A man in a blue jacket standing in front of a mountain.

Nov 4, 2022

6 min. read

Whether you’re behind the wheel, riding a bike or on foot, you need to remain alert while on the road, particularly in busy and congested areas.

But pedestrians and cyclists should be particularly cautious, as they’re by far the most vulnerable on our roads.

Here’s how York Region is working to improve safety for these road users, as well as some helpful safety reminders.

Improving intersections

Kennedy Road and Bridle Trail in Markham, Ont., is a major traffic corridor, and just a short walk away from an elementary school.

Officials fear it’s a prime location for collisions.

So over the summer, the entire intersection was restructured as part of York Region’s initiative to reduce collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians.

“The Region implements these measures to protect our citizens,” says Nelson Costa, manager of corridor control and traffic safety with the regional municipality of York.

Welcomed changes

Those driving through Kennedy Road and Bridle Trail today will find a very different intersection than a few months ago.

Motorists are unable to turn right on a red light and left turns are allowed only on a green arrow—two key changes to help protect cyclists.

Pedestrians get a head start when crossing the street, as the white walking symbol appears a few seconds before the corresponding lights turn green.

The intersection has updated push buttons so pedestrians can change the lights and audible beeps make it easier for the visually impaired to cross.

Enhanced crosswalks and narrow lanes encourage drivers to slow down, and a crossing guard is stationed at the intersection to assist kids walking to and from school.

Informing the public

York Region has launched a public awareness campaign to prepare drivers for the changes, says Caroline Berryman, a communications manager with York Region.

They also sent postcards to residents in the area and launched a social media campaign, which included a step-by-step video on navigating the intersection.

The nearby Unionville Public School emailed parents about the improvements to the intersection too.

Tracking progress

“We’re continuing to monitor the implementation of our pedestrian cycling safety measures to make sure that they are working as they are intended,” Costa says.

Though it's too early to say if they’ve improved safety, similar changes in other cities have reduced collisions between cars, cyclists and pedestrians by 80 percent, he notes.

Broader efforts

The changes at Kennedy Road and Bridle Trail are part of a larger initiative to improve safety at all major intersections in York Region.

In 2019, the Region overhauled four and found that collisions fell by 60 percent and side-impact collisions, which are considered the most dangerous, dropped by 75 percent.

That data prompted the Region to roll out more changes at eight high-risk intersections, including Kennedy Road and Bridle Trail.

“We'll continue looking at the expansion of the program where we see that safety needs to be increased to protect our pedestrians and cyclists,” Costa says.

While major changes to road infrastructure are key to improving road safety, Costa says it's important for drivers to look out for vulnerable road users. “Pedestrians and cyclists are not shielded by metal,” he says.

“If we all start thinking about creating a respectful environment when we're driving or walking and cycling, our community will be safer.”

Road safety tips

With daylight hours dwindling and inclement weather on the way, road safety experts say drivers, cyclists and pedestrians need to remain alert.

Here are a few reminders.

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid using your mobile device or headphones, as they can be distracting.

  • Obey all traffic signs and signals. Come to a complete stop at all red lights and stop signs.

  • When on foot, only cross at marked crosswalks and intersections.

  • Watch out for cars entering or exiting driveways, and backing up in parking lots.

  • Make eye contact with other road users at intersections before proceeding.

  • Wear light coloured or reflective clothing when walking at night.

  • Look in all directions before crossing. Don’t assume others will yield at crosswalks.

  • Make sure you’re visible. Drivers, motorcyclists and cyclists should have the proper lighting on their vehicles half an hour before sunset and sunrise, as well as when it’s dark, foggy or cloudy.

Share the roads

It’s important to be cautious and remain alert while on the road to ensure the safety of yourself and others. Visit caasco.com/roadsafety for more helpful tips.

Image credit: ablokhin/iStock

Share this article: