It takes two to tango – or how to use intersections safely

SROttawa (@SROttawa) / Twitter

 

The phrase ‘it takes two to tango’ means two people are involved in the situation. This is true at our urban intersections, where pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists and e-scooters are in the mix. Whether the intersection has stop signs or traffic signals, everyone can remain safe if everyone follows road usage rules for their transportation mode.

Who should be most alert at intersections? Everyone! Out of 673 collisions resulting in fatal or major injuries between 2017 and 2021, 57 per cent occurred at or near intersections. That’s 384 sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and friends whose lives were forever altered or lost at an intersection. 

Here are some simple tips for safe intersection use.

Driver tips

  • Never stop in crosswalks since that forces pedestrians into traffic.
  • Always check for cyclists, e-scooters and pedestrians when turning, especially on one-way streets. While vehicles can only travel in one direction, pedestrians cross both ways.
  • When making a left turn, watch for pedestrians and motorcycles nearing the intersection as motorcycle speeds can be hard to judge.
  • Make full stops at stop signs and red lights – no rolling stops.
  • Before proceeding, make eye contact with other intersection user(s) who may not see you.
  • Use your horn to alert a cyclist, e-scooter or pedestrian who may not see you.

Motorcyclist tips

  • Ride defensively, as vehicles can’t always see you clearly.
  • Never stop in crosswalks since that forces pedestrians into traffic.
  • Make full stops at stop signs and red lights – no rolling stops.
  • When stopped near a truck, you may be in the driver’s blind spot. Assume the driver does not know you are there.
  • Before proceeding, make eye contact with other intersection user(s) who may not see you.
  • Use your horn to alert another road user who might not see you.

Cyclist tips

  • Ride defensively, as vehicles can’t always see you clearly.
  • Never stop in crosswalks since that forces pedestrians into traffic.
  • Always signal your turn or if you are stopping.
  • Make full stops at stop signs and red lights – no rolling stops.
  • When stopped near a truck, you may be in the driver’s blind spot. Assume the driver does not know you are there.
  • Before proceeding, make eye contact with other intersection user(s) who may not see you.
  • Be visible, with:
    • A white light at the front of the bike
    • A red rear light or red rear reflector
    • Two strips of white reflective tape on front forks (each strip to be 125 millimetres by 25 millimetres)
  • Have a working bell or horn on your bike and use it to alert road users near you. Keep in mind drivers may not hear it.

Pedestrian tips

  • Cross in the marked crosswalk and don’t look at your phone or other distractions.
  • Before proceeding, make eye contact with drivers who may not see you, especially if they are turning.
  • Make yourself visible at dawn, dusk and after dark by wearing light-coloured clothing or something reflective.

City engineering improvements

Here’s how the City of Ottawa is working to make intersections safer:

  • Installing roundabouts, which eliminate the chance of serious T-bone collisions
  • Adding infrastructure such as protected intersections, pedestrian signals, pedestrian crossovers, leading pedestrian intervals, high visibility ladder markings and accessible pedestrian signals (audible, tactile, vibrotactile and visual)
  • Adding more fully protected left turn arrows so vehicles can only turn left when the arrow is displayed, helping to prevent collisions with opposing traffic
  • Installing amber-lock traffic signal features at intersections with a high volume of cyclists; when a vehicle or bicycle is detected on a side street, the signal changes to green for the side street if the vehicle or bicycle remains detected until the end of the main street’s amber signal
  • Developed a screening process to identify locations requiring safety improvements
  • Continuing to apply the Complete Streets policy for new roads and re-construction, to design roads that are safe, comfortable and efficient for all users

As part of the upcoming national Road Safety Week (May 16 to 22), the Ottawa Police Service is increasing both traffic enforcement and communications, focusing on high collision intersections and areas of interest provided by the public. You can help make Ottawa roads safer by reporting traffic incidents using the Ottawa Police Service online traffic report form.

Residents can also help the City ensure road signs and signals are in proper working order. If you notice damaged or non-functioning equipment, please call 3-1-1 or use the online reporting form as soon as you can.

The City of Ottawa has more information on community safety for all road users.

No matter how you’re getting around this spring and summer, take responsibility for your actions at intersections so that all road users can safely co-exist in our city. #ThinkSafetyActSafely

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