There are dozens of reasons why city council’s attempts to place an almost outright ban on postering is just plain misguided. What’s surprising is that this isn’t the first time that the city has tried to clamp down on visual clutter.
The City of Toronto Archives, in their exhibit “Signs of Urban Life,” make it crystal clear that the “eye sores” of posters, sandwich boards and every other type of ad is nothing new and that the city has tried to limit the ‘chaos’ for decades, with little or no effect. Just take a look of this photo of a storefront taken in 1910 on the corner of Bay and Adelaide. The dozens of lithographed posters might look quaint, but the sentiment wouldn’t be out of place on almost any major street in downtown Toronto.
The exhibit traces the history of outdoor advertising and reminds us that ever since its early days, Toronto’s commercial vibrancy made it a great place for advertising. It wasn’t just goods that were being advertised, the show also gives us a glimpse of the propaganda posters that littered our streets during WWI and WWII.
But the one development we are still living with today is the rise of car culture. The new strip malls, supermarkets and shopping malls that popped up all over Toronto required parking and so shops were set further back from the street. Signs grew larger, brighter and brasher. On main streets like Yonge, where parking was not possible, signage became more distracting to attract the attention of drivers. The end result are our ad-saturated, video-screen plagued streets and sidewalks.
It’s another reason why the postering by-law deserves rabid and unrelenting opposition. Posters are inarguably directed at pedestrians, they are human in scale and size. Those councillors who are for the by-law have made it very clear that not only are they anti-poster, but that they’re also anti-pedestrian.