Bike blitz: helpful or harmful?

Yesterday marked the beginning of this year’s Bike Blitz.  Officially, it’s called the “Safe Cycling — Share the Responsibility Campaign”.  It’s a week-long Toronto Police campaign with a stated purpose of “promoting awareness and education” and “reducing the potential for cycling related injuries.” On paper, it sounds like a great idea.  After all, who isn’t in favour of more safety and fewer injuries?

The premise is sound, but the problem lies in the implementation.  There are two different approaches that can be taken for a campaign such as this.  One approach is to use discretion, giving tickets to cyclists who are riding dangerously while educating and warning cyclists who make minor infractions.  This can include handing out printed materials about safety and traffic rules.  The other approach is to embrace a ‘zero tolerance’ model and hand out as many tickets as possible for minor infractions.  The first method increases awareness and strengthens the relationship between police officers and cyclists. The second approach results in cyclists feeling targeted and harassed (some tickets are $100+) while increasing hostility towards the police.

In recent years, the annual campaign has fallen squarely into category #2.  There is reason to believe that this year’s event will be better, but we’ll believe it when we see it.

On Monday morning I rose early to attend a 7am press conference (pdf release) about the Bike Blitz.  I was a little worried.  After all, it was the first press event that I was attending as a blogger.  Would I be taken seriously? Would the TV networks shove me aside?  Would the daily reporters interrupt my questions?  I emotionally prepared myself for the worst as I biked along College to the event. (On the way, I had to swerve around a police car parked in the bikelane…). The two scheduled speakers were Police Officer Hugh Smith and Yvonne Bambrick (from the bike union).  I arrived at College and Bellevue five minutes late and was thrilled to see that the media turnout was low.  Less competition means more interview time for me. In fact, there was only one media person there. Me.

The three of us spent the next thirty minutes chatting back and fourth about the “Safe Cycling” campaign. I talked about how the blitz is perceived by many cyclists and I gave examples of things that I thought they could do better:

• Don’t set-up ‘sting’ operations in locations where cyclists are breaking rules in a harmless way, just to hand out more tickets.  For example, a favorite spot is College and Augusta, ticketing cyclists who are turning south.  Technically, it’s a one way street (northbound), but everyone knows that cyclists go both ways in the Market, and it works just fine. Handing out tickets there does not increase safety; it increases anger.  (Especially when the police are giving tickets to customers of Bikes on Wheels who are taking a bike for a test ride on Augusta — this happened last year).  Riding two ways on a one way street is considered safe practice in many cities and in some places it’s actually written into the law.
• Let cyclists use a ‘rolling stop‘ at stop signs.  This means that they slow down, look both ways, and proceed.  Again, this is common legal practice in some jurisdictions and for good reason: it works and it’s safe.  Toronto’s Bike Blitz often sets up on Beverly, north of Dundas, where officers give tickets to any cyclist who does not come to a complete stop (by putting their foot on the ground).  No discretion.  No warning.  $110 fine.  Please, please tell me how this increases awareness or safety?  It’s annoying, immature, petty and fits my description of ‘harassment’ to a tee.
• Don’t just go after cyclists.  You want to “reduce the potential for cycling related injuries?”  Then put tickets on all those cars that are parked in the bike lane!  They are the people who are putting lives at risk, not the cyclists who slow down at stop signs, or bike slowly south on Augusta.

Officer Smith was quite friendly and supportive.  He was a Cycling Officer for ten years (52 Division) as well as a bike instructor. He’s an expert on the Highway Traffic Act, safety education and policy reform.  He assured me that the police want to take a new approach to the Blitz and only go after the ‘bad apples’ — on bikes as well as in cars. He said that his goal is to get “all users to share the road responsibly” and to “raise awareness about bike use.”  I asked him what he thought about biking in the city and without hesitation, he said “it’s the way to go.”

Hopefully, the seven day campaign will focus on dangerous drivers and cyclists who are truly riding recklessly.  Bad cyclists give the rest of us a bad name, and I’d be happy if the police confiscated their bikes and threw them in jail for a day or two.  But leave the rest of us alone. Targeting cyclists for minor infractions with expensive tickets will only increase resentment towards the police and make cyclists feel that they are, once again, being treated as second class citizens by a city that says it wants to be green but discriminates against the very people who are actually trying to live sustainably.

