Red Means Stop, but not Always Stay

Red Traffic SignalThere is a mid-block pedestrian controlled light in our neighborhood and drivers frequently proceed through it after stopping if no one is in the cross walk. Is this legal?

Ask most drivers in B.C. and they will tell you that when you are facing a red traffic light, you must stop and stay stopped until the light turns green. The exception that may be raised is when you are making a permitted left or right turn and have come to a complete stop first and yielded as necessary.

This is correct if the traffic signal is at an intersection. Section 129(1) MVA says that a driver will stop and remain stopped until the traffic signal instructs the driver to proceed. There are two parts to the rule, stopping and remaining stopped until instructed otherwise. Here in B.C., that instruction would have to be a green signal.

Section 129(5) MVA covers a red light exhibited at a place other than an intersection. In this special case, the driver must stop and a pedestrian may proceed across the highway. There is only one part to this rule, and that is the stop. Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red.

I agree, this seems contrary to what we usually practice and is not mentioned in RoadSense for Drivers or RoadSense for Riders. None the less, if done with care, this is legal and can save time and fuel by reducing the wait. It is also safe because it is not at an intersection and there is no vehicular cross traffic to interfere with.

Reference Links:

Red Light - Section 129 MVA
Definition of Highway - Section 1 MVA
Definition of Intersection - Section 119 MVA


Submitted by E-Mail

You quote Section 129(5) MVA pertaining to stopping at a red light that controls a pedestrian crosswalk. The one in question is at Comox Avenue and Rodello Street and services not only the hospital but an elementary school up the hill. My concern is that because most of us stop at red lights and expect other drivers to as well, that pedestrians trying to make the walk light will get hit by either this person or another reading this article when they carry on through the intersection thinking it is still clear. I have read section 129(5) in particular and it does not state that you can proceed even thought the light is still red. The crosswalk in my neighbourhood is on a corner and not mid-block, so I don't know if this makes it a bit different. In any case, it makes me very worried for anyone trying to "catch" the light in the future.

The Word "Intersection" is Critical to This

As you can see from the Google street view below, the place that the person making the comment is talking about is at an intersection. I've gone back to the article above and highlighted the text that explains that this can only occur where the traffic signal is NOT at an intersection. At this intersection drivers must stop and remain stopped for the duration of the red light unless they intend to turn right, in which case they must stop, yield and then proceed only if it is safe to do so.

what about 2 red lights?

On king st,and cranbrook st,  When heading south on king st,approching cranbrook st,,you are faced with 2 lights, and 2 lanes. The first light,is at the railway crossing,(with arms and flashing lights,if there were a train) then there are 2 tracks to cross,Left lane can turn left,or go stright,after the tracks,at the 2nd light,(with room for 2 cars,from the 2nd light back to the tracks,,the 3rd car,if it were to follow,would be partially on the tracks) The right lane,can fit 2 cars as well,but also has an island,with a right turn lane,So it spits to 3 lanes after the tracks.the right turn lane has a yield sign,

I had the driver Examiner from town here,in my taxi,and I was in the right lane.As me and the car in the left lane beside me,both just missing the green light,stopped at the first light,I looked both ways,no train comming,so I proceded to the 2nd red light and stopped.He could,nt answer me if I could get a ticket for not waiting till the first light had changed to green,before I proceeded to the second red light.He said no one had recived one yet,so we will have to see what would happen in court,if someone got one and fought it.

In heavier traffic,2 cars,moving up(after stopping) frees up the 3rd car to turn right. so better flow of traffic.

So is this legal,to proceed through the first red,after comming to a stop,and Obviouslly if there is no train comming?

With one caveat

"Once you have stopped and yielded to any pedestrians as necessary, you may proceed, even though the light is still red."

Non-intersection pedestrian controlled lights are typically marked as crosswalks. The one caveat to proceeding on a red light at a pedestrian controlled light is that the driver does not overtake another car that is slowing down for or stopped at the crosswalk of the light.

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