The excerpted article was written by Natalie Johnson, CTV News Toronto 

Aviva Insurance has removed the bright yellow flags it had placed at busy intersections across Toronto, after the city said the road safety campaign was unsanctioned and unproven.

The company had installed the flags to allow pedestrians to be more visible to drivers while crossing the street and had planned to reveal the plan Thursday, but had not cleared the initiative with the city.

“We support Aviva Canada’s efforts in enhancing road safety in Toronto, but permission was not sought from the City of Toronto before affixing flags to city-owned poles at crosswalk intersections,” said City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross.

“Any organization that wishes to share proposals with the city to improve the livability of residents and visitors must do so through due process.”

The flags were placed at several intersections the company deemed dangerous, including Bathurst and Nina streets.

Teachers from nearby Hillcrest Community School were seen using the pedestrian flags at that crossing Wednesday; many local residents told CTV Toronto the intersection was dangerous.

“It’s a little scary,” said Daniel Bogue. “People are really scrambling to get through this intersection.”

A bucket holding the flags at the crosswalk had read “each one of these tech enabled flags automatically tells city council how this road could be safer.”

But Aviva would not reveal ahead of the Thursday launch whether the flags contained sensors or data trackers.

Mayor John Tory said he believed Aviva meant well, but that the city could not condone a “patchwork” plan.

“We are going to solve it by changing behaviour and by an organized, determined city program that will make the streets and intersections of the city safer – that includes automated speed enforcement, it includes more red light cameras, it includes street design and it includes speed limits.”

Janis McCulloch, a spokesperson for Aviva Canada, said the company “respects the guidance from the City of Toronto and their request to remove the flags.”

“Raising awareness and starting a conversation around road safety was our primary intention, and continues to be the objective of the Take Back Our Roads platform,” she said. “We are in active conversation with them and look forward to working together on future initiatives to improve road safety for Canadians.”

The City of Toronto said that there was no evidence pedestrian flags increased driver compliance at crosswalks. The City of Seattle recently abandoned a similar initiative after finding that it was not effective.

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