Digital Billboards - Ottawa still considering them
The digital billboard pilot the City of Ottawa has been running for a few years is coming to a close. Reading through the latest results at http://ottawa.ca/digitalbillboards shows the report will recommend various guidelines for making digital billboards "work" well. Various measures have been introduced: slower refresh rates, no video, lowered brightness at night, various setbacks based on viewsheds and location. If we do end up with digital billboards those are good things.
What isn't in the report, and what cannot be in the report, is whether or not Ottawa wants digital billboards. This is really a matter of taste and aesthetics which staff do not judge. The report summary reads (bold mine):
After over a year of experience with the digital billboards pilot project, including trials with various operation restrictions, along with the research and consultation, the City is proposing a cautious introduction of digital signage technology in Ottawa. The resulting amendments would modernize the Permanent Signs on Private Property By-law 2005-439 and provide new business opportunities, as well as improved exposure and advertising flexibility for local businesses, while at the same time protecting traffic safety and residents’ quality of life.
In fairness there is a big difference between no regulations and the reasonableness of what the report recommends; the report does mitigate the worst aspects of a digital billboard. In fairness, there is also a big difference between no digital billboards and having digital billboards. My argument lies in the latter.
I pass through Carling and Kirkwood all the time, one of only three pilot locations for digital billboards. The photo from St. Laurent used on the webpage is somewhat misleading. It's taken from 200 metres away. That's how far someone living close to a billboard would ever be. Not bad right?
Well there's another aspect to our city: we do more than just sit at home. What about how our city feels when we are out and about? The billboards won't be sequestered away in voids - they will be situated where people can see them all the time. Even if residents aren't too affected while at home, we are all affected by these things the rest of the time.
Each time I pass through Carling and Kirkwood the distance from the intersection to the billboard is just 100m away. It gets closer when I'm waiting for the bus across the street from the firestation. Perhaps I'm biased because I've decided to dislike digital boards from the start but the thing is bright and, like a TV in a bar, demands that I look at it.
That offends my tastes and sense of aesthetics. Anyone who's seen my wardobe knows I have little of either, so that's a pretty big failing.
São Paulo: The City That Said No To Advertising
The "Clean City" law passed last year by the populist mayor, Gilberto Kassab, stripped the Brazilian city of all advertising. So how's it looking now?
What can you do right now?
Email email@example.com before June 15th with your comments. Here's my letter:
Hello, I just wanted to send you a quick email to register my opposition to digital billboards. It is not a matter of "safety" or otherwise, I just think we can do better with the aesthetics of our city. Local businesses have ample advertising methods already - but we only have on beautiful city and digital billboards go against that.
CC your councillor on that email.
Share this on twitter, facebook, etc, etc with your friends who possess style and taste.
What can you do in September?
The final report will go to Planning Committee in September. I'll keep my eye on things and will let you know when to get involved so we can prevent digital billboards of further polluting our cityscape. Just fill out the form and I'll be in touch!