The city has called for the removal of bright yellow flags intended to make pedestrians more visible as they cross busy city intersections.
The flags were installed by insurance company Aviva Canada as part of its new national road safety campaign “Take Back Our Roads.”
However, the company hadn’t received the OK from city officials before attaching branded buckets holding the flags to light poles at nine ncrosswalks.
“We support Aviva Canada’s efforts in enhancing road safety in Toronto, but permission was not sought from the City of Toronto before affixing flags to city-owned poles at crosswalk intersections,” city spokesperson Brad Ross said in a statement.
“Any organization that wishes to share proposals with the city to improve the liveability of residents and visitors, must do so through due process.”
Aviva Canada will be removing the flags, said company spokesperson Catherine Brown.
“There was a simple misunderstanding of communication between the city and ourselves,” she said.
Aviva had selected nine intersections — all downtown or midtown and near public schools — that data identified as having “the highest frequency or severity” of road safety incidents, Brown said.
The flags drew the ire of some residents, including urban planner Gil Meslin, who tweeted pictures of the flags hanging off a pole at Bathurst and Nina Sts.
Meslin tweeted that Aviva’s campaign makes it the responsibility of pedestrians to carry a flag when they have the right-of-way to cross a street, “further entrenching the subordination of pedestrians to the car.”
“The problem here is not pedestrian visibility. It is drivers who race through yellows and run red lights to make it down the road to the next red light 30 seconds sooner,” Meslin tweeted.
“Why does this make me angry? Because (once again) it puts the onus of safety on the pedestrian, instead of on those who are driving motor vehicles aggressively and irresponsibly.”
Brown said the flags were just one initiative in its national campaign to reduce the number of people killed or injured on Canadian roads, adding that the program is looking at all road users.
“It’s up to all of us to make our roads safer,” she said.
Councillor Josh Matlow, whose ward includes the Bathurst St. intersection where Aviva installed flags, said he’s aware of similar flag safety programs being put in place by parents in different neighbourhoods.
What’s needed to make Toronto’s roads safer are “substantive and meaningful actions like lowered speed limits, redesigning and reconfiguring our streets and providing meaningful enforcement,” Matlow said.
“Not enough has been done on all of those fronts. That’s what we should be focusing on and advocating for.”
In a statement, Ross said “there is no evidence that points to improved compliance at crosswalks because of pedestrian flags.”
In Seattle, the department of transportation stopped installing the pedestrian flags because of their limited effectiveness and the ongoing maintenance they required, Ross said.