The blitz campaign runs from Monday June 22nd to Sunday June 28th.  Share your stories here.  I’ll post updates during the week.

Resource: “How To Fight Traffic Tickets” (by ARC)

This post was originally published on Mez Dispenser. Photo by Darren Stehr

49 comments

  1. Good story.
    On a separate note, I have no problems with the Police going after the bad apples (both cyclists and motorist). But the problem is, even if they are ticketed, they will continue their bad apple ways because the chance of getting caught is so minimal. As a motorist, I almost hit two cyclists who both ran a red light (right behind each other and one of them had a large headphone on) as I was going straight at an intersection through a green light.
    I’m not pointing at you but there seems to be a very very large percentage of cyclists (and motorists) who feel a sense of entitlement that they don’t need to follow the rules of the road and can do whatever they like. I find this more in cyclists than motorists perhaps in part due to the fact that it’s always the motorists’ fault should any accidents occur involving cyclists.

  2. I have no doubt you’ll get intelligent comments and enforcement from cycling-unit officers, but I also have no doubt you’ll get the opposite from officers who commute in from the 905 and sit in a patrol car all day. The owner at Urbane told me that one of the latter was dinging people for not having bells on her street (including people test-riding), and wouldn’t stop until she phoned the unit commander of the cycling-unit. It helps that Urbane sells and repairs their bikes at a discount…

    Here are the facts that need to be drilled into 905-officers every day of the year, so they can enforce intelligently:

    In NYC, from the period 1990-1995:
    Pedestrians Killed by Bicyclists: 1 annually
    Pedestrians Killed by Motor Vehicles: 250 annually
    Pedestrians Struck by Bicyclists: 500 annually
    Pedestrians Struck by Motor Vehicles: 13,000 annually

    If you assume that there are ten times as many drivers, cars are still 25 times more likely to kill you, or about 3 times more likely to ruin your day, per driver/cyclist. Hmm… bikes travel at less than a third of the speed, with about a tenth of the mass: physics sucks.

  3. Oh, ‘JT29’, do you know how common and lame your argument is? Should we punish people for being ‘bad’ or for being ‘dangerous’. Statistically, bikes are marginally dangerous to anyone but the rider; cars on the other hand…

  4. “Riding two ways on a one way street is considered safe practice in many cities and in some places it’s actually written into the law.”

    But it ISN’T the law here and neither is rolling stops. What you’re requesting is for the police to ignore the law, when what you should be doing is lobbying MPPs for the HTA changes you’re looking for, or for localised AND POSTED exemptions. Road users depend on the HTA and posted signs to guide them on what to expect from other road users.

  5. While I agree that a more even handed approach is appropriate for Bike Blitz, I wouldn’t say that riding the wrong way down a one way street is minor (just as riding against traffic on a 2 way street isn’t minor). Not having a bell is minor. Many of the suggestions in the points above (in the article) are better directed to changing the Highway Traffic Act… until then, though, they are the rules of the road. “Everyone does it” is an excuse, not a justification.

  6. Can they ticket the people that fly down the middle of a sidewalk, forcing me to jump out of the way? That would be great. I don’t really get that mad when old Chinese men do it (because they’re so adorable), but otherwise it’s very annoying.

  7. Sean,

    “everyone does it” wasn’t the argument. The argument is 1) everyone does it, 2) it’s safe, and 3) jurisdictions that have looked more closely at it have decided to make it legal (because of 1 & 2).

    Mark,

    I’m not suggesting that police should “ignore the law,” I’m suggesting that they use discretion. Come on, the police don’t ticket people for every law they break! Try driving around Toronto, at 10km over the limit. You will never, ever get pulled over, even if you drive right through a radar trap. That’s because police use discretion. They could do the same for rolling stops.

  8. Riding the wrong way on a one-way is absolutely fine since all the streets were initially made for 2-way and are wide enough to handle it. Most anyon who rides the other way on a one-way is doing it on a side street where traffic is 40km/h or less. One-way streets are designed to control car traffic, not bikes.

    Now, I have this opinion since I live on a one-way street near the top of it and the major route is only 10 house away from me, but THE LAW expects me to ride around the block to get to it. We have to realize that bikes and vehicles are different and treating them the same, even if the law states differently, is a more practical thing to do. Just like when a cop gives me a speeding ticket for doing 63k in a 50k zone, he’ll knock it down to 59k because he/she knows I wasn’t out there to be reckless.

    Anyway, I rarely ever see a cop make a full, non-rolling stop in a car or on a bike. So the irony of them handing out tickets is nearly laughable.

  9. Eric,

    I don’t think anyone would oppose strong enforcement against cyclists who are riding aggressively on the sidewalk (in fact, I proposed jail terms in my post).

    That said, I think the mythology of the aggressive sidewalk rider is mostly fueled by stereotype, fear and hype. I’ve never had to jump out of the way of a cyclist on the sidewalk. I just don’t see evidence of this being a big problem in Toronto. Which streets is this happening on? Can someone try and capture one of these moments on camera? I must always be at the wrong place at the right time.

  10. WORTH NOTING:

    Know your rights if you are stopped and ticketed!
    – You do not need to provide a Driver’s License, but you should provide some form of identification when asked.
    – Make sure to ask the officer writing the ticket to indicate clearly that this is a cycling related offense on the ticket
    – Demerit points have no role in cycling related infractions

    ************

    The Traffic Services press release is included here:

    “SAFE CYCLING – SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY”
    Friday, June 19, 2009
    Traffic Services

    The launch of the “SAFE CYCLING – SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY” campaign which will take place on Monday June 22nd, 7:00 a.m., 2009 at College Street between Augusta and Bellevue Avenue.

    The Safe Cycling – Sharing The Responsibility Campaign will commence on Monday, June 22, 2009. The campaign will conclude on Sunday, June 28, 2009. The traffic strategy is a one-week initiative, designed to promote awareness and education by reducing the potential for cycling related injuries.

    The Toronto Police Service reminds motorists of the dangers of opening car doors in the path of cyclists and the importance of checking blind spots prior to making right turns. Officers will pay particular attention to those motorists who endanger the lives of cyclists including vehicles parked in designated bike lanes. Attention will also be paid to cyclists whose aggressive riding puts themselves, pedestrians and motorists at risk.

    Motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians have a responsibility to share the road equally by driving safely, riding responsibly, and obeying all the rules of the road.

  11. No, John. The negative is that ticketing bikers for minor infractions is silly when so many more harmful and dangerous acts, by drivers in particularly, are overlooked or ignored. As a driver should I get a ticket for not singalling a lane change when no one is around? No. Should I get charged for riding a bike without rear sticker reflectors? No.

    In this case, they should give out warnings instead of tickets unless there is a merited violation. The author seems to suggest using discretion, not ignorance.

  12. I couldn’t help but notice that during the bike blitz on Beverley today, the two police constables who were were handing out warnings or tickets to southbound cyclists had parked in the northbound bike lane across the street. They also had left their car idling for the entire time that they were there. I don’t recall reading recently about either an idling or bike lane parking blitz. I would wager that the total number of tickets issued to cyclists during these bike blitzes outnumber by far the total number of tickets issued annually for idling and parking in bike lanes.

    As for the JT29 comments (re entitled drivers) and jamesmallon’s response, both comments seem to highlight the nature of the car vs bike (us vs. them) debate. While it’s true that many cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road (well, they’re not driving cars!) and cyclists (compared to others on the road, especially drivers) are more at risk of injury to themselves than anyone else, it’s hard to move forward when many in all camps are pointing at others and accusing them of not behaving properly (whatever that is). It would seem that as long as lawmakers and police treat the Ontario Highway Traffic Act as the modern version of the Ten Commandments, the resolution of seemingly simple, but ultimately intractable, issues such as stop signs – and whether allowing cyclists to roll through intersections subject to clear yielding rules (as one of many examples) – will be a long time in coming…

  13. “Riding the wrong way on a one-way is absolutely fine since all the streets were initially made for 2-way and are wide enough to handle it. Most anyon who rides the other way on a one-way is doing it on a side street where traffic is 40km/h or less. One-way streets are designed to control car traffic, not bikes.”

    One-way streets are designed to control traffic full stop. Riding the wrong way on one-way streets is dangerous to motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, particularly as intersections are not set up so as to control a flow of traffic (such as cyclists) coming from the opposite direction. The police are entirely correct to ticket for this.

    As motorists know, it is a mere trice to loop one’s route around so as to accomodate one-way streets. If you must go the wrong way, dismount and walk the bike up, please.

    And don’t get me started on biking through controlled intersections.

  14. Great article Dave.

    As someone who commutes 35 km every day (Islington/401 to U of T), I feel like I should err on the side of leniency. However, in the long-term thinking of cycling in the city, I think that following the rules of the road (one-way streets being an example) is important.

    As cyclists, if we want respect from drivers, governments and the police, we need to respect the rules that are layed out. Mark Dowling has got my vote: let’s petition for Idaho stops, etc., but until then, we need to stop at stop signs, and find the one-way streets that go our way.

    (I cycle without a bell, but if a cops stops me, I’m not going to argue the $110 fine. I broke the law).

    Cheers.

  15. John,

    The negatives to giving the tickets this article describes are pretty numerous. The most obvious is that a police officer camping out on Beverley to nail rolling stops isn’t e.g. wandering around looking for folks who are riding on sidewalks, ignoring crosswalks, and doing other things that are actually quite dangerous.

    Another major point, raised in this article, and simplified by you as upsetting cyclists, is acting in a manner counterproductive to stated municipal policy goals. The city wants to increase cycling and be seen as bicycle-friendly. If the city then, under the pretense of safety, ramps up enforcement of laws that (as evidenced by different laws in other jurisdictions) have little to no impact on safety, then it’s failing pretty spectacularly at meeting its own policy goals. Worse still, study after study concludes that increasing cycling participation increases cyclist safety. If a generally safe cyclist is discouraged from cycling by this program, then the safety of all cyclists is decreased, and the program is operating in a manner contrary to its own policy goals.

    If safety on bicycles is to be improved through increased law enforcement, then it’s important to ensure that the laws whose enforcement is being increased are those laws that actually serve to improve safety. Laws that serve to control noise, limit pollution, manage land use, or even just having been easier to write when originally legislated, do not serve to increase safety. As such, their increased enforcement is entirely outside the scope of this blitz.

  16. Monica,

    Riding around at night without proper lights and reflectors should get you a ticket. Visibility is a tremendously important aspect of safety. Given that this whole exercise is ostensibly being conducted to improve safety, I don’t see any sound basis for your opposition to this ticket. Hell, even the other example you gave, about changing lanes in a car without signalling, assumes that the motorist not signalling can know that there is no one around (presumably by not seeing anyone).

    That said, the cost of reflective tape being what it is, it would probably be vastly more effective to equip the police with a whole bunch of reflective tape to be given away to cyclists that don’t have it (since a fine provides no guarantee that the problem is going to be fixed). Then tickets can be written for the folks that refuse to put it on.

  17. it definitely comes across as power tripping. and i doubt it actually changes behavior since it only happens for like a month once a year and then everything goes back to normal.

  18. So because the law they break is commonly broken, or doesn’t cause an accident they should let it go? Or because we want more people to bike we should ignore the law?

    Would a driver be charged for rolling through a stop sign? Or driving the wrong way on a street? Of course, just because you’re on a bike doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow the law, no matter how silly you might think it to be.

  19. http://sockpuppet.ca/xray
    As long as police treat victims of assault by motorvehicle as criminals there will be a larger problem. Traffic cops should be INVESTIGATING. Newtons laws provide some good hints when someone has injuries on their back. Likewise medical science says those coming out from under a general anaesthetic will be less than coherent for some time.
    PC Ali Rashid #9497 was taking great liberties in investigating the asshat who made me their hood ornament.
    PC Rashid speculated I hit an object in the road. I landed on my back. How does that work? I did a half gaynor?

  20. Could I use a whistle instead of a bell or horn? And if I can use a whistle, what if I whistle using my mouth?

  21. I’m really torn on this issue.

    On one hand, the police really have a long way to go to earn some credibility. Lets start with ticketing cars in bike lanes. ZERO tolerance on this. Hell, lets start with not parking our police cruisers in bike lanes. I have to agree with many of the points that the author raises – traffic laws are primarily designed with cars in mind and writing tickets on bikes for these is not productive. Police should use some common sense.

    HOWEVER, I’ve seen some pretty stupid biking lately. Be smart. Put a light on your bike at night. It is not just the law, it is dangerous. Ride on the right side of the road (something I thought we all learned when we were kids). Don’t ignore signalized intersections. Don’t pass on the right at stopped cars where there is no bike lane – wait your turn like everyone else.

    …And put on a damn helmet…

  22. definitely, any ticket given for a rolling stop merely b/c your feet don’t touch the ground is asinine. You shouldn’t blow through and intersection, but nor should you have to set your feet down and smell the daisies.

  23. The road to “good intentions” is paved with bumps. Respect for cyclists from motorists is a two way street. I’ve cycled for the last 30 years in an era before bike lanes without incident. With the advent of busy bicycle lanes (Harbord and College Street), it does not take long to find a cyclists that will blow through STOP signs and Red Lights…many times forcing pedestrians/motorists to accomodate their errant ways…they SHOULD be ticketed! Perhaps they should be required to take a CANBIKE course in leiu of ticket or fine. Even more dangerous (to themselves) are cyclists who swerve without checking around them (blind spot in motorist parlance).
    As we lower the inertia (to ride) with bike lanes, we exposed novice riders to the dangers of regular streets that do not buffer them from their inexperience.

    A fine is good for the coffers of Toronto but I think the “inconvenience” of a trip to the front desk of the Police Station would do just as well to get the message through. As a member of the Toronto Cyclist Union, there is much that the average can do to earn more respect on the road by being “more” predictable and part of that comes from following the rules. All “one way” streets should allow for “contra flow” bike traffic without the need to define a yellow line…just stick to the right. The one major point are one-ways with parking on the left and drivers that do not expect cyclists coming the other way next to their passenger doors…but these motorists are the same ones that shouldn’t be riding bikes 🙂

    cheers,
    Ray

  24. “I live on a one-way street near the top of it and the major route is only 10 house away from me, but THE LAW expects me to ride around the block to get to it.”

    Seriously? This is an excuse? Breaking the law is okay if the alternative is riding around the block?

    My girlfriend used to live on Logan south of Danforth. I came from the north, and Logan is northbound-only. My innovative solution to the problem was ride a block south on Carlaw, then loop around. If it ever added more than 45 seconds to my trip, I’d be surprised.

    (Alternately, sometimes I just got off and walked my bike the half-block south on Logan.)

    There’s probably a case to be made for more contra-flow bike lanes, but complaining about having to make a very slight detour sounds more like whining.

  25. Dave, good article, but I take issue with your dismissal of Eric’s totally legitimate beef with cyclists’s behaviour on sidewalks. Cyclists should not be on sidewalks. Period. Your response has two basic flaws:

    1) Focusing on the extreme of the behaviour in order to dismiss it. Even someone going slowly on the sidewalk gets in people’s way. While most of these people may not be “blasting” down the sidewalk, but you’re smart enough to know that even moderate speeds create hazards.
    2) Dismissing the point because you have never seen the behaviour. Firstly, I highly doubt you’ve never seen a cyclist riding on the sidewalk. Again, you’re choosing to focus on the very specific description Eric gives to dismiss it as “myth”. I have repeatedly been forced on to the road to get out of the way of cyclists on the sidewalk, irrespective of speed.

    If you can’t acknowledge legitmate complaints about the behaviour of cyclists, you make it harder for even avid cyclists (including myself) to take you seriously.

    Also, I have seen (and personally experienced) police using discretion to remind cyclists of proper procedure, rather than just issuing tickets. Again, just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

  26. Asher,

    You wrote “If you can’t acknowledge legitmate complaints about the behaviour of cyclists, you make it harder for even avid cyclists (including myself) to take you seriously.”

    I’m not in any way implying that there aren’t dangerous cyclists, or that those cyclists shouldn’t be charged. In fact, I wrote that “bad cyclists give the rest of us a bad name, and I’d be happy if the police confiscated their bikes and threw them in jail for a day or two.”

    I just think that most reckless cyclists are on the road, not the sidewalk. I’m not saying it never happens. I’m saying the notion that it’s a major problem is a myth, and is based more on stereotype than reality. It’s a rare occurrence, and I’d welcome the opportunity to have my view challenged. Let’s pick a street, and a few of us could sit on a bench for the whole day (I’ve got some reading to do anyway) and we’ll count how many cyclists are riding on the sidewalk. We’ll also note their speed, their behaviour, and how many pedestrians seem to be jumping out of their way. You name the day and location.

    As for cops using discretion, I have no doubt that some cops, on some occasions, use discretion. But that’s not the point of the article. The question is, what approach are they taking during the blitz? And is that approach the best way to meet the stated purpose of the campaign?

  27. I don”t agree with any kind of “blitz”. I think they are useless but I do think the bicycle riders in this city need to be ticketed more for their riding. I ride bicycles, motorcycles and drive cars and on the road it is always the bicyclist who disobey the rules the road and not everyone else. Of course this a generalization but think about it; how often do you see a bicyclist stop a stop sign or signal their turns or wear a helmet or dismount their bikes when crossing at lights or ride on the sidewalk or weave in and out of traffic?

  28. Cyclists are again the brunt of police harassment.
    So explain to me how is this day/week/month different than other days?

    Too many cops seem to have Rob Ford’s attitude: i.e. Let the cyclists die in the streets meant for cars.

    What cyclists should be doing is suing the cops for malicious prosecution when they do this.

  29. Great article. Some of my thoughts:

    Cars parked in bike lanes are a BIG problem. Also are cars illegally parked too close to an intersection: I don’t think people realize how dangerous it is to cyclists coming around the corner to have this car blocking both the cyclist’s and other drivers’ ability to see one another.

    Regarding one-way streets: whenever I do this (usually on streets north of Bloor between Spadina and Manning) I always make sure to make eye-contact with any car coming at me and I pull way over to the right and slow down. And I smile at the driver.

    As for sidewalks, sometimes I ride on them but always at walking speed and I make sure I NEVER disrupt the movements of pedestrians. I only ever ride on a sidewalk when it ‘makes sense.’ For example, to get to Robarts I come down Bedford to Bloor. I then need to get over to Devonshire to continue south – only the suicidal would turn right on Bloor and then a quick left on to Devonshire! Instead, I cross Bloor with the light, ride slowly on the sidewalk on the south side of Bloor until Devonshire and then continue on my way.

    And anyone who has ever ridden a bike knows that coming to a ‘complete’ stop at stop signs is annoying not just for yourself cycling, but also to other cars at the intersection. As the article pointed out, many places have made stop signs ‘yield’ signs for bikes.

    Finally, I just want to point out that making eye-contact and smiling at others with whom you share the road goes a long way – not only for safety but also to make our days a bit nicer.

  30. David,

    I strongly disagree. The vast majority of cyclists are very conscientious, polite and careful riders.

    It’s a discriminatory myth (like Chinese drivers are bad, Black kids are violent, women are bad at math) and people need to start speaking out against it.

    When a stereotype exists, then people are more likely to notice when someone actually fits into the description. So when a racist prick sees a bad Chinese driver, he’ll say “See? It’s true”, even though a thousand Chinese drivers passed by him that same day, driving safely. Likewise, people who buy into this cyclist stereotype won’t notice the 500 cyclists who biked passed them carefully, but when they see the one cyclist weaving in traffic, they’ll say “See?! Cyclists are reckless”.

    The evidence doesn’t back up the myth. Really, I challenge any of you to leave your preconceptions at the door, stand on a street corner and count how many cyclists are riding safely, and how many are dangerously “weaving through traffic’. Count both, and compare the numbers.

    Other notes to David:
    – cyclists aren’t required to wear helmets.
    – cyclists aren’t required to dismount when crossing at lights.

