The new advertising panels which accompany bike share locations throughout New Haven have caused some controversy since they were first unveiled last winter. That drama continued during the last meeting of the Historic District Commission (HDC).
The New Haven Independent has done several articles already detailing this ongoing dispute. Previous episodes showed the ads criticized by the City Plan Commission, Alders, Dixwell branch librarians, and now in this latest episode, East Rock neighbors and historic preservationists.
The meeting was particularly focused on those ad panels placed near historic sites like the Hall-Benedict Drug Company Building, and the specific content of advertising, including displays for corporations such as McDonald’s, Coors, and Heineken.
Critics have charged that city was not clear about design and content, or may have intentionally left out certain details about the project. Furthermore, they accuse corporate advertising of having detrimental effects on residents, especially young children.
The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) has found that children below the age of 8 are “defenseless” against advertising, since they have not yet developed the cognitive capabilities necessary to distinguish between an advertisement’s persuasive content and reality. The American Psychological Association (APA) came to a similar conclusion in their report on ‘Advertising and Children’.
Director of Transportation, Traffic and Parking, Doug Hausladen, continues to assert that he informed CMTs and other neighborhood groups about the bike share program, including information about advertising, long before any sign was erected.
Additionally, Hausladen claims that the advertising is a necessary component, without which the program would be financially unviable. This is particularly important since residents who receive certain subsidies from the state or federal government (e.g. food stamps) are eligible for reduced annual membership at around $10, compared with nearly $100 paid annually by regular, unsubsidized members. Still, critics insist that there should be no excuse for erecting ad panels anywhere in the city, and that there may be alternative ways to subsidize low-income riders (e.g. institutional support from YNHH).