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Rules for crossing the street - jaywalking - pedestrian traffic signals

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Section 144(22) of The Highway Traffic Act states: " Where portions of a roadway are marked for pedestrian use, no pedestrian shall cross the roadway except within a portion so marked." The law does not stipulate how far from the nearest crosswalk one must be in order to legally cross mid-block, but the Toronto Police have advised to generally use 30 metres as a 'rule of thumb.'

Where there is no crosswalk, it is legal for pedestrians to cross, so long as you yield to on-coming traffic. Section 10 of the Metropolitan Toronto Uniform Traffic By-Law No. 32/92 (applies only to former Metro arterial roads) states: "Except where the traffic control signals are in operation or where traffic is being controlled by a police officer, a pedestrian crossing a highway at a place other than a pedestrian crossover shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles and streetcars upon the roadway, but nothing in the section shall relieve the driver of a vehicle or streetcar from the obligation of taking all due care to avoid an accident." Other bylaws would apply on local streets of each of the former area municipalities that now make up the City of Toronto.

"Jaywalking" is a slang word that is often used to describe various pedestrian offences, including crossing at an intersection against a red light or "don't walk" signal, crossing mid-block where a crosswalk exists, or failing to yield to vehicles when crossing the roadway. However, "jaywalking" is not a legally defined offence.

Pedestrian traffic signals and crossing rules

The applicable law at designated pedestrian crossing locations (eg, traffic control signals, pedestrian crossovers, or when being directed by a police officer) is the provincial Ontario Highway Traffic Act (not a City of Toronto policy). For more information, please visit the Service Ontario website, Section 144 Clauses 26, 27, and 28

At non-designated locations, the Municipal/City bylaw would apply.

Pedestrian control signals - walk
(26) Where pedestrian control signals are installed and show a "walk" indication, every pedestrian facing the indication may cross the roadway in the direction of the indication despite subsections (24) and (25). R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (26).

Pedestrian control signals - don't walk
(27) No pedestrian approaching pedestrian control signals and facing a solid or flashing "don't walk" indication shall enter the roadway. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (27).

Pedestrian right of way
(28) Every pedestrian who lawfully enters a roadway in order to cross may continue the crossing as quickly as reasonably possible despite a change in the indication he or she is facing and, for purposes of the crossing, has the right of way over vehicles. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 144 (28).

The important nuance is that as long as a pedestrian enters the roadway during the "walk" signal there is no "ticketable offence".

It's also worth noting that the countdown timers are still relatively new and provincial law changes slowly. In the US there is a substantial move towards changing their similar legislation to make it legal to begin crossing on the countdown/"flashing don't walk" as long as you complete the crossing before it goes past zero/"solid don't walk". I'm certain Ontario will consider following this lead but that is a decision for the Ontario Minister of Transportation.

It is our practice across the entire City of Toronto to provide a minimum of 7 seconds of walk, it can be much longer and it can vary from crosswalk to crosswalk and by time of day (it's affected by emergency vehicle pre-emption, transit vehicle priority, total intersection demands, etc.)

There should not be any intersections with less than 7 seconds of walk time. Please don't hesitate to report any location where you are certain the countdown begins at a number less than 7 to 311 operators anytime time-of-day or day-of-week. A maintenance contractor will be sent to the site within 4 hours to correct the problem.