  31. david, that is indeed a ridiculous generalization. car drivers break traffic laws at high rates as well, but their violations are largely normalized and ignored by society. it is common in driver’s ed courses to send students to a busy intersection to catalogue traffic infractions over a 15-minute period. when i did this as a teenager, we counted over 100 in 15 minutes at a single intersection, all by cars and trucks. failure to signal lane changes, rolling stops and failure to stop at a red light before turning right were most common. in daily life i also see tons of parking infractions (hello bike lanes!) and wrong-way driving (usually backwards, like this helps things). like cyclists, drivers take these shortcuts for convenience, running an appreciable risk each time. like cyclists, they are rarely caught. sometimes these shortcuts are dangerous, sometimes not. drivers who point only to cyclist infractions are really engaged in a power struggle to maintain their norms and their control over the road, period.

  32. “Cyclists are again the brunt of police harassment.”

    It’s not harassment if you’re breaking the law. It may not be useful, but if you knowingly break the law – even if it doesn’t hurt anyone, even if everyone else is doing it – you should be prepared to face the consequences.

  33. Dave and David – re: crossing at lights – if a cyclist is riding in the lane of course they are not required to dismount. I suspect what David is referring to is when riding through the marked pedestrian lines at an intersection – which is illegal. Often cyclists do this to avoid making a vehicular left turn – cross and cross again in the crosswalk. There they are technically required to get off and walk.

    Also in general re: the blitz I think education would be much more helpful then ticketing. Some cyclists really don’t know that its a bad idea to ride up the inside of a line of cars stopped at a light on the right. (although I’m not sure what the ticket would be for that? unsafe passing?)

  34. David said “it is always the bicyclist who disobey the rules the road and not everyone else”. Huh?

    How many times have you seen car drivers not signal their turns (especially in advance), follow too closely, make unsafe lane changes, pass cyclists at an unsafe distance without changing lanes, drive between lanes, park/stop in the bike lane, park on the sidewalk (driving on it to get there), talk on their cell phone while driving, attempt to intimidate cyclists and pedestrians obeying the laws, roll through four-way stops, turn right on red without stopping or even looking

    Oh and lets not forget obeying the speed limit!!!

    And these infractions can kill where bike infractions have much less harmful effects on OTHER people.

  35. Ryan, I can’t quite agree. Systemic arrests and ticketing of specific groups for minor offences can indeed constitute harassment. This is clearly seen with regard to youth from certain ethnic or racial communities.

    A society where all laws on the books are strictly enforced all the time would be as unliveable as a lawless society.

  36. Maria: right on. Systemic arrests can most certainly constitute harassment. (Just ask countless minorities or other undesirables accused of loitering! Or what about vagabonding laws?)

    More broadly, I think it’s pretty important to recognize shades of grey involved in enforcing laws. Some laws sort of fall into disuse to the point where no reasonable cop would enforce them, or at least certainly not on a regular basis. At that point, I think there certainly is a difference between breaking that law and breaking another, and I think people can be justified at that point in being miffed at suffering consequences. I don’t think too many cops would actually disagree with that. (Any cops reading this? Care to comment?)

    I’m not saying that salmon riding (wrong way down the street) is one of those necessarily, nor that we need to just go ahead and ignore the myriad routine traffic violations that constitute normal behaviour for motorists, but we do need to recognize some subtleties here!

  37. Ok, so clearly the stop-sign and one-way law needs to be changed in Ontario.

    Our current laws treat us as cars. This is absurd — if I were to presume to use the left turning lane on Lakeshore during rush hour, I would break no law but motorists would still riot behind me. However, we aren’t pedestrians either. Traffic laws should acknowledge bicycles as a class onto their own right.

    Is there an existing campaign to change the law?

  38. …was pulled over and given 110 dollar fine last night…for not having a bell.

  39. Many cyclists attend to the rules of the road and treat those around them with consideration. But many do not. Just this Sunday, I was stepping off the King streetcar with my son when a cyclist nearly knocked us over. At least this person was apologetic when I pointed out to him when streetcar doors opened, both cyclists and motorists were required to stop. If a ticketing blitz encourages some abusive cyclists to act more respectfully on the road, I’m all for it. And don’t forget the blitzes on motorists.

  40. Regarding being ticketed for not having a bell, sorry, but I don’t see how this is out of line. Way too many cyclists think nothing of going out into the road without proper warning devices or worse, ride at night without proper lights or reflectors. On the last score, I am negligent myself… I don’t have a reflector light but that hasn’t stopped me from riding at night. I wouldn’t want to get a ticket for this… but I wouldn’t pretend to be in the right about this if I did.

