Lessons for outside the classroom


The fresh morning air, the excited children’s voices and our roads loaded with young pedestrians, cyclists, school buses, and parents dropping off and/or commuting to work. Welcome back to school! It’s time to review critical outside-the-school lessons about keeping our streets safe for all, especially the younger and most vulnerable road users.

Get a passing grade by not passing a stopped school bus

Drivers should be prepared for school buses to stop anywhere, anytime. If you are approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing and the stop arm extended, do not pass it. Stop far enough away to allow students to cross the street safely. On roadways that don’t have a median, traffic must stop in both directions. Besides the obvious danger to children, failing to stop could result in a fine – buses are equipped with multiple cameras that record any vehicle illegally passing it when the stop arm is out.

Don’t be in a hurry to break the law

Many of us feel the stress of hectic schedules at this time of year. But that doesn’t justify exceeding the speed limit. Ottawa’s automated speed enforcement cameras are installed near schools (in community safety zones) for a reason. Those excited children and teens running, playing, and chatting with their friends may not notice a speeding car. Any driver speeding through these areas will be photographed and receive a fine in the mail. Fines are increased in school and community safety zones by 60 to 100 per cent. By staying within the speed limit, you’ll have more reaction time and stopping distance.

The better question is, where did the chicken cross the road?

We all know how to be safe pedestrians, but here are some reminders – and be sure to share these with your young ones. Always use a sidewalk where available and cross when you have the right of way. But don’t trust vehicles to stop! Look in all directions and try to make eye contact with approaching drivers. If you’re crossing at a signalized intersection, wait for the walk signal and check that vehicles are yielding to you. Tuck your cell phone away. Wear reflective and light coloured clothing at night, dawn and dusk to be more visible.

The ABCs of PXOs

Pedestrian crossovers (PXOs) are now common throughout Ottawa, helping pedestrians cross the road safely. Pedestrian crossovers have specific signage and pavement markings, and some also have pedestrian-activated flashing beacons. All motorists and cyclists must yield to pedestrians crossing at a pedestrian crossover.

If you’re a pedestrian:

  • Push the rectangular flashing beacon button, if there is one
  • Wait for traffic to stop
  • Make eye contact to ensure drivers see you before stepping off the curb

If you’re a cyclist or motorist:

  • Be prepared to stop for pedestrians as they always have the right of way
  • Stop behind the yield line
  • Make eye contact to acknowledge you see pedestrians waiting to cross
  • Wait until pedestrians exit the crosswalk before proceeding

I see the truck, so the driver sees me, right?

Wrong, in many cases. Heavy trucks and buses have large blind spots along the side and near the front. When stopped at an intersection, any cyclist, pedestrian and even a small vehicle can be invisible to the drivers. You cannot be seen in the mirrors! Stay behind or in front of the truck so you are visible. For more information, refer to the Stay safe, stay back website(link is external).

No matter how you roll, share the road

Some students are heading back to class by bike, plus we always have other cyclists commuting or just enjoying their ride. Road users of all modes need to respect and watch out for each other.


  • When parking on the street, check your mirror and over your shoulder for any approaching cyclists to avoid dooring someone
  • When passing cyclists, maintain a minimum of one metre between them and your vehicle, where feasible to do so
  • Always double-check for cyclists approaching behind you before turning right
  • Watch out for pedestrians and cyclists at intersections


  • Wear high-visibility clothing and have reflectors on your bike
  • Always wear a helmet
  • Signal to other road users when you are about to turn or stop
  • Wait for the green light at traffic signals
  • If there are three yellow dots at an intersection, stop on them as this is the most responsive part of a metal detector embedded in the pavement and will change the signal from red to green
  • Don’t ride on sidewalks and when riding on multi-use pathways, be courteous to all other pathway users

Building safety features into new infrastructure

The City of Ottawa is continually making improvements to road infrastructure to make everyone’s journey safe. You can learn more about these projects under the Road Safety Action Plan for 2023.

Whether you’re heading back to school, back to the office or are just out on our roads, watch out for other road users, especially those more vulnerable. And enjoy the September weather.

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