Flashing Traffic Signals

Traffic Signal Warning SignA motorist will encounter three types of flashing traffic signals, red, yellow and green. Learn to Drive Smart, BC's Safe Driving Guide gives examples of each situation on page 37, but the law set out in the Motor Vehicle Act is more descriptive. Let's examine each case and see what is required.

flashing traffic lights

Flashing Green:

This is a pedestrian controlled light.

A driver facing a flashing green light must approach so that they are able to stop, should a stop be necessary, before reaching the crosswalk or the signal as the case may be. They must then yield to pedestrians, again in the manner specified for a flashing red light.

Pedestrians may cross at both types of signals in the same manner as at a flashing red light.

Flashing Yellow:

A driver facing a flashing yellow light must enter the intersection or pass the signal not at an intersection only with caution, yielding to pedestrians in the same manner as a flashing red light requires.

Flashing Red:

A driver facing a flashing red light at an intersection must stop before the marked stop line or crosswalk. If neither marking is present, then the stop must be made before entering the intersection. Once stopped, you may not proceed until it is safe to do so.

If the flashing red light is not at an intersection, the driver must stop in the same manner if a stop line or crosswalk is present. If not, then the stop must be made before reaching the signal. What is different here is the requirement to have regard for the safety of pedestrian traffic on the roadway or in a crosswalk in the vicinity of the signal.

A pedestrian facing a flashing red light may proceed to cross with caution using the crosswalk at an intersection or cross the roadway when not at an intersection.

Flashing Green with a Steady Green:

A flashing green arrow with a steady green light tells drivers that they may turn in the direction of the arrow or proceed straight though, depending on their intention.

Flashing Green with a Steady Red:

A flashing green arrow with a steady red light means that the turn is allowed but through traffic must remain stopped.

Lane Control Signals

These signals may also flash and are shown above the highway lanes where the direction of the lane changes depending on the signal settings. An example of this would be the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver where there are two lanes inbound and one lane outbound in the morning and two lanes outbound and one lane inbound in the afternoons. The center lane changes direction around mid-day.

lane control signals

Flashing Green:

Drive in this lane

Flashing Yellow:

Move out of this lane into a lane marked with a green arrow.

If all lanes are showing a flashing yellow light, slow down and proceed with caution.

Flashing Red:

Do not drive in this lane. It is showing a green arrow for traffic coming toward you.

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The flashing green light rule imho should be abandoned, I wondered about it's meaning a few times visiting BC & thanks to this website finally found out.
It is a uniquely BC rule & no Manitoba driver so far was able to explain it's meaning to me, while in Ontario a flashing green light means your left turn is protected, having two oposite meanings ("good to go" vs "possible yield") for the same kind of signal in different parts of the same country is absolutely absurd & as pedestrians are the most vulnerable participants in traffic this rule is simply dangerous.

... if municipalities in BC were forced (by over-riding provincial legislation) to employ flashing green (i.e. pedestrian-controlled) lights the way they were originally intended back when they were introduced circa 1960.

That is, for mid-block use only (NOT at an intersection) where there is a need/demand for pedestrians to cross the road without having to walk to the nearest intersection.

That way, these devices can best accommodate all road users to get where they're going safely and efficiently; once the pedestrians are out of the way, drivers can continue without hanging around needlessly.

Flashing green traffic lights at intersections - where there are Stop signs facing the drivers on the cross street - have devolved into a confusing mess, with almost constant legal infractions both by pedestrians who walk on the main road in defiance of the solid red light; and drivers who belt through the Stop signs when they think they see a brief opportunity to cross or turn onto the main road.

It's all wrong.  Where are the cops?  Where are the bylaws officers?  Where are the Traffic Engineers who understand how this stuff is supposed to work?  Sheesh.

An ICBC spokesperson in the video at https://bc.ctvnews.ca/video-shows-drivers-ignoring-vancouver-stop-signs-1.4026663 says that a pedestrian facing a red traffic light without a pedestrian light (at a pedestrian controlled flashing green traffic light intersection) could go,  but the BC MVA includes:

Red light

129 (4) When a red light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(a) a pedestrian facing the red light must not enter the roadway unless instructed that he or she may do so by a pedestrian traffic control signal,

I thought that drivers and cyclists should stop at the stop sign then proceed when safe, and the pedestrian facing the solid red traffic light (that doesn't have a pedestrian light) has to wait for the light to change.  I asked someone at the City of Vancouver about this some time ago and they argeed with me. Are we missing something?

