The Urban Etiquette Project

Just in time for National Etiquette Week (May 7-11), I am pleased to unveil The Urban Etiquette Project.

After the fantastic reception of the Toronto Etiquette Project last December, I decided to relaunch the project with a few revisions and some exciting additions.

In case you missed it last year, here's a quick recap:
  • On December 1, 2011, I launched a personal side project called the Toronto Etiquette Project (you can read the full rationale here). My objective was simple: to start a conversation about public etiquette in Canada's largest city. And did it ever.
  • The cards and blog went viral after only one week, receiving 10,000+ page views and 1300+ downloads, and national press coverage: television (CTV National News, Global News Toronto, CP24), radio (CBC Radio 1), newsprint (Toronto Star) and web (Huffington Post/Canadian Press, BlogTO). The highlight for me was an interview on CBC Radio's Morning Edition in my home province of Saskatchewan (I even got to give a shout-out to my grandparents!) The response was unexpected, overwhelming, but very encouraging. Apparently, I had struck a nerve with Canadians.
  • I also got numerous emails from strangers all over the country; people who took the time to send me their congratulations, praise, and offer excellent suggestions on how to expand the project.

And that brings us to today.

I have taken all of the feedback into consideration and revamped the project. Here's what's new:
  • My biggest request from Canadians was for city-specific cards. While my initial focus was improving etiquette in Toronto, it's true that every city could use an etiquette review. And since there are just too many cities to cover, the Toronto Etiquette Project has evolved into the more generic Urban Etiquette Project. (I can hear the question already: "What about a 'Rural Etiquette Project'...?")
  • I also had requests from people in Quebec and French-speaking communities for French language cards. So, with a little extra effort — and the help of my AMAZING friend and translator Lucie — the cards are now also available in French. Je présente Le Projet D'Étiquette Urbaine.
  • The other most common bit of feedback was, "Well, these cards seem to only point out BAD behaviour. What about something to publicly acknowledge GOOD behaviour?" My response: Yes! You will now see included in your Etiquette package a full set of positive etiquette "star" cards. There are 5 cards with friendly behaviours to choose from, as well as 5 blank cards to fill in yourself. See someone doing something good? Thank them, pay it forward, do something good for someone else.

Here they are (you can view larger versions on the companion site, or click on the images to download the PDF):

Et, en français:

Here are a few shots of the printed versions:

I kept a detailed spreadsheet of all the great, valid suggestions that were people generously offered me, but sadly, not all of them could be addressed in this new version of the cards. For the sake of interest, here are the top 5 requests that couldn't be incorporated for this set, and a bit of my reasoning:

1) Cyclists cards: As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, it seemed impractical to create a Cyclist card because of how difficult (and not to mention dangerous) it could be to interact with a cyclist on the road. It is very important for me to stress that these are not "leave-behind" cards — they are meant to start a polite, friendly conversation about etiquette and public behaviour. If someone is riding a bike, I'd prefer if you didn't distract them and risk anyone's safety.

2) Drivers / Parking cards: Same thing applies. I know there is plenty of road rage, and everyone has a story to tell about irksome driving/parking behaviour, but I'm not sure that these cards are the solution. I fear that people would just leave these cards on people's windshields in parking lots (à la; these cards are not violation tickets, they are vehicles for conversation.

3) "Precipitation etiquette" cards: Rain/umbrella etiquette (based on this Australian article) and Snow etiquette (based on this Boston Globe article). Great ideas, but tricky to handle in soggy weather.

4) Pet Owners cards: This is a great idea, but I think there's only one thing to be said — Pet owners: please clean up after your dog. Thank you!

5) Live Event Goers cards (theatre, movies, concert, sports event): If I was going to create a sixth card, this would probably be the one. When I tried mocking it up, there were limited options, and most of them seemed to fit into other existing cards (ie. say please, thank you, cover your mouth when coughing/sneezing, don't trim your nails...). I did think of creating a billboard-size card that read "This is a theatre — please turn off your cell phone." but ultimately abandoned the idea. If you see someone exhibiting poor/rude/disgusting behaviour at a public event, please just address it directly (and politely).

I think this is a perfect segway to the heart of the matter. Ultimately, this is not about the cards. The goal of the project is (and has always been) to start a much-needed discussion about civility and public etiquette. The Urban Etiquette Project cards should remind and empower people to speak up for what's right, and revive the necessity for common courtesy. In a world that is increasingly connected digitally, we have become more disconnected from each other and less cognisant of how our actions affect those around us. No one is exempt from common courtesy. I think we can find a way to get back in touch with our fellow citizens (even without invoking the Kumbayah drum circle). If we don't, who else will?

So please: slow down, be patient, unplug, smile. I promise it will only hurt for a second (just like a bandaid).

For National Etiquette Week 2012, I have three challenges, should you choose to accept them:

  • Start a conversation with a stranger about public etiquette.
  • Acknowledge someone's positive behaviour — publicly.
  • Do something kind for someone else — just because.

Let's get this etiquette party started! View the companion site here, or download the English cards here (et les cartes Françaises içi). And please, email / share the links on your social networks so we can get them all across Canada — and beyond.



"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Plato

p.s. As always, feedback and suggestions are always welcome.

p.p.s.  As I've mentioned before: please use your common sense, and do not risk your personal safety if you decide to use these cards. I do not want people to get hurt. These cards will not always be appropriate. If you have any doubt about the safety of the situation, maybe reconsider. We don't want to see these cards used as evidence in court.