toronto cyclist road rage

Toronto cyclist run off road by driver and the aftermath is just confusing

A Toronto cyclist was run down by a driver allegedly shouting homophobic slurs, and despite the aggressive driver being caught on video and identified by police, a lawyer representing the victim argues that a lack of serious charges against the perpetrator is evidence of law enforcement's bias against the cycling community.

Personal injury lawyer and cycling rights advocate David Shellnutt is representing a client who was allegedly targeted with homophobic slurs and then run off the road on Bathurst Street in a road rage incident that occurred on the evening of Jan. 21.

Shellnutt tells blogTO that his client was involved in an exchange of words at a red light, explaining that "once the light turned green, [the driver] tears after him on the street, swerves into him, and maybe hits him — we're not entirely sure."

"In any case, to avoid full impact, my client goes down, hits the curb and smashes his face suffering a concussion," said Shellnutt.

Witnesses to the incident managed to record the vehicle's licence plate and then assisted the victim to a hospital.

When the client attempted to make contact with police for a copy of the insurance information and access to no-fault accident benefits, he was essentially brushed off and told no real crime had been committed.

Shellnutt provided a police response to the victim's inquiry, who was told by an officer that "Upon review of the footage you provided, as well as based on your and your witness's statements, I have concluded that a collision did not occur."

The officer continued, "I understand that you lost control of your bike and subsequently fell because you heard an engine revving and the sound of screeching tires, and therefore thought the car was coming at you, but it's not certain that the sounds came from the vehicle in question, and even if they did, that doesn't constitute an infraction per se."

"I will charge the driver for not allowing you to have the lane of traffic as per Section 147(1) of the Highway Traffic Act, but unfortunately, that's the extent of the charges applicable to the circumstances surrounding the incident."

Shellnutt argues that this charge is insufficient for the severity of this interaction, and penned a letter to the police Constable in charge of the investigation.

In that letter, Shellnutt says that witness and video evidence supports the legal team's claim that "the driver used his vehicle to intimidate, swerve into and cause harm to, causing him to lose control and crash his bicycle."

"But for the driver's actions with his vehicle the fall would not have occurred. The video evidence demonstrates that the car was right beside him, within approximately 1-2 feet of him when he begins to fall. Therefore, while contact was not made it remains a motor vehicle collision, if not an assault."

The letter adds that "leaving aside the hate speech uttered by the motorist against my client, as a lawyer for sadly far too many cyclists who've been run off the road purposefully by drivers, I am concerned that your investigation has not led to more serious charges. Namely, intent to cause bodily harm/assault as confirmed by witness testimony and video."

Shellnutt has also called out Mayor John Tory's support for increased policing in an open letter, stressing his view that "it is astonishing to see the acts of violence on the TTC used to justify expanded policing and police budgets," all while "countless cyclists [are] injured intentionally by motorists who are rarely charged/undercharged."

He warns against "budget increases to a civil service with an acknowledged anti-Black violence problem," and says that "as members of the cycling community and lawyers for those who have experienced police."

"We need bold leadership to address systemic issues of violence and inequity in our society, not more police," closes Shellnutt's letter.

Lead photo by

David Shellnutt

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