So, do pedestrians always have the right of way? Short answer, no they do not. As with vehicles, pedestrians are bound by a strict set of laws, that when violated, can result in various charges or fines, or at least that is the case here in Alberta. Right of way, as defined by Wikipedia, is “the legal right of a pedestrian, vehicle, or ship to proceed with precedence over others in a particular situation or place”. This means that there is in fact an “illegal” aspect to this act.
Can-Traffic Services recently met with Constable Chantelle Kelly at the Sherwood Park RCMP detachment to learn more on the matter. Constable Kelly was very helpful and both her and her colleges were happy to answer our questions. To paraphrase the conversation, she stated that ‘pedestrians DO have the right of way at controlled signals, only when the “walk man” is illuminated, and at crosswalks’. She also explained that ‘pedestrians have right away at all “corner to corner” crossings at uncontrolled or unmarked intersections’. She advised that all crossings, regardless of the control measures, should be preceded with the “crossing signal”. This involves the pedestrian extending their arm and pointing at the opposite curb. This act helps motorist identify people looking to cross and potentially aids in the reduction of incidents.
Can you get a fine for passing a pedestrian who appears to want to cross the road?
Contrary to popular belief the answer to this question is no. Constable Kelly went on to explain that when on a roadway, vehicles have the right of way. The pedestrian who attempts crossing at a point in a roadway that does not have a crosswalk risks a citation. This holds true even if the pedestrian extends and arm and uses the “crossing signal”. This does not mean that motorists should disregard pedestrians they think may be looking to cross, the obvious approach would be to proceed with caution and yield if necessary. At the end of the day, human life is more important than a dispute over right of way. Before closing our discussion, Constable Kelly provided a link that provides more information on pedestrian safety here in Alberta. You can visit www.saferoads.com/pedestrians to learn more.
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