Suburban exclusive: Quebec in process of changing French-only highway signs to pictograms: Fortin

From left, D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum, Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss, CSL councillor Ruth Kovac and Transport Minister André Fortin at a recent meeting.

Transports Quebec is in the process of changing French-only directive highway signs to pictograms, and will gradually also do so on electronic message boards, provincial Transport Minister André Fortin told The Suburban Saturday.

The changeover is coming about following a 7,000-name National Assembly petition, created by Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and Cote St. Luc councillor Ruth Kovac and sponsored by D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum, which sought bilingual traffic signage dealing with health and public safety. Last year, we reported that Transports Quebec committed to more and better pictograms.

Fortin praised the petition, and pointed out that he recently met with Staviss and Kovac along with Birnbaum.

“In terms of using more pictograms and to make sure highway signs are understood by everybody who uses the roads, there’s a couple of things we have developed,” Fortin said. “It’s important to know that we already use more pictograms on Quebec roads than anywhere else in Canada, but obviously we can go further.”

Some examples already addressed include signs indicating thaw following the winter season, and uneven pavement.

“And there are others that are in the course of being replaced,” Fortin said, including some addressed in the petition such as “incident voie droite bloquée” (right lane blocked because of incident) and “risque d’aquaplanage” (risk of hydroplaning). “So to make our roads safer and make sure everyone understands the warnings, we are moving to using more pictograms.”

Another aspect of the petition was electronic message boards warning of accidents and incidents, and providing directives.

“A lot of them are first-generation message boards and they don’t necessarily allow for the use of pictograms,” Fortin explained. “With the newer boards, the technology is better and it enables us to use less words and more pictograms. We’re changing a lot of these message boards right now to use more pictograms.”

The Minister also pointed out that, as the petition addressed, sometimes there are too many words on the message boards, “and we agree with that.

“We certainly don’t want our message boards to be an added distraction to drivers, so we’ve already given a directive to the various regional sections of the ministry to leave the boards blank if there’s no particular information of value.”

Staviss and Kovac were very happy.

“We are ecstatic with the news that the traffic signage and message boards on Quebec roads dealing with health and public safety are in the midst of being replaced by symbols or pictographs,” they said in an e-mail to The Suburban. “It is welcoming to know that such public safety signage as Dégel shall be replaced by pictographs, which most certainly will be more clearly understood by motorists using our Quebec roads.

“As we have said since the launching of our petition in early December 2016, the change has nothing to do with language, it has all to do with everyone’s health and safety,” they added. “Kudos and many thanks to David Birnbaum, the MNA for the riding of D’Arcy McGee who deposited our petition in the Quebec National Assembly on March 14, 2017, to André Fortin, our Minister of Transport and the MNA for the riding of Pontiac for considering and implementing our petition and someone who gets it, as well as to Elisabeth Prass (Bureau Chief and Political Attaché to Birnbaum) and Caroline Des Rosiers (Press Secretary/Attaché responsible for the file and Political Advisor) for their input. It goes without saying that we are excited and overjoyed that our petition really made a difference. It sometimes pays to stand up for what one truly believes will make a positive change.”

Birnbaum praised Staviss and Kovac, and those who signed the petition, “which I was pleased to present in the National Assembly. And, frankly, I commend The Suburban for having kept this issue in the news.

“I’m really encouraged that my colleague, Minister Fortin, has taken concrete and prompt action to respond. We’re talking safety and security, for all Quebecers and for all visitors to the province. André has spelled out specific measures to replace unilingual wording with easily understandable pictograms on key road and traffic signs and on electronic billboards. Furthermore, he’s given instructions to have those changes implemented promptly.”

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