancouver.

    I had similar experience a few years ago in Calgary, where I started having to move away from the curb between intersections lest cars stop for me. This, in carrific Calgary!

  41. That’s a funny link, Glen. A web site FROM BRITISH COLUMBIA where the traffic laws are different has a better analysis than the one provided by the city’s leading pedestrian advocate? Priceless.

    As a lawyer who deals with traffic issues daily IN TORONTO, I can gaurantee you that Dylan is 100% correct, as stated in the Star’s sidebar today.

  42. “I suspect that most folks on here, if not most folks in Toronto, have caught on that they can use the countdown timers as a guide based on whether they can start to cross and make it before the red light, notwithstanding whether the flashing don’t walk is up”
    This is precisely the problem. The count down becomes like a race against a red light for everyone approaching that intersection. Pedestrians sprinting and cars speeding to try to make it through does not make for a good combination.

  43. I don’t have a lot of ex-pat wisdom to contribute to this one. Pedestrians get hit by cars frequently in New York and there are about 200 fatalities a year. Scaled down to Toronto’s size, that’s like 60 pedestrian deaths a year in the 416, or five a month – not much different than the recent incidents in Toronto. It’s a pretty serious problem but gets little attention here.

    There are various issues. Midtown is simply packed with enormous numbers of people, although traffic is generally slower moving. Uptown Manhattan, where I live, has severe problems with livery cabs and other frustrated drivers racing through tight, hilly streets at high speed. The outer boroughs have their own Boulevards of Death with the typical suburban problems of people crossing wide arterial roads.

    There has been a positive trend in terms of pedestrian deaths (see but I’m not entirely sure why. The city has tried some additional signage to re-educate drivers (, but overall advances in medical technology and emergency response (cellphones) may be just as much to credit. Addressing jaywalking is certainly not the answer — people jaywalk here in far greater numbers than in Toronto, and it’s actually illegal, but trying to control pedestrian behaviour in dense urban environments is just not practical. Even if you want to blame the pedestrians, you are better off focusing on smoothing and slowing cars.

    Slate ran a great article defending jaywalking in the US a while back — check it out; much of it applies to Toronto too.

  44. Wait a second, I take it back. That sign is aimed at pedestrians! Guess they were blaming the peds — but the sign really should be made larger and aimed at drivers, shouldn’t it?

  45. Dylan,

    Please, PLEASE stop giving legal advice.

    It is not legal to cross a roadway mid-block (i.e., jaywalk) in the case where portions of that roadway are marked for pedestrian crossing. Your interpretation of HTA 144(22) is inaccurate. See also R. v. Rados, 2009 ONCJ 166, which discusses the provision.

  46. But Chris: you’re wrong. its only at intersections, and that’s not jaywalking.

    Mid-block crossings are not illegal or you wouldn’t be able to ever cross the street without a signal. That’s not hard to wrap your head around.

    Even the Police agree with it, as printed in the Star today. As Dylan said, he got his legal advice from the Police.

  47. Victor:

    Subs. 144(22) of the HTA doesn’t apply where there are no markings for pedestrian crossing on a roadway. So, in residential areas, that subsection doesn’t apply.

    Did you read 2009 ONCJ 166? If you’re a lawyer, I presume you can look it up.

    Or is the basis for that conviction “wrong” as well?

    And who in their right mind gets legal advice from the police? They get it wrong all the time!

  48. The police can only tell you under what circumstances they are charging people, and their instructions respecting the provisions they are referring to. It’s up to people like judges and lawyers to determine what the law is. Right??

  49. Victor, Chris is getting his advice from the courts. Dylan and Spacing should tread carefully here. Stating emphatically that it is legal, when it may not be, may bring liability issues.

  50. Chris: I am a lawyer.

    And, there are ALWAYS NO MARKINGS when you make a mid-block crossing! That’s the point: the only difference is the urban form; downtown you have crossings every 2 or 3 blocks; not in the suburbs.

    But if you cross, say, 20 metres from a marked crossing: that is illegal. If the next light/crossing is 1 or more blocks in either direction than it is legal. even then, the distance is debatable and the judge/police can show discretion based on the area and the speed of drivers and the culture of walking.

    This is all to say that the problem of jaywalking is not really the problem. This is almost entirely a bad driving-bad walking, and nothing to do with cross against lights or mid-block crossings.

    Dylan’s interpretation is dead-on and has been used as a defense in lots and lots of cases. Dylan, and the police reluctantly, know the facts and do not use one decision as their basis for the law. I tend to use the hundreds of cases over the years that affirm pedestrian’s rights.

