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Sharing the Road: New Study on Intersection Safety

April 11, 2024

Update : April 11, 2024

Field research evaluates how certain measures affect actual and perceived pedestrian safety.

When it comes to road safety, small changes can make a big difference: that’s the conclusion of a research project led by Piétons Québec and the team of Marie-Soleil Cloutier, professor and director of the Piétons et Espace urbain Laboratory at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS).

The team’s “À pied en sécurité : aménager la traversée des artères” (Walking Safely: Designing Crosswalks on Arterial Roads) project assessed the effects of various measures to make crossings safer for pedestrians. Professor Cloutier, who is also the director of INRS’s Urbanisation Culture Société Research Centre, studied the interactions between people on foot and vehicles.

In doing so, she collected opinions on various safety issues related to matters like vehicle speed and drivers’ respect of pedestrians’ right of way. The data came from on-site observations and surveys before and after measures like removing a traffic lane or adding a pedestrian island in the middle of a large arterial road.

Professeure Marie-Soleil Cloutier
Marie-Soleil Cloutier

“Sometimes, relatively simple measures can make a real difference,” explains Cloutier. “Over the course of the study, we documented an improved sense of safety and a reduction in vehicle interactions. The verdict: cities don’t always need to plan major redevelopments to improve the way different groups share the road.”

Helping municipalities rethink their intersections

Working with the administrations of Montreal, Longueuil, Laval, and Gatineau, the team observed seven intersections, including four where pedestrian crossings had been modified. With this data in hand, the message from Piétons Québec is clear: cities have the power to make their arterial roads safer and more pedestrian-friendly.

The project team has also created a series of fact sheets and short videos to present the findings from the study and encourage cities to review problem areas.

“Year after year, arterial roads account for the highest number of pedestrian deaths in Quebec,” says Sandrine Cabana-Degani, Executive Director of Piétons Québec. “Faced with this problem, our project aimed to study existing solutions for making arterial road crossings safer. The findings will provide useful tools for municipalities that want to take action. Because our arterial roads also need safety.”


  • According to an analysis of Quebec’s road safety records from 2015 to 2019, 1 in 3 pedestrian deaths occur on a main artery.
  • Before the measures taken during the course of the project, less than 50% of the pedestrians who were questioned said they felt safe crossing major arteries.
  • After the measures were taken:
    • Pedestrians felt markedly less rushed while crossing.
    • Fewer pedestrians felt that drivers were going over the speed limit.
    • Pedestrians were more likely to obey the lights at intersections with arterial roads.
    • There were 50% fewer interactions (instances where vehicles were two metres or less away from pedestrians on the roadway) at intersections.

Partnerships and financial support for the project

The “À pied en sécurité : aménager la traversée des artères” project was made possible by financial support from the Ministère des Transports through the Fonds de la sécurité routière’s financial assistance program, the Road Safety Research Network, and MITACS. This project is led by Piétons Québec in partnership with the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) Piétons et Espace urbain Laboratory, directed by Marie-Soleil Cloutier.

About Piétons Québec

Piétons Québec is the provincial organization for the collective defence of pedestrians’ rights.

It is demanding, yet optimistic and inclusive, in advocating for the safety and comfort of all pedestrians in Quebec. Because of the immense individual and collective benefits of travelling on foot, it is also committed to promoting walking as a mode of transport. Through collaboration and partnership, it educates, mobilizes, equips, and influences citizens and public decision-makers to transform social norms, regulatory frameworks, and built environments in favour of pedestrians.