Toronto Police Tells Pedestrians: "Road Safety – It Starts With You."

Video screen capture. Toronto Police Services

Telling people to "cross the street as if your life depends on it" is just going to scare people out of walking. But hey, it worked for bikes!

Four pedestrians have died on the streets of Toronto, Canada, since the year began. One of them was crossing a street from a bus stop, hundreds of yards from the nearest crosswalk; two were seniors. So, logically, the Police have started a new pedestrian safety campaign titled, "Road safety... It starts with you."

It appears to be modelled on a New York City campaign, given that it is Madison Avenue in the photo.

The Toronto campaign changes the word street to road, which I suppose solves the little TM trademark problem in the New York ad.

I have written about these kinds of campaigns many times, most recently when they did the shared responsibility thing in Alberta. My biggest concern with them is that walking is one of the healthiest things you can do, and we want people do do more of it. Instead, we have the Police creating a culture of fear, term I learned from Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize. He wrote:

Programs indirectly or directly implying that walking and cycling are dangerous are freely using classic Culture of Fear techniques to scare cyclists and pedestrians....Their baseline is clear. Cars are here to stay -- everyone else either get out of the way or bubble wrap yourself. What this communication subculture doesn’t talk about is rather telling. Basically anything that would brand cars as the problem -- or reducing the number of cars.

There are no campaigns to control pickups or SUVs, even though they kill at three times the rate of cars. There are no campaigns warning people that driving is the most dangerous thing people do in their daily lives. There are no campaigns to put helmets on drivers, even though it might save thousands of lives. There are no campaigns to make all cars high-viz or to ban distractions in cars.

Instead, the Toronto Police tell pedestrians to stop listening to music.

There is no discussion of how the growth in the number of pedestrian fatalities is inversely proportional to the number of speeding tickets handed out in Toronto.

There is no discussion of the real #visionzero things that could be done, like fixing our infrastructure and making the roads safe for cyclists and pedestrians as well as safer for drivers.

This is how we get a city where people drive their kids to school because they don't believe walking is safe. Where every time you cross the street you have to act like it is Death Race 2000 and your life is at risk. Where it's clear, as has been shown time and time again in Toronto, that the Police do not want pedestrians in the street slowing down cars. But it's the cars that are doing the killing; go after them instead of scaring pedestrians off the streets. This is really just a cop-out.