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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Prevent it — ad creep, that is

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The WSIB has an interesting ad campaign about preventing injuries in the workplace. They also have an excellent web site to demonstrate potential hazards. But they have created a hazard of their own at the corner of Yonge and Dundas, one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the city. By using a flipped over car to highlight the dangers of high-risk jobs that are low-paying (like pizza delivery jobs), they are creating a walking obstacle of their own for the disabled and the blind, not to mention every able-bodied person. Even though the display sits on Dundas Square, and not on a sidewalk, it still impedes the natural flow of pedestrian traffic all in the name of a commercial campaign.

If the WSIB is going to make a dramatic scene to drive their point home, they should think through every angle. I find this situation no different than an anti-sweatshop campaign which outfits their canvassers with Nike shoes and t-shirts.

It makes me think the WSIB doesn’t care about other hazards outside the workplace (I’m sure they do, but that’s my point).

Photo by Yvonne Bambrick



  1. This sign is illegal and doesn’t have a permit. There is a similar sign on the northern wall of 80 Dundas East, facing Church that is also illegal. I’ve asked the inspector to take action against 80 Dundas East. Ironically, erecting signs without a Building Permit, with no compliance with the Ontario Building Code, makes a mockery of of the safety provisions in the OBC.

  2. I thought the advertisements were really creative and a bit of a break from the typical….so ya, I really liked it. I don’t see the ad as an impedment at all….it’s *in* dundas square…you could argue the whole square is a sidewalk too no?

  3. Isn’t the sidewalk still fully accessible? This isn’t an obsticle for the blind and disabled… technically anything you put in Dundas Square could be considered an obsticle. The large feet on the caution signs are probably more helpful for a blind person, than alot of other ‘obsticles’ errected on the street and square. If anything, this ad shows Toronto’s creativity, as well as gets a positive message across. Besides, it’s in dundas square, where the character of the space is defined by creativity in advertising.

  4. this is advertising a good cause. the point is to be intrusive. and shocking. so people actually take note.

    just because it’s advertising doesn’t mean it’s bad.

  5. The odd thing is that the car wreck is just feet away from a large display of new cars and trucks…it struck me as funny. Of course then I cried as this part of the city, and surrounding blocks is just a giant ad. Its getting hard to see the sky for all the ads. sd

  6. I will admit to being slightly reactionary to this, and as I say in my post, it is an interesting campaign.

    I guess my real objection is that it is so lose to the sidewalk and to the flow of people using the subway enterance that it is kind of hypocritical to put hazards out on display. I’m sure it doesn’t really mess with the natural flow of the square, but it just one more part to the clutter of that square. If it is not a car commerical being filmed on the square, it is a private party under tents.

    The square can be used for great things (the anti-Iraq war protest of Feb 15 2003, the weekly movie nights) but too often the interests of commercial gain dominates without much consideration for the users of the square and area.

    … And I do like the idea of turning that arrow to point upward instead of down.

  7. I’d guess that the folks at the WSIB would tell you that they hope to save lives, or at least reduce grave injuries, via this campaign. (And it is a public awareness campaign — they’re not trying to sell anything.) That strikes me as a pretty reasonable use of part of Dundas Square; not much different than a blood donor clinic tent that might block off the fountains for a day or two.

    The irony for me is that their message gets a bit lost because it does blend into all the surrounding billboards. It’d stand out more on the front lawn of Queen’s Park. But fewer pedestrians walk through there, which is probably why they’re targeting Yonge and Dundas, just like all the commercial advertisers.

  8. @ Matthew;

    So if I get you right; anti-war protests & movie nights = GOOD and car commercials, private parties with tents and accident awareness campaigns = BAD.

    Sounds like a rather obvious interjection of your own values to me.

    Maybe someone should have invited you to that private party?

    Additionally, if you think that the display interferes with subway access, you obviously haven’t tried to exit on the North side of Dundas onto the construction narrowed sidewalk.

    Kudos to the WSIB for attempting to bring accident awareness to the mainstream and hopefully to a younger generation.