A stationary digital billboard in Surrey. (Photo: kramer-design.com)

Surrey council denies request to allow digital billboards on moving vehicles

Staff say such advertisements would be distracting and ‘potentially pose a hazard to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians’

After receiving a delegation asking the city to allow digital LED advertising on trucks, Surrey council has said no.

Paramjit Dhadda spoke before council on Nov. 19, seeking support to operate a mobile digital billboard vehicle business in Surrey.

After evaluating the request, staff recommended council not support the proposal, saying it would be “distracting and could potentially pose a hazard to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.”

Last Monday night (Dec. 3), council agreed.

“Most mobile billboard vehicles are dedicated, customized trucks with displays on the side and back panels. Some advertising operations offer external sound systems, advanced video displays, and interactive displays featuring props and performers,” wrote Engineering Manager Fraser Smith in his report to council. “The example presented to Council by Mr. Dhadda was a large cube van with digital billboard displays on 3 sides.”

City staff confirmed that digital billboards similar to those proposed are in operation in other cities around the world but are “limited.”

Vancouver’s sign bylaw currently prohibits such signs, Surrey staff determined.

The City of Toronto has a program in operation that allows such signs, wrote Smith, but noted that city “has contemplated regulation on several occasions after concerns over distracted driving were raised.”

“Mobile digital billboard vehicles are permitted in other cities outside of Canada, such as Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas where the digital ad trucks operate in highly urbanized and lower speed environments that may be more compatible with the service than in Surrey,” the report stated.

Smith wrote that the Motor Vehicle Act “does not permit signs or advertisements to be erected on or over provincial roads, except where approved by the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure. The MVA also prohibits signs on or over municipal roads, except where permitted by municipal bylaws. Therefore, if the city prohibits signage, electronic or otherwise, on or over municipal roads, the prohibition would be consistent with provincial legislation.”

The act permits illuminated signs, provided they are located on the roof of the vehicle and meet specific size, location, content, lighting, and brightness criteria, however Smith wrote that the mobile digital billboard proposed by the delegation “does not meet the criteria of the MVA Regulations.”

The City of Surrey says it operates seven stationary digital billboards throughout the city.

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