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August 26, 2010


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Gary Chapple

Flashing green lights mean different things in different jurisdictions. Ontario is gradually converting to arrows for advance greens, because of this. You should really learn more about the issue before you write an article about it.

JR Jake

Yeah that reminds me of the guy who sits at three changes of the light without moving. Cars honking, and finally the guy behind him walks up to the window and asks "Is there a particular shade of green you are waiting for....?" nd than walks away. Needless to say the message got through. I hear he was kinda slooooooww. Thanks for sharing Jimmy.

Sean McConnell

I remember when my hometown of Stratford installed its first solid-green arrow (replacing the flashing-green that had preceded it).

I was stunned to see that our little town defied the obvious rule that an advanced left turn is always signaled by a flashing-green light.

Then I learned that solid-arrows are quite common in other cities (I was just 16 and couldn't really trust my junker to make it to another city... and back). Better cars would follow, which brought me to other cities and the realization that flashing-greens were becoming a thing of the past.

Now, 3o years later, solid-arrows STILL bug me. Not sure if flashing lights are still used anywhere, but if they are, thumbs-up to that municipalities traffic dude('tte)!

Greg H

Don't worry Jim, it's not just you. As a Torontonian turned Vancouverite, I had to learn these as well. Plus in my day to day job I deal with lots of visitors from other parts of the world. They frequently ask what the flashing green is about.

Pedestrian crossings are only half the reason. The other part is that they function at "half intersections" where the cross-road only has stop signs (no lights). These intersections have limited traffic relative to the main road, and thus only really need stop signs. But, at certain times of the day, the traffic on the main road is high enough that turning left at the stop sign is near impossible. During these periods, the blinking green lights go through a normal green-yellow-red sequence to stop the main road traffic and let the side road cars out.

So, the blinking green is also a caution (like blinking yellow would be interpreted) to say "you can keep going, but watch out for possible cars coming out of the side road". It keeps people from thinking the side-road cars are all running straight through red lights.


Some cities try and make their own rules. Here in Brantford, is the only city I have seen that has double left turn lanes without advanced green. Even stranger is the fact that the rightmost left turn lane is also a straight through. Thus forcing motorists to pull far out into the intersection, or block the traffic behind then. Yet people still don't know how to turn from a double lane and don't turn into the same lane they left.


We out here on the left coast enjoy our fresh ocean scrubbed air protected by vehicle regulations. We also have one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates given our propensity to Jay walk on rainey nights with poor visibility. I live by a pedestrian controlled intersection where the green light begins to flash when the walk button is pushed which was installed after numerous pedestrian fatalities. Surely a flashing green arrow is the safest way to turn left. I often ask naughty drivers what red means though-should one honk when running a red light?


In all fairness, Jim:

a) it's a very slow flash, not at all like the quick flash of an advanced green; and
b) outside of Ontario and Quebec, I don't know of any jurisdiction that uses an advanced green.

Ontario's advanced green is every bit as much of an oddball as BC's pedestrian-controlled green. Having lived with both, I prefer BC's approach: it provides useful information that may not be obvious at first glance (i.e. there's an intersection with lights triggered by walk requests that may not, as a result, be synchronized with other signals nearby), while the advanced green would be better served with a green arrow anyhow (as in every other jurisdiction on the planet).


If you have ever been to Israel, the flashing green means that the light is about to turn yellow. Granted, the interval of the flash is slower compared to the advance green flash rate.


... that's not right. I believe I could not sue Virginia because they are a 'not at fault' state. We turned left at a blinking green light and my best friend was killed on impact. The state told us the blinking green light meant 'yield to on-coming traffic'. At this light there have been 57 car accidents and the state changed it once a life was lost. I don't know what to say... I will never forget that light. I feel like they are at fault and if I was only smart enough to make a case I would, no matter how long it would take.

Jim Kenzie

Hello Christine:

What a tragic story. I'm so sorry for your loss.

I don't know what your law suit options might have been.

But you would think - as with the Vancouver situation I was describing - that especially with people travelling so much, it is incumbent upon traffic engineers to be consistent in traffic signage and other conventions.

I mean, if you travel to Germany or Mexico or someplace like that, you should expect that things might be different in a different country.

But just crossing a provincial border or a state line? When sometimes there's no more than a sign at the side of the road saying, "Welcome to Virginia"?

The signs also never say, "By the way, we do things totally differently here. We go on the red and stop on the green..."

There are various organizations that try to apply standards for such things, but from what I gather there is no requirement that jurisdictions agree to them.

And clearly, they don't.

One problem is that such things are almost invariably governed at the state/provincial level, so you have - let's see, 10 provinces, three (or is it four?) 'Territories', 50 states, and a 'District' - and they all could have different rules!

It's just nuts.

Jim Kenzie

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