Should police officers hand out speeding tickets to cyclists?

Written by Javed Iqbal

Toronto High Park is the site of controversial debate between cyclists and police
This summer, Toronto’s High Park has become a battleground for cyclists as police and parking attendants use radar guns and ticket riders traveling at speeds above 20 kilometers per hour (12.4 MPH). According to BlogTOpedestrians, cyclists and taxpayers in general express their concern about the legality of the practice and wonder why the police choose to spend time and resources on prosecuting cyclists who drive too fast rather than focus on preventing deaths for cyclists and pedestrians.

In fact, many are wondering if cyclists can get fines for speeding at all. “Although bicycles are designated as vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act, cyclists are not subject to the speed limits set by law, which apply only to ‘motor vehicles,'” Ian Brisbin, a lawyer in Ontario and founder of VeloLaw.ca explains. But there is an extra wrinkle. “However, the city of Toronto has set the speed limit for ‘vehicles, motorized recreational vehicles, bicycles and personal vehicles’ in parks to 20 km / h. Toronto is almost alone as a major Canadian city that enforces speed limits for cyclists and it is worth asking Why. Where does this directive come from? ”

While the Toronto government presents an optimistic view of Vision Zero, the city’s long-term road safety plan with the goal of zero injuries or fatalities due to traffic, at least 58 pedestrians and cyclists were killed and 183 were seriously injured in 2021 alone, according to CBC. Earlier in the week, two pedestrians were killed in the city, one by one bus and the other by one street sweeper.

So why aim for cyclists? “The Toronto Police Service’s own statistics unequivocally show that pedestrians injured by cyclists are rare and, in terms of injuries and deaths among cyclists and pedestrians caused by motorists, do not represent a significant public danger,” Brisbin adds. ‘The statistics simply do not justify this harsh response.

“The resources required for police enforcement of park speed limitation statutes are not sound for safety, economic, public health or other reasons,” he continues. “This campaign is a solution in search of a problem, and even worse, serves only to suppress a cycling culture that has demonstrable economic, health and environmental benefits.”

And cycling through the High Park? The car-free route avoids some of the more dangerous and often blocked bike paths on Bloor Street, which is why it is so popular among bike sets. This is why many argue that instead of setting up speed traps in the park, police should be stationed at dangerous intersections throughout the city.

“Once you’ve been on the inside of road violence and you understand how painful and devastating it is to survive a serious injury or to lose your spouse, to lose a child, the lifelong pain is overwhelming – especially in relation to how easy it is to prevent this human massacre, ”said Jessica Spieker, a spokeswoman for Friends and Families for Safe Streets. CBC.

No one is arguing that cyclists should be able to ignore road safety and traffic rules, but to focus on enforcing a speed limit below 13 km / h. using radar guns seems like a pretty obvious cash grip and anti-cyclist attitude being taken by the city.

In BlogTO, Toronto-based cycling attorney David Shellnutt also drew attention to the fact that BIPOC cyclists are particularly targeted and terrorized by these officers, and told BlogTO that he was contacted by a BIPOC rider who believed the officer was correcting a firearms against him, not a radar gun. This comes as Toronto police publicly apologize after a report showed the department regularly uses more force against blacks. Not surprisingly, community members have said the apology feels meaningless (via CBC).

“Given huge and growing police budgets, the public has a share in the use of police for the purpose of stopping people on bicycles for the alleged violation of a municipal law,” Brisbin adds. “The public has a right to value for their tax dollars, and to use the powers of police officers to pull cyclists over to allow statutory officers to issue tickets is an abuse of public funds and power.”

“Disregarding the issue of the exercise of reasonable jurisdiction required by any law enforcement official, the resources required in this are completely out of proportion to the alleged problem they claim to address,” he continues. “As they say, do not tell me your priorities, show me your budget.”

Toronto is not the first city to use radar guns against cyclists: In 2011, NYC’s cycling community was outraged when Central Park riders got tickets (via The village voice). However, the practice of putting tickets to cyclists and using radar guns was quickly abandoned, and police even apologized and dismissed a fine in a prominent incident in which a disabled Iraqi war veteran was fined for speeding.

At the end of the day, while cyclists should be aware of speed limits in parks and help keep parks safe for all parties, police using resources that they claim are stretched to the limit to target cyclists driving with 14 MPH, as an extreme overreaction.

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Javed Iqbal

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