The MUTCDC is a toolbox of road signs, traffic signals, pavement markings and other devices that communicate to pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicle drivers and other road users about important regulations, roadway characteristics, potential hazards and temporary conditions.
The Manual is not a regulatory tool or a standards document that Canadian transportation agencies must follow. Rather, it offers state-of-the-art technical guidance for jurisdictions to consider in developing their own legislation and regulations, and for individual practitioners to consider when applying professional judgement in their local context.
The MUTCDC begins with chapters introducing safety effects and road users, and is followed by five parts: signs, traffic signals, pavement markings, temporary conditions and typical applications.
Read our brief article on what it is, what’s new in the Sixth Edition, and why the MUTCDC matters.
The Sixth Edition of the MUTCDC was developed through a six-year collaborative process led by TAC and involving diverse partner organizations. Most federal, provincial and territorial departments of transport, together with 12 cities and two transport-related non-profit organizations played integral roles. The multidisciplinary consulting team included Canadian experts from the private and academic sectors specializing in human factors, road safety, active transportation and traffic operations. As with all of TAC’s national technical guidance, the final Manual was approved (in this case, unanimously) by Chief Engineers who represent 10 large municipalities as well as Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments.
Read our article on how the MUTCDC was developed.
There are a number of significant differences between the MUTCDC and its American counterpart, the U.S. MUTCD. These include:
Who leads the development of the Manuals
- The Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) is a national non-profit technical association with about 500 member organizations. Its members include all levels of government, private companies, academic institutions, and other associations that share common interests in road-related and urban transportation. TAC is funded by membership dues and the sales of its products and services.
- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation. It supports state and local governments in the design, construction, and maintenance of the United States highway system.
Authority of the Manuals
- TAC’s MUTCDC represents a national collaborative effort to improve road safety by harmonizing traffic control devices across Canada, without limiting the ability of provinces, territories and communities to test or adopt different, context-sensitive solutions. With the MUTCDC as a common starting point, provinces adopt their own laws regulations and manuals on traffic control devices.
- FHWA’s MUTCD sets the standards used by road authorities across the United States to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel. The MUTCD is updated periodically to accommodate the nation's changing transportation needs and address new safety technologies, traffic control tools, and traffic management techniques.
Availability and cost of the Manuals
- TAC sells the MUTCDC, which is a complex document about 1000 pages in length, through its online bookstore. A portion of the revenue from each sale of the Sixth Edition, as well as a portion of TAC’s annual revenue from membership dues, will be reserved toward the ongoing updates to ensure the Manual remains current/relevant.
- As an agency of the U.S. government operating within the Department of Transportation, the FHWA is funded by tax dollars and therefore makes its MUTCD available free of charge. This is similar to how Canada’s provincial traffic control laws, regulations and manuals are available at no cost.
Guidance related to pedestrians and cyclists is fully integrated in the MUTCDC. An introductory chapter highlights the need to consider the varied abilities of individual road users such as younger and older pedestrians. Information on key human factors principles is also provided to help users understand and meet the needs of vulnerable road users, drawing from international road safety manuals and other TAC publications.
Some of the key content related to treatments for pedestrians and cyclists includes:
- The MUTCDC offers many options for the design and operation of cycling facilities including bicycle traffic signals, bike boxes, separated bicycle lanes, contraflow bicycle lanes, raised cycle tracks, crossrides, and green surface treatments to increase visibility. It neither prohibits nor requires specific treatments.
- Pedestrian signal heads are required at intersections where pedestrian crossing phases may be confused with traffic signal indications for vehicles; their use elsewhere may be guided by an evaluation of conditions including pedestrian volumes and demographics (children and seniors), traffic volumes and crossing distances.
- Historical collision frequency is no longer recommended as an explicit consideration in the decision to install traffic signals. Rather, the MUTCDC recommends that safety-based analyses consider predicted benefits rather than past harms.
- The MUTCDC does not establish rigid warrant analyses to validate the installation of crosswalks. Rather, it recommends a variety of various pedestrian crossing options that could be considered where a full traffic signal is not warranted or appropriate to provide a crossing point for pedestrians.
- The MUTCDC provides guidance on zebra crosswalks and other conventional crosswalk designs. It does not prohibit the use of rainbow or other decorative crosswalks, instead recognizing the need for road authorities to evaluate and report on such innovative crosswalk treatments. To enable future evidence-based updates to the MUTCDC, TAC has begun a separate research project on non-standard pavement markings for crosswalks.
The MUTCDC doesn’t provide guidance on setting speed limits. Other TAC publications do discuss options and provide related guidance, including Chapter 2 – Design Controls, Classification and Consistency of the Geometric Design Guide for Canadian Roads, and Canadian Guidelines for Establishing Posted Speed Limits.
The Sixth Edition of the MUTCDC does not include guidance to accommodate automated vehicles. Vehicle automation research and development has not yet progressed to a point where there is a consensus in Canada on changes that may be justified.