Bill Co. Incorporated appealed a refusal by the Calgary Development Authority to allow for a permit to install a digital advertising sign at 727 42 Avenue SE, Calgary, Alberta. This proposed sign location is near the intersection of Blackfoot Trail SE and 42 Avenue SE, which has already has a Bill Co. Incorporated sign along 42 Avenue SE. The application proposed installing an additional sign along Blackfoot Trail SE. The proposed digital sign would be 7 m wide by 3.5 m tall installed 8 m high.
The Development Authority had originally denied the permit application for the following reasons: 1) Installation of the sign would require remove of two mature trees, which is prohibited by the bylaw regulating digital signs. 2) The land use bylaw further specifies a minimum distance of 300 m between digital signs that face the same oncoming traffic. The Development Authority found that both the existing and proposed signs would be visible to southbound traffic on Blackfoot Trail SE and eastbound traffic on 42 Avenue SE and would be only 81 m apart.
The Appeal Board denied the appeal and upheld the decision of the Development Authority to refuse the permit for the proposed sign.
Applicant’s Safety and Human Factors Position
Mr. Brian Malone, a traffic engineer, provided a review of the potential safety impacts associated with digital signs at intersections and spoke in favour of the appeal. Mr. Malone agreed with Mr. Dilgir (expert for the Development Authority) that 1) the proposed sign has the potential to present a distraction to drivers at the intersection, 2) the presence of the proposed sign would add to the complexity in the driving environment would could result in an increase in collision risk, 3) a higher degree of cognitive complexity in the driving environment can result in an increase in collision risk, 4) the proposed sign would be within the cone of vision for drivers southbound on Blackfoot Trail, and 5) there is no statistically significant research that directly links the presence of digital advertising signs to an increase in collisions.
Mr. Malone disagreed with Mr. Dilgir regarding the extent to which the proposed sign would be visible in conjunction with the existing digital advertising sign. Mr. Malone opined that since there isn’t enough data, it is not possible to conclude that the location for proposed sign would be unsafe.
Development Authority’s Safety and Human Factors Position
Mr. Raheem Dilgir, a traffic engineer, provided a review of the potential safety impacts associated with digital signs at intersections spoke in opposition to the appeal. Mr. Dilgir referred to the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) “Digital and Projected Advertising Displays: Regulatory and Road Safety Assessment Guidelines – Draft Report” for his analysis. Mr. Dilgir opined that the reason there is no statistically significant research that directly links the presence of digital advertising signs to an increase in collisions is more a function of a lack of available methods to measure the link. Therefore, Mr. Dilgir opined, based on the transitive principle of causation, digital signs do attract attention away from the roadway and attracting attention away from roadways cases collisions. Mr. Dilgir opined that the proposed sign would have an unacceptable safety impact given that the proposed sign was too close to the intersection, was within the driver’s cone of vision; was too close to a traffic signal display, and was within 300 metres of another digital sign.
Appeal Board’s Rational
The Appeal Board found that both experts were impeccably qualified. In the end, the board placed neither positive nor negative weight on the conclusions or the experts with regard to safety and distraction. Nonetheless, the Board noted that Mr. Dilgir produced a cone of vision diagram while Mr. Malone did not. Therefore, regarding the analysis of the direction of the signs and if they were facing the same ongoing traffic, the Board preferred the evidence of Mr. Dilgir. The Board concluded that the proposed sign faces the same ongoing traffic as the existing digital third party advertising sign on the property. Since the proposed sign is not in keeping with the Calgary Third Party Advertising Sign Guidelines, the Board denied the appeal.
See SDAB2014-0164 (Re), 2014 CanLII 83377 (AB SDAB) for a very similar case.