I am lucky enough to be able to spend winter in Baja, Mexico. Many of the traffic lights here have an additional feature: a "stale" green will flash 4 times before turning amber (takes about 3 seconds). I like this feature very much, as it gives me time to prepare to stop without slamming on my brakes. Alternately, it also lets me know that I have a few seconds before it changes, and can better assess the risk of entering the intersection on an amber. Certainly, there are those poor drivers who will speed up, but I believe there would be more drivers who would lift their foot.

"A driver facing a flashing green light must approach so that they are able to stop, should a stop be necessary, before reaching the crosswalk or the signal as the case may be." Highway code quote???

In Mexico - at least on the Baja, a green traffic light will flash 4 times before turning yellow. To me, this is an excellent way to highlight a stale green. Allows the driver to assess and adjust his speed before the light goes yellow. Certainly, there will be drivers who will tromp on the gas to beat the yellow, but on the whole, it seems a Good Thing, and I for one would welcome this modification of traffic signals in BC. To me, right up there with the quiet campaign to "Keep Right Except to Pass".

"A driver facing a flashing green light must approach so that they are able to stop, should a stop be necessary, before reaching the crosswalk or the signal as the case may be." Highway code quote???

Well, we don't use the Highway Code in Canada, but this sounds like sound advice from the basic 'Road Sense for Drivers' guide which is our equivalent.  But if you think about it, that same advice would apply to drivers approaching any green light.  Even better advice would be to scan for pedestrians who might have pushed the button to activate the light, approaching a flashing green.

In most BC municipalites, the flashing green will change to a solid green for several seconds before changing to amber, as a preliminary warning.  In Vancouver City, it just changes from flashing green to solid amber, but after the light has turned red there will still be a deliberate delay before the pedestrians are shown a 'Walk' signal just in case.  Nuts that all municipalites aren't using the same system, of course.

These days, many pedestrian signals (facing pedestrians heading the same direction as the traffic flow) will change from a 'Walk' symbol to a 'Countdown' to assist drivers in anticipating the change of the light from solid green to solid amber.  This is great, except that it encourages pedestrians to dash across too late - and illegally - which makes it much harder for turning vehicles to exit the intersection.

Being as Pedestrian signals were only invented to stop pedestrian movement - for the purpose of allowing turning vehicles to get around the corner - I see this as a big step backwards in terms of traffic management.

There are some pedestrian Walk/Don't Walk signals that show a countdown, while an animated pedestrian walks. As the countdown progresses, the 'walker' increases speed until it is running. Quite funny, actually, but effective!

Decades ago, (in Quebec) I was driving on an 80 km/h two-lane highway approaching a rural intersection controlled by traffic lights. A red light to the highway traffic was displayed. Roughly 500 metres in advance of the intersection was a sign warning that the light will remain red until 50 Kmph was noted radar, at which point, the light would turn green. I did slow to 50, and the traffic light changed to green. At the time, I thought that was a terrific idea. I have not noticed that system in place anywhere else. Is this system not allowable, and if not, why not?

I have never heard of this before and just did a quick search without finding anything appropriate.

I have heard of traffic signals being synchronized so that traveling through them at a certain speed will result in arriving at each one during the green phase.

I'm going to guess that there are at least two hurdles to jump, the first being political and the second whether the traffic engineering community supports it or not.

Is there a gap in time between pedestrian light going red and traffic light going green?

Thanks. The reason for my question was this. I was actually thinking about left turns and completing the turn while yellow. Would the pedestrian signal be still on when light turns yellow.  At that point, could there still  be pedestrians and what should one do if there were pedestrians?

The status of the signals does not play a large part in this. If both the left turn driver and the pedestrian are legally within the intersection when the lights change, the driver yields to the pedestrian and the cross traffic yields to the driver.

If the pedestrian is not legally in the intersection, the driver still must exercise caution not to collide with them and cross traffic still has to yield to the left turn driver.

At some intersections in Richmond, there is a single flashing green light, what's the reason for this? 

Thanks so much. The light is forever green and flashing, similar to some of the red flashing lights in Richmond. 

My comment is about standardizing traffic lights. Advanced left turn green arrows are common and at a point the green changes to yellow. In Victoria I would say this is the norm and we as drivers expect this. However there is one intersection that instead of using an Advance left turn arrow, it is a Delayed arrow. I have not one situation like this.

Another point I again saw for the first time the yellow Advanced instead of stopping it changed to flashing yellow before it stopped.