Road Work: Street Writing

Noa Glow | May 2012

Photo: Hot Tomali Communications Inc.

A City of Vancouver campaign called ‘People are Fragile’ aims to make pedestrians aware of their safety at some of the most high-risk corners in town.

If you’ve passed through intersections at Burrard and Georgia, Fourth and Arbutus or Main and Terminal—plus seven others—in the past few months and happened to look down, you may have noticed sentences ‘stuck’ on the street and sidewalk.

Far from random, these were part of a City of Vancouver campaign called ‘People are Fragile’, which was commissioned to make walkers aware of their safety at some of the most high-risk corners in town.

“Pedestrians take the brunt of the impact in accidents with vehicles,” says Thomas Stringham, president and creative director of Hot TomaliCommunications, which helped create the street writing. “The phrases aren’t meant to point fingers or overly focus on the rules; we wanted to wake people up to the possibility that they could get hurt if they ignore the crossing signals.”

The warning pasted to the sidewalk and spilling into the street just before the Cambie-Broadway intersection, for example, reads: “Is that a new coffee shop? I’ll just run over and grab a grande skinny latte…” As the words clearly illustrate, jaywalking across this road isn’t worth the price you could end up paying (and we’re not talking about the fine you’ll incur should a cop catch you doing it).

“People can be more focused on where they’re going than what they’re doing to get there,” Stringham explains, adding that his agency consulted with ICBC and the VPD to come up with the 10 messages. “When we stuck them to the street, we tried to imagine the footpaths¾which way people would be walking and where they’d be tempted to jaywalk.”

According to Stringham, 512 pedestrians were killed in collisions in Vancouver between 2006 and 2011. Though the campaign officially ended in March, the highly reflective, slip-proof lettering will likely stick around longer than that.