He’s not who you might expect to see at a downtown Toronto intersection – a soccer referee in full uniform handing out yellow and red cards to drivers blocking the intersection, the crosswalk or parking in bike lanes.
“A lot of the intersections are blocked by drivers being a little impatient, and I was really a little angry about it at first,” said performance artist Martin Reis, who decided anger wasn’t going to improve anything, and humour might be a better solution.
“As an artist I decided to come up with a way that is more positive, friendly, community based and keeps people safe,” he told CTV News.
With the help of some friends, Reis landed on the intersection of Richmond St. and Peter St. about five blocks north of the Rogers Centre. One-way streets, construction, bike lanes and pedestrians make it a congested intersection at rush hour.
“I came out here a couple weeks ago and it was just a mess,” Reis recalled. “I was giving out 20, 30 yellow cards. Fifteen red cards. It was just insane.”
Martin Reis, the ‘Crosswalk Referee,’ during rush hour in Toronto at Bathurst and Richmond streets on July 27, 2023 (Courtesy: @mrtineaux on Instagram / photo taken by Richelle Forsey @richelle4c)
When in his bright yellow referee uniform, Reis goes by his performer name “Avery Goodcall” – or A Very Good Call. He says he was inspired by other crosswalk performers around the world and with the Women’s World Cup in full swing he felt a “crosswalk referee” was an appropriate choice.
“Everyone understands the universal language of soccer — red cards, yellow cards,” Reis said, noting the reception to his antics has been largely positive.
“People have mostly been reacting really well. They know they are in the crosswalk, they know they’ve done badly and the red or yellow card reinforces it in a fun and friendly way.”
Reis said his main motivation is not to shame drivers but to keep intersections safe for pedestrians and cyclists.
“They just want to get home,” he said. “We all need to get home safely and this is a fun way to reinforce that.”
Even though the World Cup wraps up on Sunday, Reis says he plans to be out during rush hour over the next few weeks.
“As long as it’s fun, I will be here.”