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Traffic safety campaign suggests pedestrians be grateful to motorists who stop

17:25 23/08/2021

The new campaign launched by road safety institute Vias came in for some criticism by suggesting that pedestrians should be grateful when motorists allow them to cross the street. The campaign, All For Zero, asks citizens to offer their opinion on what could be improved in the use of public streets and roads in order to eliminate deaths due to traffic accidents.

The campaign includes several posters featuring residents proffering their own opinions. One of them quotes a man as saying: “My opinion: Required to smile and wave if someone lets you cross the street”.

“Are you not embarrassed?” VUB professor Geert Vandermeersche asked Vias via Twitter. “Stopping when someone is using a pedestrian crossing is the law. That this very fact is missing shows a bias and lack of critical analysis of traffic situations.”

The campaign video features the man saying: “I’ve noticed that when I stop for a pedestrian, they’re often paying more attention to their smartphones than to traffic”. This is “victim blaming,” according to the pedestrian safety non-profit, which was also stunned by this particular part of the All for Zero campaign.

“As if pedestrians are the big danger, as if they are the ones killing motorists,” said Geert van Waeg of Johanna. “That really doesn’t go over well.”

Creating confusion?

Van Waeg is the founder of the Brussels-based organisation, named after his 12-year-old daughter, who was hit by a car and killed while walking with her scouts group on a country road in 2003. “There are so many possibilities when it comes to communicating about pedestrian safety, and Vias throws up this idea that it could be improved by thanking drivers when they do what they literally have to do.”

Van Waeg points to another problem in the campaign, in which a young citizen says that he thinks it would be best if motorists were required to stay 1.5 metres away from pedestrians and cyclists – which is already legally required outside of urban areas. “This has been the law for 45 years,” notes Van Waeg, “so this message creates confusion among motorists, who might now think that it’s not currently the case.”

Vias, a government agency until 2016, when it became independent, says this is all a storm in a teacup. “You have to see the campaign as a whole,” responded spokesperson Stef Willems. “There are campaign videos about all forms of mobility. … the message is simply that a bit of friendliness couldn’t hurt.”

Regardless, Vias has removed that particular image and quote from the campaign, as well as the campaign video from its website.

 Photo (c)Nicolas Maeteerlinck/BELGA 

Written by Lisa Bradshaw


Frank Lee

I go to city hall to request a certificate, and I pay for it. I will still thank the public servant there who gives me my document for his or her work. Yes, they're supposed to do it, but being nice always helps. I always thank drivers who stop to let me use a pedestrian crossing. I know they're legally obliged to do it, but maybe it makes their lives a little better to see someone smile and wave at them. It's so easy, and costs me nothing, so why not make people a little happier if I can?

Aug 26, 2021 13:35