Safe Routes to School

Of course, all routes to school should be safe.

And schools should be located on collector streets in real neighbourhoods and not in isolated locations outside of built-up areas.

Whilst in Montreal, I noticed intersections marked as shown in the picture below, presumably identifying intersections with a higher number of school kids using the crossing. Of course, I suspect the well-frequented intersections enjoy “safety in numbers” and the real risk lies in less-used intersections, which are less likely to get marked.

Which is yet another reason we should have lower speed limits, and roads designed to restrict speeds to safe speeds.



I do not know if they also use the traditional pentagonal school zone signs, which tend to be located mid-block just before the school.

Mind, I always trained my kids that is generally safer to cross the street between intersections (no turning vehicles, fewer distractions for motorists) and continue to do so myself. Note that in Montreal, there is no right turn on red. Nor in NYC.

An advanced pedestrian green signal recently appeared at Preston-Somerset, an intersection I use daily.  I notice how many vehicles make “false starts” when the ped signal turns green.  There must be a PHD paper in this somewhere … why do motorists watch the ped signal instead of the vehicle signal? What will happen when the ped signal gives the advance green for cyclists? Are countdown signals more dangerous because they encourage motorists to speed up to catch the dying green light?

4 thoughts on “Safe Routes to School

  1. There’s definitely a paper in there. As a motorist, I’ve made a false start or two with an advance pedestrian crossing on Elgin. It’s not just that I’m watching the pedestrian signal. I’m looking at all the signals and I know the traffic going the other way has just had an orange light and their light has turned red. So I’m expecting my light to turn green. I’m used to the cars and the pedestrians getting their go-aheads at the same time. [Not saying it’s right for me to make a false start – just trying to explain some of my cognitive process that results in the fail.]

    As for the advanced pedestrian signal, every day on the left turn onto Waller from the bridge by the Rideau Centre there are cars that go when they still have a red light but the bike signal lights up. The signal is a picture of bicycle in a green circle. Because I used to cycle there, I know the signal well and don’t have trouble with it, but I wonder what these other drivers need. Maybe physical barriers like at railway crossings.

    1. In England (and Croatia, interestingly, and perhaps others) when a signal is about to change from red to green the yellow light comes on, so you have the yellow and red lights on together for a few seconds. At a typical intersection, the yellow lights on all signals would be on at the same time (the directions about to get a red – yellow alone – and the directions about to get a green – red and yellow together). I understand the purpose of this was to allow drivers to get their cars in gear.

      I imagine false starts are rarer in Europe since they use near-side traffic signals so it’s a lot harder to tell when the cross traffic is getting a yellow or red. Personally I think the European (or, rather, rest-of-the-world) system is inherently safer, especially for intersections where streets are at something other than right angles (including intersections with more than two intersecting streets).

  2. We saw lots of false-starts at Wellington/Holland as well. It gets better (anecdotally) over time as people adjust to the change

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