Ottawa·Audio

Councillor removes 'beg buttons' at Old Ottawa South crosswalks

An Ottawa city councillor has gotten rid of what he calls 'beg buttons' — the buttons pedestrians have to press if they want a crossing signal — along a busy stretch of Bank Street. The signals will now automatically appear.

Pedestrian safety shouldn't be jeopardized to improve traffic flow, Shawn Menard says

Coun. Shawn Menard says pedestrian safety shouldn't be jeopardized in order to make roads more efficient for cars. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

An Ottawa city councillor has gotten rid of what he calls "beg buttons" — the buttons pedestrians have to press before getting a crossing signal — along a busy street in Old Ottawa South.

Capital Coun. Shawn Menard said he's eliminated the need to press the buttons on a stretch of Bank Street between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

During those times, whenever the traffic lights change, the walk signal will now automatically display.

The goal of crosswalk buttons is to improve the flow of traffic, but Menard says that in this case, vehicles shouldn't be prioritized over pedestrians. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

'Minimal' traffic disruption

The buttons are intended to help traffic flow efficiently along main streets by only granting pedestrians the right to cross if they've first been pushed.

However, sometimes people are left unable to cross either because they forgot to press the button, Menard said, or they're physically unable to.

It made sense to change this back to the way it should be — which is giving pedestrians priority.- Shawn Menard

Menard told CBC Radio's In Town and Out that pedestrian safety should not be jeopardized in order to make roads more efficient for motor vehicles.

"There is going to be some traffic flow that [will be] impeded [but it] will be very minimal," Menard said. 

"For a pedestrian safety enhancement of this sort, to us it made sense to change this back to the way it should be — which is giving pedestrians priority, since they're the vulnerable road user."

Shawn Menard, the councillor for Capital Ward, has eliminated Beg buttons from 7am to 7pm, along part of Bank Street in Old Ottawa South. 6:16

Hopes idea spreads

The idea came about, Menard said, after his team examined intersections in the area and noticed the need — especially in areas where children cross. 

The buttons are no longer in use along Bank Street at the intersections with Belmont, Glen, Cameron and Aylmer avenues, Menard said.

He added that they're also looking to get rid of the buttons at Riverdale Avenue.

Menard said he hopes this initiative spreads to other parts of the city as well. 

"I'm hopeful now that that's been done here, it can be done in many other places," he said. "I think we're off to a good start."

CBC Radio's In Town and Out

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