TAC's MUTCDC – What it is

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

The Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) is preparing to publish the Sixth Edition of its Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Canada (MUTCDC), which replaces the Fifth Edition published in 2014. The MUTCDC was first published in 1960.

This is the first of several upcoming articles on the MUTCDC, a publication that is vital to TAC and Canada’s transportation sector.

What it is

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. It guides the use of those traffic control devices to support the safe and efficient movement of people and goods, and is an essential tool for professionals involved in traffic management and control. It helps Canada’s federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to apply traffic control devices in a consistent and harmonized manner, which is an important factor in road safety.

The MUTCDC 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.

What’s new

The MUTCDC is 60 percent longer than the Fifth Edition published in 2014. A comprehensive line-by-line rewrite and overall reorganization means that important guidance is now easier to find and understand.

The MUTCDC includes a major new section on Typical Applications (Part E) with 89 figures that show how signs, signals and pavement markings work together to protect all road users. It describes a wide range of situations on roads, at intersections, and involving special facilities such as high-occupancy vehicles lanes and cycling facilities.

Other new elements of the MUTCDC include more than 30 traffic control devices, a section on dynamic message signs (A5), and an index of devices by name and number.

Guidance on pedestrian crossings, which was previously in a dedicated section, is now integrated with other guidance and more accessible to practitioners. New guidance on typical walking speeds will help practitioners to better accommodate slower seniors and persons with disabilities at pedestrian crossings.

Why it matters

The MUTCDC helps improve safety for all road users by promoting the design and operation of traffic control devices as an integrated system. It encourages predictable, rapid and error-free decisions by individual road users in conformance with applicable laws, and supports the harmonization of traffic control across Canada while providing flexibility for individual jurisdictions and practitioners to make the best possible local decisions. Uniformity of traffic control devices also reduces costs for road authorities.

How it supports and protects vulnerable road users

In recent decades the MUTCDC has increasingly prioritized the safe movement of vulnerable road users. The Sixth Edition continues this trend, giving even greater consideration to children and older pedestrians, cyclists, persons with disabilities, and novice and older drivers; it also provides information on key human factors principles to help meet the needs of vulnerable road users, drawing from international road safety manuals and other TAC publications. To make guidance related to pedestrians and cyclists more accessible to practitioners, the MUTCDC now integrates it throughout the manual alongside other guidance related to motor vehicles.

The MUTCDC continues to provide guidance on established traffic control devices such as pedestrian countdown timers, bicycle traffic signals and bicycle lanes, as well as on relatively new devices such as rectangular rapid flashing beacons for pedestrian crosswalks. New guidance includes a recommendation to design pedestrian crossing signals based on slower average walking speeds in locations where significant proportions of seniors or persons using assistive devices are expected. The MUTCDC also includes a provision for leading pedestrian intervals that give pedestrians several seconds to start crossing an intersection before vehicle turning movements begin, a practice that benefits older pedestrians in particular.

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