  41. An OPP officer pulled me over downtown for having an expired sticker on my license plate… the sticker was 2 years old, haha. I just bought the vehicle the night before and was on my way to the MTO first thing in the morning. I showed him tons of paperwork, told him my whole story honestly… HE LET ME GO WITH A WARNING! Couldn’t believe it.

  42. I agree with a fair amount of this article, but not so much the riding the wrong way on one way streets part. I don’t think it’s necessarily unsafe in and of itself, but it’s a matter of what other users of the road – drivers, other cyclists and pedestrians – are expecting. As others have said, in an area where that actually was legal, it would be different – people would know to be on the lookout for bikes coming from both directions, but as it is, they’re not usually expecting that, and I think it definitely increases the chance of accidents.

    The rolling stop thing, though, very much agreed. That constitutes only a minimal departure from the legal standard, doesn’t increase any risks as far as I can see, and drivers do it at least as often as cyclists do, especially on quiet streets. Plus, coming to a full feet-on-the-ground stop at every corner makes cycling much, much harder and slower.

    But the one point that really made my jaw drop was your comment about never having seen anyone riding aggressively on the sidewalk. I actually had to stop and re-check the name of the blog to make sure you were actually in Toronto. I see that *daily*. Sometimes multiple times a day. And I am a cyclist, so I don’t think I’m inclined to negative stereotypes about my own kind! Maybe it’s partly because I live on St. Clair, which is heavily under construction right now, and that probably motivates more people to ride on the sidewalk, but it was hardly unusual even before that.

    I wonder if part of the problem here is a difference in definition of what constitutes “aggressive” riding? It may be that cyclists who do ride full-speed down the sidewalk are convinced they aren’t endangering anyone, because they’re confident of their ability to make sudden turns and stops and navigate around people. But when you’re walking and a bike suddenly barrels down on you out of nowhere and zoom past missing you by only a few inches, what’s in the cyclist’s mind does not stop your life from flashing before your eyes, any more than what’s in a driver’s mind when they zoom past at full speed halfway into the bike lane, missing sideswiping your bike by only an inch or two. In both those cases, the aggressor may *feel* like what they’re doing is safe and they’re not at risk of actually hitting the other person, but it feels very different to the other person.

  43. Hey Miss Lynx,

    I think the important factor in your story is that you live on St. Clair.

    I’d ride on the sidewalk too, if I was on St. Clair. The construction zone is quite dangerous for cyclists. Construction workers and film companies both have a bad habit of placing pylons right where cyclists are supposed to travel.

    More importantly, bikelanes were excluded from the St.Clair plan (surprise, surprise. Bikes are being excluded from almost every road re-construction in Toronto). When we don’t make space for bikes, they just might end up on the sidewalk. When I don’t feel safe on the road, as a result of poor planning, I often ride on the sidewalk. (I’d rather pay a fine, than get killed or have a heart attack). But I ride very carefully, very slowly, make eye contact, dismount if there isn’t enough room, etc. Usually, I only do this when I go through an underpass, or near construction. But there are other exceptions I make as well.

    For the record, I lived on St. Clair for years (2003-2007) and I don’t recall there being a problem of aggressive cyclists on the sidewalk. but you’re saying that you see cyclists “riding aggressively on the sidewalk…daily”? I’m sorry, I find that very hard to believe. There’s probably an increase in numbers, due to construction, but I just can’t imagine how the neighbourhood’s cyclists could have become so reckless since 2007…

  44. I love how a certain person here who still continues to bash a police officer by name neglects to mention that he was DRUNK and fell off his bicycle and then tried to blame others for his own stupidity.

  45. Anyone who rides a bike dressed like the guy in the photo should get a ticket!

  46. I got a ticket this year for exactly what you talked about in this article: coming to a rolling stop at the sign just north of Dundas on Beverly. My response? “I can’t afford this! Why do you think I ride a bike?” What bothers me most is that I am a very good cyclist (I signal, I stop at red lights, I go the right way on one way streets) and I know plenty of cyclists who are not… and yet I am the one who got a ticket.

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