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This is why a fake referee is handing out yellow and red cards to Toronto drivers

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Most drivers get handed a ticket from a police officer when they break traffic rules, but some in Toronto are now being handed yellow or red cards by a fake soccer referee for their driving behaviour.

Since the start of 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Martin Reis, a 59-year-old performance artist, has transformed himself into Avery Goodcall, a FIFA referee sporting a black and yellow uniform who – instead of giving violations to players for unsportsmanlike behaviour -- hands out violations to drivers not following the rules of the road.

“The idea came about because I noticed that in Toronto a lot of crosswalks, especially lately in the last couple of years, are really blocked by vehicles just sitting there idling when they don’t need to be,” Reis told CTV News Toronto Friday.

At first, Reis was annoyed by the behaviour until he remembered Peatónito, a performance artist from Mexico City who stands up for pedestrian’s rights by donning a Luchador outfit and pushing cars out of crosswalks.

“It’s something my friend (sic) used to tell me, that the angrier you get, the funnier you have to get, which I really took to heart,” Reis explained, adding that’s how Crosswalk Referee came to life. “I decided just to come out in the traffic and give out some red and yellow cards, which is like a really universal language, everybody knows soccer. I mean, just about everybody.”

The so-called arenas for Reis’ matches typically takes place at Peter and Richmond streets, at rush hour times on days when a World Cup game is scheduled to play.

“I’m trying to basically transfer a soccer match into an intersection and treat the pedestrians and cyclists as one team and the cars as the other team,” Reis explained, adding one team is unofficially called Richmond FC while the other Peter Street Ramblers. “The way I figured this out is … if the walk signal is on, if you’re supposed to walk as a pedestrian and there’s a car on the crosswalk, I would go out and give them a yellow card as a caution.”

If the driver is still in the intersection the next time the walk signal is on, it’s another yellow card. Then, when a red card is given, Reis says it’s a sign they are out of the match and need to move their vehicle out of the way.

Instant red cards are handed to motorists who are parked in the middle of the intersection, blocking the flow of traffic or cyclists trying to get by, Reis added.

Most have understood the rules of the game, though occasionally there is some confusion.

“They sort of look at me, sort of shrug their shoulders, ‘What do you want me to do?’ Well, don’t be in the crosswalk, but overall, it’s all been very, very supportive, especially from pedestrians and cyclists,” Reis said.

As for drivers, Reis said typically he’s met with understanding, as the driver is aware of what they’re doing, but he adds he tries to avoid confrontation as much as possible.

“Hey, you know, we need to look after each other, and, you know, help us out.”

Toronto’s traffic congestion truly is some of the worst in the world, as the city was ranked seventh globally for it with commuters losing an average of 118 hours on roads and highways to congestion in 2022.

While the World Cup final hits the field this Sunday, Reis said he will be performing instead the following Friday afternoon, when there is more traffic on the roads. But, Torontonians may still catch Avery Goodcall when school is back in session in September.

“I’m having so much fun doing this,” Reis said. “It’s been a really positive experience, and that’s certainly something I’ll remember and probably do more often.” 

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