Most activities on our roadways are governed by the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. This includes not only motor vehicle usage, but pedestrian and cyclist usage as well. In the HTA, “hghway” means any road (it does not mean only controlled access 400-series-style highways).
Local bylaws are allowed to place further restrictions on traffic, but they may not contradict the Ontario laws.
Please note that these are my interpretations of the law and, since I am not a lawyer, do not constitute legal advice.
Let’s decode the Ontario laws first. A big thanks to Dylan Reid at Spacing Toronto for doing the heavy lifting for us. I will summarize the laws here, but his article is worh a read.
1. There is no mention in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act regarding pedestrians crossing at uncontrolled intersections (for example, mid-block). Therefore, when crossing at uncontrolled locations, the law of “due care” is applicable. This roughly translates to “look both ways and cross when clear”. It also means that motorists must take care not to hit pedestrians.
2. Section 144 (22) says:
Where portions of a roadway are marked for pedestrian use, no pedestrian shall cross the roadway except within a portion so marked.
Since the word “where” is not explicitly defined, and since section 144 deals with behaviour at signals, this subsection of the HTA basically says that a pedestrian crossing at a controlled intersection must stay within the marked section if one is provided. In other words, don’t step outside of the lines. It refers to the area immediately adjacent to the signals and does not prohibit crossing at non controlled locations.
3. Case law (Segal, 313) makes this more explicit:
In the absence of statutory provisions or by-law a pedestrian is not confined to a street crossing or intersection, and is entitled to cross at any point, although greater care may then be required of him or her at crossing.
4. Further, in the event of a collision, Section 193 (1) puts the burden of proof on the operator of a motor vehicle:
When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle.
So according to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, “Jaywalking” in its classic sense (crossing someplace other than a crosswalk), is not prohibited.
Of course, the HTA also outlines exact rules for behaviours at intersections – not walking against a red light for example – as well as pedestrian rights and responsibilities at controlled and uncontrolled intersections, so the entire Act is worth a read if you need clarification of these issues.
Now lets look at the further restrictions placed by Hamilton’s traffic Bylaw 01-125. The bottom line is that you are allowed to cross mid block. Also, any sidewalk that intersects a road includes an implied crosswalk that follows the sidewalk from one side of the street to where it continues on the other. So you are allowed to cross at any non signalized intersection,and the law treats you as if you are crossing inside a painted crosswalk. Of course there are other restrictions, but most of them are straightforward common sense. As a pedestrian, you must not block traffic. You must use a sidewalk if one is provided. You must only enter the street if you are planning to cross it, and if so you must walk straight across (no long diagonal crossings allowed unless you are following a crosswalk that does so). You can’t cross a physical barrier (guardrail). You must not walk in a bike lane if there is a sidewalk provided for you.
There is also a list of streets where you are not allowed to walk. The Linc, The RHVP and the Sherman Cut. And a small list of intersections with specific crossing restrictions (see the details below).
Other than that, pedestrians are only limited by the Ontario Act as outlined above. If you stay within these easy rules, you should not be ticketed – and if you are, you will have a good case for fighting it.
The following is a section by section summary of the Hamilton Bylaws. For reference, I’ve copied the exact text of every section of the bylaw that mentions pedestrians at the end of this article.
A. Hamilton’s bylaw 01-125 Section 1(h) defines crosswalks. In Hamilton, a crosswalk does not have to be painted. Any sidewalk that intersects a road includes an implied crosswalk that continues across the road to meet the sidewalk on the other side. Of course, crosswalks defined by signs or road markings are legally considered crosswalks.
B. Section 23 gives pedestrians travelling on the sidewalk explicit right of way over any vehicle crossing the sidewalk at intersections other than roads. This means alleys, driveways, etc.
C. Section 29 means that pedestrians must give right of way to funerals and other processions
D. Section 38 says that you must use a sidewalk if one is provided. If it isn’t, you must walk as far left as possible on the roadway, facing traffic.
E. Section 40 says that pedestrians who are crossing a road anywhere other than a crosswalk (remember the definition above includes unpainted crossings) must do so using the shortest route possible. This means that you cannot cross a road diagonally unless the painted (or implied) crosswalk intersects on a diagonal. This also implies that crossing where there is no crosswalk is perfectly legal.
F. Section 41 says that a pedestrian cannot cross a railing or barrier. So no hopping the fence along King at Gore Park for example.
G. Section 42 says that pedestrians must obey signs which prohibit them from entering restricted roadways or crossing restricted intersections, and the list is given in Schedule 24 (and summarized here):
- No Pedestrian Entry: Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway
- No Pedestrian Entry: Sherman Cut – Crockett St to Sherman/Kenilworth Access
- No crossing James South along the North edge of St. Joseph’s Drive
- No crossing James South along the South edge of Herkimer
- No crossing James South along the South edge of Charlton
- No crossing John South along the North edge of St. Joseph’s Drive
- No crossing John South at Haymarket (either side)
This last one is interesting because there is a signalized pedestrian crosswalk crossing John along the southern edge of Haymarket. Presumably since there is no sign forbidding it, you are allowed to cross at the green pedestrian signal there.
