News / Edmonton

City abandons ad campaign asking pedestrians to wear reflective clothing

Ad was criticized for putting safety onus on pedestrians, not drivers.

This proposed City of Edmonton billboard ad sparked anger online.

Courtesy / Facebook

This proposed City of Edmonton billboard ad sparked anger online.

The city is spiking a proposed ad campaign that suggested pedestrians wear reflective clothing so they aren't hit by motorists, following a strong backlash.

The ad was created to stress the "shared responsibility" pedestrians and drivers have for pedestrian safety in the fall, when light is weaker, according to the city’s traffic safety spokesperson Gary Dyck.

But, after the test ad — which featured a pedestrian wearing reflective tape and holding a flashlight — was roundly criticized on social media for victim blaming, the city has changed tack.

The city recently posted the proposed billboard ad online to gather feedback from its 6,000-member Insight Community. But it got more than an earful after the ad was shared elsewhere.

“The trouble with it going out to social media is people don’t see the context of it. We put it out for input, and received input,” Dyck said Tuesday.

He admitted the volume of criticism came as a surprise.

People took to social media to call the ad tone deaf, suggesting that it blamed pedestrians for being struck by negligent drivers, and suggesting that it is unrealistic to expect people to wear reflective tape.

The city has numerous ads around pedestrian safety, including many that focus more on driver responsibility.

Dyck said factors that lead to more pedestrians being struck by drivers in the fall include less daylight, more traffic and kids going back to school.

“The idea is that we do want people aware that this is the time of year that we need to be careful out there and watch out for each other. But this wouldn’t be the way I would have chosen to do it,” he said.

Dyck said the feedback will be valuable in helping the city develop future ads.

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