The invisible pedestrian

Intersection safety

On a recent morning walk, I found myself facing a young woman across a busy intersection while we waited for the traffic signal to change.

She was facing me but keeping an eye on the van waiting beside her at the red light signalling a right turn. As I watched the situation unfold, I was impressed with this woman's street smarts.

When the light changed to green for the van and to “walk” for her, she stood her ground instead of stepping into the crosswalk. It's a good thing because the van’s driver had one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on his cell phone and likely both eyes on the traffic light. She may as well have been invisible.

As soon as the light changed, the driver accelerated and turned right without even bothering to shoulder check. Even that should not have mattered had he scanned his environment and considered his situation while he waited. He would have realized that he needed to wait for the pedestrian to cross before he made his turn.

Unlike crosswalks that are not controlled by traffic signals there is no need for the pedestrian to step into the crosswalk before traffic is required to yield. When the “walk” signal comes on, vehicular traffic is required to yield to pedestrians who will use the crosswalk as they have the right of way.

A simple step that can increase pedestrian safety by up to 60% is to change the existing signal timing to implement a leading pedestrian interval (LPI). The walk signal for pedestrians appears three to seven seconds before a green light is given to vehicles moving in the same direction. This makes the pedestrians more visible to drivers.

LPIs work best at intersections where right turns on red are forbidden.

If there is a cycle lane through the intersection, a leading bike interval can be implemented to coincide with the leading pedestrian interval. That has protection benefits for cyclists too.

As for me and woman, we shook our heads as we passed by each other and she rolled her eyes when I asked what had happened to the requirement to yield to pedestrians. My second thought was the van was boldly marked with the name of the business it was associated with.

That is the kind of advertising that a business would not want.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Red light means stop, but not always stay

Pedestrian-controlled lights

Here's an interesting question from the DriveSmartBC inbox:

“There is a mid-block pedestrian-controlled traffic light in our neighbourhood and drivers frequently proceed through it after stopping if no one is in the crosswalk. Is this legal?”

Ask most drivers in B.C. and they will tell you that when you are facing a red traffic light, you must stop and stay stopped until the light turns green. The exception that may be raised is when you are making a permitted left or right turn and have come to a complete stop first and yielded as necessary.

Wait a minute, a left turn on red? Yes, these turns are permitted if you are turning onto a one way street.

This is the correct action to take if the traffic signal is at an intersection. Section 129(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act says a driver will stop and remain stopped until the traffic signal instructs the driver to proceed.

There are two parts to the rule—stopping and remaining stopped until instructed otherwise. Here in B.C., that instruction would be the traffic light turning green.

Section 129(5) of the MVA covers a red light at a place other than an intersection. In this special case, the driver must stop and a pedestrian may proceed across the highway.

There is only one part to this rule and that is the stop. Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red.

This seems contrary to what we usually practice and is not mentioned in the Learn to Drive Smart or Learn to Ride Smart provincial driving manuals. Nonetheless, if done with care, this is legal and can save time and fuel by reducing the wait.

It is also safe because it is not at an intersection, so there is no vehicular cross traffic to interfere with.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

Maintaining proper lane position

Stay in your lane

Are some of us such poor drivers we can't even stay between the lines on the highway?

I was driving home and met a pickup truck completely on my side of the double solid line on a set of winding curves. Was the driver not paying attention, or was he so intent on not slowing down that he straightened out the corners to avoid braking? I suspect that it was the latter.

The simplest road does not have any lines painted on it and one of the first things we learn is we drive on the right half of a two-lane road and may only use the other half in limited circumstances.

You must drive on your half unless it is not practical to do so.

You will have to be able to justify the impracticality if you find yourself in traffic court disputing a ticket or civil court following a collision.

It seems pretty obvious that failing to stay between the lines is not a good thing for any driver to get into the habit of. There is likely to be other traffic, either beside us or oncoming in the left lane. Ditto for the right lane or shoulder.

Yes, the shoulder. This is where you will find cyclists and pedestrians. In fact, if there is no shoulder, you will find cyclists and pedestrians using the edge of the roadway and they are entitled to be there.

As a driver, your aim (pun intended) is to maintain a proper lane position at all times. It's implicit in our highway system because we all share the same sheet of pavement or stretch of gravel. When we don't, we risk running into each other.

You are not being overly cautious, you are fitting into a system where safety dictates that we all manage space around us properly to avoid collisions.

On highways with multiple lanes for our direction of travel we need to stay consistently within the lane that we have chosen to use.

You might be thinking of interrupting me at this point and suggesting that it doesn't matter when no one else is around. Odd, but I've had many drivers say that to me when I was asking for their autograph on a traffic ticket: If no one else was around them, how could I be there?

The point that I want to make by saying this is that if you do it right all the time, you will probably have a better outcome when you fail to see or allow for the presence of another road user.

So, what's the best way to confine the path of your vehicle to where it is supposed to go? That depends on what you are driving and how you choose reference points on your vehicle to guide you. When your vehicle is correctly positioned you will need to know it's limits on all four sides, so choose wisely.

Tips for maintaining lane position:

• Look well ahead at the centre of the lane that you are driving in

• Keep your hands level on the steering wheel

• Keep your grip on the steering wheel relaxed but grip tightly enough for control

• Do not focus exclusively on the vehicle in front of you, keep your eyes moving

• Do not focus on the edges of the road just in front of your vehicle

• Establish reference points for the edges of the road in relation to the front of your vehicle when it is properly positioned

• Maintain sufficient and equal tire pressure

• Maintain proper wheel alignment for your vehicle

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


E-bikes are considered bicycles but only if they meet set criteria

The rules regarding e-bikes

Are you going green? Is an e-bike something that you are considering the purchase of to help you get around?

Buying an electric bicycle or adding an electric motor to a conventional bicycle to help out with the chore of pedaling uphill, or giving a boost to your efforts on level ground, sure sounds good

A motor-assisted cycle (aka: an electric bicycle or e-bike) is described in B.C.'s Motor Assisted Cycle Regulation. Requirements for legal use on our roads include:

• It must have an electric motor with a power of 500 watts or less

• It must not travel faster than 32 km/h on level ground when propelled by the motor alone

• It must be switched on or off by the rider or controlled by a switch that will not let the motor start until a speed of 3 km/h has been attained by pedaling

• The motor must disengage when the rider quits pedaling, applies the brake or releases the accelerator

• It must have pedals to allow the rider to move it by muscular power

• It must not have more than 3 wheels and those wheels must be at least 350 mm in diameter

Anyone 16 years of age or older may operate a motor-assisted cycle in the same manner as a bicycle. No driver's license, vehicle license or insurance is required, but a bicycle helmet is mandatory.

If the motor-assisted cycle does not meet the requirements of the regulation, such as a larger motor, modifications made to remove the pedals or change the way in which the motor operates, it becomes a motorcycle in the eyes of the Motor Vehicle Act. That means the rider needs a motorcycle helmet, a driver's license, a vehicle license and insurance.

As of February 2021, Transport Canada decided it will no longer regulate power-assisted bicycles (PAB) with a top speed is 32 km/h or less. This is now left to the provinces and could mean the PAB label will no longer be affixed by manufacturers.

If the label is present, you can be reasonably assured you are buying an electric bicycle. If not, it's buyer beware. Consider having the vendor certify the e-bike they are selling you meets B.C. rules on the bill of sale.

Yes, you can convert a conventional bicycle into an e-bike if you are handy with tools. The pitfall here is that some kits contain motors of more than 500 watts total power.

Using a conversion kit with a motor power of more than 500 but less than 1,500 watts would mean that you are building a limited speed motorcycle instead of an electric bike.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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