H. Section 43 says that you cannot walk or stand in a manner that blocks others’ ability to use the road or sidewalk.
I. Section 44 basically says to stay off the road unless you are crossing it. Ball hockey players should take note of this bylaw.
J. Section 45 is similar to section 42 in setting out access restrictions. The difference is that the roads listed in schedule 25 are also restrictive of cyclists and animals. Schedule 25 contains only:
- Pedestrians, Animals & Cyclists Prohibited on the Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway
- Pedestrians, Animals & Cyclists Prohibited on the Red Hill Valley Parkway
K. Section 52 says that pedestrians are not allowed to walk in a bike lane if there is an adjacent sidewalk for their use.
The full text of the relevant sections of Hamilton by-law 01-215 follows:
1.h “crosswalk” means: ( i ) that part of a highway at an intersection that is included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or, in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the roadway; or, (ii) any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by signs or by lines or other markings on the surface;
1.u “pedestrian” means a person on foot, and includes a person in a wheelchair or on a motorized scooter designed for use on a sidewalk, and a child in a baby carriage or on toy vehicle;
1.ab “sidewalk” includes all such parts of a highway as are set aside and improved for the exclusive use of pedestrians;
1.ah “traffic” includes pedestrians, animals which are lead, ridden or herded, vehicles, motorized snow vehicles and other conveyances, either singly or together while using any portion of a highway for the purposes of travel
1.ak”traffic, one-way” or “one-way traffic” means traffic, not including pedestrians, moving upon a highway in one direction only;
23The driver of any animal or vehicle, about to enter or leave any alley, driveway, lot or building shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian on any sidewalk, footpath or side boulevard, approaching the alley, driveway, lot or building.
29No pedestrian or person riding or driving any animal or vehicle, shall intersect, interrupt or otherwise interfere with any funeral cortege or any other procession lawfully using the highway, except under the direction of a Police Officer.
PART 4 – PEDESTRIANS, BICYCLISTS, AND ANIMALS PEDESTRIANS
38. Where there is a sidewalk on either side of the roadway, no pedestrian shall walk along the roadway.
39. Where sidewalks are not provided on a highway, a pedestrian walking along the highway shall walk on the left side thereof facing oncoming traffic and, when walking along the roadway, shall walk as close to the left edge thereof as possible.
40. A pedestrian shall not cross a roadway by other than by the shortest route, except within a crosswalk.
41. No pedestrian shall proceed over or under a railing or other such barrier permanently installed along the edge of a sidewalk.
42. Where suitably worded signs are displayed, no pedestrian shall cross or enter any highway named in Column 1 of Schedule 24, in the direction or directions set out opposite thereto in Column 2, at that side of the intersection shown opposite thereto in Column 3.
43. No person shall walk or stand together with one or more other persons in such a manner as to impede pedestrians or vehicular traffic.
44. No person shall play or take part in any game or sport upon a roadway, and, where there is a sidewalk, no person upon roller skates, roller blades, inline skates or riding in or upon any coaster, scooter, skate board, toy vehicle or similar device, shall go upon a roadway except for the purpose of crossing the road, and when so crossing such person shall have the rights and be subject to the obligations of a pedestrian.
45. (1) Notwithstanding the other provisions of Part 4 of this By-law, no pedestrian, cyclist or person riding upon, leading or driving an animal, shall travel upon or along or cross any highway or part of a highway set out in Schedule 25, save and except that this prohibition shall not apply to:
(a) Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Ambulance DriversIAttendants, Municipal Law Enforcement Officers, Tow Truck Operators or other emergency workers, in the performance of their duty; or
(b) Employees of The City of Hamilton in the performance of their duties; or,
(c) Persons making use of the highway where such use is necessary because of an emergency or vehicle breakdown.
(2) Schedule 25 describes the following:
(a) in column 1 thereof, the name of the highway or part of a highway;
(b) in column 2 thereof, the point at which the prohibition commences; and,
(c) in column 3 thereof, the point at which the prohibition terminates.
46.4(4) No person shall park a bicycle on a roadway or sidewalk except in such a way as to cause the least possible obstruction to pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
52No pedestrian shall travel upon a designated bicycle path or within a designated bicycle lane where an adjacent sidewalk exists.
Schedule 24 (Pedestrian Entry or Crossing Prohibited)
Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway
Sherman Cut – Crockett St to Sherman/Kenilworth Access
Schedule 25 (Pedestrians, Animals & Cyclists Prohibited)
Lincoln M. Alexander Parkway
2005 Amendment to Schedule 24 – pedestrian entry or crossing prohibited:
James Northside St. Joseph’s Drive
James Southside Herkimer
James Southside Charlton
John Northside St. Joseph’s Drive
John Northside & Southside Haymarket”
Red Hill Valley Parkway Linc to the Q.E.W.