toronto box blockers

Toronto drivers can't stop blocking intersections

Gridlock traffic sucks. There's no debating this.

It sucks for me, it sucks for you, it sucks for the man who's late to pick up his kids at daycare, and it sucks for the woman who's going to miss her job interview in 10 minutes.

In our mad, desperate rush to get somewhere — anywhere — while seething behind the unmoving wheel, humans can do some pretty stupid things, like drive into an intersection even though there isn't enough room to make it through on the other side.

This is called "box blocking," and few things are more truly infuriating for all involved — drivers included.

I mean, it must suck to have a streetcar operator leaning on the horn beside you while pedestrians and cyclists manoeuvre around the 4,00 lb obstruction everybody knows you caused. To languish in a self-imposed vortex of scowls, if not worse, for several minutes at a time.

To risk getting, what, a ticket? A fine?

I don't know, because despite seeing this happen every single day, I've never actually witnessed a cop ding anyone for blocking the box.

Toronto Police released a PSA with Mayor John Tory in 2014 to address the ubiquitous issue, called "You Know You Shouldnt, So Don't."

"You know you shouldn't block an intersection," says a voice over artist in the roughly 45-second-long spot. "You're contributing to gridlock! So don't! If you do, you'll pay a fine of $115."

One year after that campaign was launched, CBC News reported that the force had filed less than 300 tickets in total to people blocking intersections over a period of five years. Not even one ticket was issued for the offence in 2013.

Police don't make these numbers public (CBC obtained them in 2015 through a freedom of information request), so it's hard to know how much the problem has improved since then, statistically speaking.

From the standpoint of observers, it's only getting worse as Toronto's population booms.

In an opinion piece for The Toronto Star last month, Edward Keenan called the move "sociopathically inconsiderate," lamenting how bad the problem has become and how little is being done to stop people (including TTC drivers) from creating even more gridlock.

"The drivers in question are almost universally despised, yet remarkably common," he wrote. "It seems, too, that they have been embraced as a part of local culture by our authorities. How else to interpret the apparent complete non-enforcement of the law?"

His solution? Red light cameras that ensure anyone caught inside the boundaries of an intersection after the light turns red is ticketed.

Your move, traffic cops.
Lead photo by

William Wolfe-Wylie

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