Not all crosswalks are created equally and not all of them require drivers to stop. The United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) recently completed a survey of 13 of the pedestrian crossings in its territory. The aim was to ensure that the crossings are safe and that they meet existing provincial standards and legislation. The report found that most of the crosswalks were in dire need of paint, and had been that way for some time. Recommendations were made for each crossing and painting was completed for the start of school. In most cases the lines were re-painted, either as they had been, or in a similar fashion.

In Vankleek Hill, inspectors found an old “no parking” sign near Derby Avenue, which indicated a crosswalk that no longer existed.

“The counties investigated that crosswalk and did not find any potential proof that a crossing was ever present at that location. The only reason there would be a crosswalk would be to access Derby Ave, or the convenience store,” says the report, which recommended removing the sign and not installing a new crossing at that location.

Painting the crosswalks is a more complex issue than it might seem.

The United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) is in charge of maintaining pedestrian crossing facilities on county roads.

Many of these crossings are not recommended by the Ontario Traffic Manuel (OTM), which provides information and guidance for transportation practitioners, cities and municipalities. The OTM defines how traffic signals should be used and sets the installation standards. They also suggest that in many cases installing pedestrian crossings puts pedestrians in danger by giving them a false sense of security.

The Highway Traffic Act breaks pedestrian crossings into two distinct categories. There are “controlled” crossings, where vehicles are required to stop and yield to other traffic and to pedestrians. Then there are “uncontrolled crossings” where pedestrians must wait for safe gaps in traffic before crossing. Cars are not required to stop at these “courtesy crossings.”

Earlier this year, The Review interviewed Vankleek Hill crossing guard Karen Whalen after a car nearly struck her while she was helping a child cross Main Street East, near Home Avenue, in Vankleek Hill. Whalen blamed inadequate signage and paint for making the crosswalk hard for drivers to see.

The crosswalk in question was in dire need of paint at that time. The lines were barely visible. Still, when the car almost struck her, Whalen was wearing a bright orange vest, she was holding a stop sign and the incident occurred in broad daylight on a street that bore clearly identified crossing signs.

Whalen said that without the paint on the road, motorists seem oblivious to the crossing.

“Because of the lack of markings, I’ve even seen a police officer go through the crosswalk when a young lad was waiting to cross,” said Whalen.

The Vankleek Hill crosswalk where Whalen was almost struck is a school crossing. When the crossing guard is present, this crossing is considered a controlled crossing and motorists must stop. When the crossing guard is not present it becomes an uncontrolled crossing and motorists have the right of way. The OTM suggests that this can be confusing to pedestrians, particularly children.

UCPR inspectors analyzed this location and found that the crossing provides clear lines of sight for both pedestrians and motorists. The report noted that the existing markings qualified as an “urban crossing,” while the OTM recommended a “rural crossing.” Both types of crosswalks are used for supervised school crosswalks, but differ slightly in their markings. Rural crosswalks use blocks of paint that resemble a ladder. Urban crosswalks are painted in parallel bars. The report noted that Champlain Township specifically requested the Counties paint the markings at this location. As per the recommendations of the UCPR inspectors, it was decided to re-paint the existing crosswalk as an urban crossing. The crossing was re-painted just before children returned to school this fall.

After examining the report, which was completed by UCPR Engineer Jeremie Bouchard, the UCPR Public Works Committee supported most of the recommendations relating to signage and painting. Exceptions included the school crossing on County Road 17 in Alfred, which will be repainted as per OTM standards at the existing location. The Counties will also be meeting with Alfred-Plantagenet Township representatives to discuss parking and visibility issues.

In Russell, the committee chose to go against the recommendations in the report, which suggested moving a crossing at the intersection of County Road 3 and MacDougall Street. The report said that the crossing could be removed by continuing the sidewalk on the North side of the road for about 125 metres.

“This would greatly eliminate the risk of pedestrian collision and the need for a crossing guard. However, if this option is desired, the fence to access the school yard should be closed permanently to assure that the pedestrians are directed towards the Mill Street crossing,” says the report.

In this case, the Public Works committee chose to keep the crossing and repaint it as per OTM standards as an urban crosswalk.

The UCPR conducted a preliminary assessment of the Russell Pool location, at the intersection of Castor Street and County Road 3 to determine if a traffic control device (streetlights) was justified. Over the course of eight hours inspectors noted that 273 people crossed the street, with a traffic count of 3,028 vehicles. Crossings included one group of 30 people and two groups of 25 children attending day camp. The report determined that a traffic control device was not warranted based on pedestrian volume, but that it could be warranted based on the fact that 110 pedestrians waited more than ten seconds before crossing. In this case the committee chose to keep the existing crossing and repaint it as it had been done previously.