Fed-up Toronto cyclists took a stand against police for issuing tickets in parks
Cycling through Toronto's High Park is a great way to stay in shape and enjoy one of the city's grandest public spaces. But since at least the summer of 2020, cyclists have been targeted in city parks by police and parking enforcement officers for alleged speed infractions.
And riders have had just about enough.
Literally @TorontoPolice in High Park right now before 10am pulling over cyclists, armed in massive SUVs on a car free Sat. Why not read your own data and literally go a block to @safeparkside where people are actually getting hurt. #bikeTO Cc @gordperks pic.twitter.com/joi8PUDwCc— The Biking Lawyer (Dave Shellnutt) (@TheBikingLawyer) July 16, 2022
Cyclists have publicly decried the allocation of resources towards cyclist speeding blitzes, and they escalated this fight on Sunday morning with the first-ever "High Park Take Over," where dozens of riders descended on the park to bike laps in a display of public civil disobedience.
We lost #ActiveTO. In #HighPark Toronto Police ticket/target cyclists trying to exercise & get to work safely while the surrounding roads remain dangerous. It’s time for action! Sunday 6-8AM a 2-lane cycling loop & running space. #BikeTO Code of conduct: https://t.co/6AKIGT5MB1 pic.twitter.com/qMdyglutYK— The Biking Lawyer (Dave Shellnutt) (@TheBikingLawyer) July 15, 2022
Organized by personal injury lawyer and cycling safety advocate David Shellnutt, the event follows a rash of ticketing in High Park that saw cyclists hit with fines, including one who had to shell out $120 after speeding past cops armed with radar guns.
A press release advertising the event states that "between 2006 and 2021, there were 17,000 incidents of people killed or seriously injured by motorists. During that same time across all of Toronto, there were 6 people seriously injured by cyclists (and zero deaths)."
"With these realities in mind, the cycling community takes action and demands High Park be free of cars to promote safe transit, enhanced public use of parklands, and for permanently designated cycling exercise hours be established."
With no such actions from the city, Shellnutt and fellow cyclists took matters into their own hands.
Shellnutt tells blogTO that "road cycling and safe streets advocates re-organized the High Park loop to allow for two hours of safe cycling focused around exercise and training."
Shellnutt explains, "We had marshals at crosswalks and intersections in the park and asked pedestrians and joggers to yield the way to cyclists for those two hours. We turned the car traffic lane into two bike lanes for different speeds, and the bike lane that is there already, we turned into a jogging lane."
As for the response, Shellnutt says that the group "engaged with community members as they came in and explained what was happening, mostly to positive feedback."
The City of Toronto's set speed limit for all vehicles, including bicycles and personally powered vehicles within parks, is 20km/h. Videos from the event show cyclists attaining speeds much greater than the legal limit, with one attendee even claiming to have averaged 32km/h on a 70k ride.
In addition to the public stance against police ticketing of cyclists, Shellnutt and other safety advocates are promoting a code of conduct designed "to keep people safe and recognize the concerns of our neighbours."
Read Code of Conduct from this morning's ride & rally to see what advocates are asking for in terms of sharing High Park. Whataboutisms & false equivalencies about bikes v cars is offensive to friends & families who have lost loved ones to road violence:https://t.co/NQ1tFeJZmL— MWCC (@midweekcycling) July 17, 2022
This could prove to be just the first in a series of park takeovers, with Shellnutt anticipating more activations in the park in the future.
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