    Glen: thanks for the advice for Spacing. You may want to ask if Spacing talks to a lawyer about these things (I know they do). And you seem to ignore the fact that Dylan, probably more than anybody, would know the rules of the road as the chair of the Pedestrian Committee. The fact that Spacing has police confirming the legalities of jaywalking in previous print issues, online, in other magazines should rid your fear about them being wrong. And maybe the fact that a traffic lawyer is siding with them.

  51. Victor:

    Please provide some cases that support your interpretation of HTA 144(22). I have provided one [2009 ONCJ 166] which is recent, has not been overturned (perhaps you want to lead the appeal?), and supports my personal interpretation of that subsection.

    For the benefit of those without access to legal databases, here is the summary provided at the outset of the reported decision:

    “Transportation law — Motor vehicles and highway traffic — Rules of the road — Crossing road — Crosswalks — Pedestrians — Trial of Rados, charged with failing to use a crosswalk — Rados was struck by a motor vehicle while crossing Yonge Street in Toronto — There were no markings on the road surface at the intersection and no approved signage indicating a pedestrian crossover — Also, there was no municipal bylaw purporting to designate a pedestrian crossover at that location — As a result, there was no pedestrian crosswalk where Rados was struck — Furthermore, the offence was an absolute liability offence and, therefore, the defence of mistake of fact was not available — Rados found guilty — Highway Traffic Act, s. 144(2).”

    In the case, there were pedestrian crosswalks nearby.

    I am not talking about cases where the charge was not udner HTA 144(22). “Dylan’s Defence”, as we can call it, may well be valid under some other provision.

    As a lawyer, you know that referring to “hundreds of cases” in support, without actually mentioning any specifically, doesn’t go over so well in court. Don’t tell me what police say, don’t tell me what chairs of committees say — provide legal authority to back up your position. As a lawyer, you should be especially well equipped to do so.

  52. mark. > thanks for the link.

    Thanks also for the legal discussion.

    Sgt. Tim Burrows summed it up quite nicely in his talk with the Globe (12:06): “As long as you never cause a driver/rider to avoid you (interfere with them) there has been no offence. Walking outside of crosswalk line, also an offence. If you are near them, you have to use them.”

    That’s precisely what I have been saying. Some of the ambiguity seems to come down to what “near a crosswalk” means – it’s not explicit in the HTA. We’re going to do some consultation and look into that in more detail.

    Also worth quoting Sgt. Tim Burrows at 12:53: “Tim Burrows: I am not against jaywalking…I do it myself. What we all have to keep in mind is that we have no protection in the event we get hit. When I jaywalk, I leave extra space in case I slip or something so that there is a safety cusion built in for hazards.”

  53. I have been saying this for years the people driving that pull up to you at a red light on the inside lane with a parked car across the intersection they race as soon as the light turns green. I always say to myself, go ahead you’ll be the first one to the next red light and there are lot’s of them, you WIN. What’s happening I don’t know but I think everyone is hurrying because everyone else is. I’ve had people beep their horns at me when I stop at a four way stop through a local neighborhood, as well when I’m turning right and I’m waiting for pedestrians to cross and I get the horn? I don’t get it with the rush everyone is in. If nothing else if everybody just slows down a bit and drives/walks safer we will all be better/alive for it.
    Daniel …………. Toronto

  54. Of course I think all this legal stuff is ridiculous.

    Almost everyone jaywalks almost every day. Who hasn’t entered into an intersection when the red hand is flashing, contrary to 144(27)??

    I never said all of these laws are reasonable.

    But it is reasonable to use marked crossings if there are any within sight. And in downtown Toronto, there is always a crossing, and little excuse for crossing mid-block. Drivers know this — you can hardly drive 100 feet without hitting a red light.

    This entire discussion, and likely some of the unfortunate recent accidents, wouldn’t have happened if we had all followed the advice given by our mothers when we were 6 years old on our way to the corner store to buy a popsicle:

    “Look both ways before you cross the street”

    or, alternatively:

    “Look left, then right, then left again”

  55. Chris, you either:
    – need to get a job
    – need to do something more rewarding to your retirement
    – or need to be careful your boss does not know how much time you waste at work

    Also, you’re wrong.

  56. Chris > you make an interesting point about “use marked crossings if there are any within sight. And in downtown Toronto, there is always a crossing,”.

    That’s true. There’s a crossing in sight pretty much anywhere in the old City of Toronto. But if section 144 (22) applied any time there’s a crossing in sight, *why would the old City of Toronto have had a bylaw governing mid-block crossing*? And how could that bylaw have been more lenient than the HTA? As you know, no local bylaw can conflict with the HTA. This seems to indicate that there was never an assumption that 144(22) applied along an extended part of the street, but rather only in the vicinity of a marked crossing, and there were significant stretches of Toronto streets between crossings where 144(22) did not apply.

