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Should Ontario cyclists be allowed to cross on walk signals? Advocates speak out amid fines

ONTARIO —Cyclists in Toronto are raising their voices over the contentious issue of whether they should be permitted to cross busy intersections on pedestrian walk signals. The debate comes amidst a surge in tickets issued by Toronto police, some amounting to as high as $325, to cyclists who proceed on walk signals, flouting Ontario's current law that mandates them to wait for traffic lights. Advocates argue that allowing cyclists to cross with pedestrians promotes road safety and reduces potential conflicts between cyclists and vehicular traffic.

Drawing inspiration from Quebec's legislation, which enables cyclists to cross on pedestrian signals, advocates are calling for a similar change to Ontario's laws to prioritize the safety of both pedestrians and cyclists alike. While some cyclists are taking the risk of crossing early with pedestrian signals, they hope for a broader legal alteration to avoid steep fines.

Toronto, known for its efforts to improve cycling safety, has implemented measures in the past, but advocates are pushing for more comprehensive actions, such as the introduction of dedicated signals for cyclists. Lawyer Dave Shellnutt emphasizes the need for a universal change that treats cyclists as vulnerable road users when navigating intersections, fostering a safer coexistence between all road users.

In response to the growing concern over the issue, the police have denied conducting a targeted "blitz" against cyclists, asserting that they responded to complaints about cyclists riding through pedestrian crowds. As of now, the province's Ministry of Transportation has not confirmed any plans to consider changes to the Highway Traffic Act in favor of cyclists. However, the advocacy group Good Roads firmly supports allowing cyclists to enter intersections before cars, citing evidence from studies conducted in other jurisdictions that support this approach.

Advocates and cyclists hope that meaningful changes will be enacted to enhance road safety for cyclists and pedestrians. The issue remains contentious, as it touches on the larger context of road-sharing dynamics between different modes of transportation.

Ontario's Bicycle Laws grant cyclists the same rights and responsibilities as drivers, but the current debate centers specifically on the rules regarding pedestrian walk signals. The existing laws prohibit cyclists from crossing on walk signals and require them to wait for traffic lights. While the law aims to ensure orderly traffic flow, cyclists argue that it fails to address their unique safety concerns at intersections.

As per Ontario's Bicycle Safety guidelines, cyclists aged 16 and older are permitted to ride e-bikes and can travel on most roads, bike lanes, multi-use trails, and paths. However, they are prohibited from cycling on controlled-access highways, pedestrian crossovers, crosswalks with traffic signals, or sidewalks, except for children under 10 years old. Cyclists must follow traffic laws and, when available, adhere to bicycle traffic signals.

The ongoing debate underscores the importance of finding a balance between road safety and the convenience of cyclists. As advocates continue to push for change, it remains to be seen whether Ontario will follow in Quebec's footsteps and allow cyclists to cross on pedestrian signals, creating a safer and more harmonious road-sharing environment for all users. Until then, the debate rages on, and cyclists in Ontario tread cautiously at intersections, hoping for a favorable resolution to their concerns.