News / Toronto

TTC's new safety campaign elicits cries of 'pedestrian blaming' from critics

The "stay focused, stay safe" ads warn pedestrians about jay-walking despite Toronto Public Health having found more than two thirds of pedestrian-vehicle collisions occur at intersections.

The TTC’s new safety campaign has some critics accusing the transit agency of “pedestrian blaming.”

Contributed

The TTC’s new safety campaign has some critics accusing the transit agency of “pedestrian blaming.”

The TTC is being accused of victim blaming after unveiling a safety campaign aimed at pedestrians and cyclists.

The “stay focused, stay safe” ads can be spotted on TTC property and carry warnings about jay-walking, wearing dark clothing at night, or using your phone while crossing the road.

Only one of the ads appears to target drivers, reminding them to yield to buses.

“It’s absolutely pedestrian blaming,” said Walk Toronto founder Dylan Reid. “They’re picking on things that are almost never factors in pedestrian deaths and singling them out.”

A June report from Toronto Public Health found more than two-thirds of pedestrian-vehicle collisions occur at intersections, compared to only 22 per cent mid-block. And according to the study, only 13 per cent of pedestrians were distracted at the time of collision.

Furthermore, the report claims the majority – 67 per cent – of pedestrian-vehicle collisions can be attributed to driver error.

“If you look at all the statistics, the number one problem is driver action,” said lawyer and pedestrian advocate Patrick Brown. “So, to turn around and point the finger at somebody’s choice of clothing suggests you don’t understand what’s really going on out there.”

TTC spokesman Brad Ross denied that the TTC is singling out or blaming pedestrians.

“The target audience for this campaign is pedestrians, but that in no way should imply that motorists don’t have a responsibility. Indeed they do: driving safely at all times comes with the privilege of having a valid drivers’ licence,” he wrote in an email.

Ross said the TTC is also using a version of the ads to educate their drivers and operators about safety.

The same health report analyzed collisions between pedestrians and transit vehicles, and found only 15 per cent of those hit by buses or streetcars were crossing without the right of way.

As someone who has represented pedestrians hit by TTC vehicles, Brown said the tone of the ads felt very familiar.

“They fight diligently in court to prove it was the pedestrian or cyclist’s fault,” he said. “The first thing they want to know is what colour of clothes were you wearing…  but in most cases it’s not warranted.”

Reid also criticized the TTC for failing to ensure pedestrians can safely access their stops and stations.

“The TTC is notorious for not caring at all how pedestrians get to their stops,” he said. “They haven’t intervened in things like getting the city to put in more crosswalks near TTC stops.

“I’d like to see that before they start lecturing pedestrians about how to walk.”