    Note that Metro, which governed arterial roads, also had a bylaw governing mid-block crossing.

    The case you cite is interesting – as I said, we’ll do some consultation about the current state of the case law.

  57. That’s actually a good point, go to the next crossing but then isn’t that where most of the deaths occurred? The Senior at Broadview/Danforth on crutches hit by a truck making a right turn and others, so very sad. Elderly people who need assistance walking anywhere MUST ask someone for help before they venture out, don’t be embarrassed it may save your life. There are many agencies in the our city which will help, all you need to do is ask and I’m sure someone will assist. I just hope this stays in the news for a long time.
    Jaywalking is “illegal”, but then so is speeding.
    The Police are concentrating on Front/Bay which is a real joke, they put in those big XXXX markers on the road not to block the intersections and that seems to stop/work well, stopped the blocking of intersections in downtown?
    It’s great to make laws but if you don’t enforce them how’s it going to work?
    Maybe too many of the officers are doing “paid duties”, do we have a picture of one of them sleeping yet at a construction site?
    In all fairness how are the Police to enforce all these things in a day, jaywalkers, people texting, speeders, drivers using the diamond lanes on Bay St, oh yea and don’t forget crime?

    Daniel ………… Toronto

  58. Let us take a look at how other countries deal with the killing-power of cars in their legal system (this applies for car-ped altercations as well as car-cyclist ones), just to put things in perspective:

    In the Netherlands, the law imposes a rebuttable presumption of liability on drivers—if a motorist is involved in a crash with a cyclist, the law presumes that the motorist is liable for the crash, unless the motorist can rebut that presumption with evidence to the contrary.

    The reason for this shift is that the Dutch recognized that the cyclist will virtually always be the injured party in a collision with an automobile, and by putting the onus of fault on the driver, have provided motorists with a powerful legal incentive to pay more attention to the presence of cyclists. Thus, it wouldn’t be legally sufficient for a Dutch driver to merely claim “I didn’t see him”—the most common excuse drivers use in the United States—in order to escape liability. Instead, the Dutch driver would have to prove that the cyclist’s own negligence was the cause of the collision.

    And even if the Dutch driver can successfully rebut the presumption of liability, the driver’s insurance is still required to pay the cyclist’s medical bills.

    That makes a whole lot more sense to me than the way we do things in Canada – i.e. blaming the dead pedestrian/cyclist.

  59. Great article Dylan, and a totally mis-place d reaction by the Police.

    A dozen pedestrians get killed on suburban streets built to the latest transportation standards, and to remedy the situation, you target cars and pedestrians downtown where no one has been killed ….. sounds more like a media campaign than an education campaign.

  60. LisaB,

    The same assumption is required in Ontario. From the HTA…

    “When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle.”

  61. The times I have been closest to being hit by cars are at stop signs when the driver doesn’t stop – happens at least three times a week at the same intersection – and at crosswalks.

    If careful pedestrians like myself are often dodging cars (and bad drivers) while walking in marked intersections – what hope is there for “jaywalkers” or anyone else trying to cross anywhere at all?

  62. From the Star… example of the police attitude toward pedestrians… do they also blame drivers getting hit by red light runners or people who blow stop signs?–despite-blitz-pedestrians-still-being-hit

    On Sunday morning, a 31-year-old woman was taken to hospital with minor injuries after she was struck by a Can-ar coach in the city’s west end.

    Police say she was knocked to the ground around 6 a.m. while crossing the intersection on a green light. The bus was turning left and the driver, a 57-year-old woman, told police she didn’t see the pedestrian.

    Although the woman was crossing the street legally, Const. William Wang said she should have been more aware of her surroundings.

    “It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “Even though the pedestrian had the right of way, she still has to pay attention.”

  63. Pete, all the cops who say that should be put on a desk. They certainly don’t know how to police traffic. Fat chance, eh?

    Well, come July I will be enjoying cycling while living for two years in cycling-civilized Japan. Thank freaking god!

  64. So I’m curious about the “don’t walk when the don’t walk sign is flashing” our signals are not right. Let me give you an example. Let’s say Church and Gerrard southbound car on Church St. There is an advanced green light for southbound traffic to turn left going east on Gerrard. Now when the advanced green is flashing the northbound light is red but then the don’t walk sign for the west side of Church St for the walkers is also flashing don’t walk. But it should not be flashing don’t walk because the flashing green is for cars going eastbound on Gerrard? I see this all over the city. So if I am walking northbound to Gerrard and the southbound traffic starts turning east could I get a ticket for walking north on the don’t walk sign? Little complicated but the lights are not working properly. Maybe everyone could use this as an excuse if they get a ticket?

    Daniel ………… Toronto

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