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Are Toronto Police Ticketing Cyclists More?

From the Forums:

The Bike Union is reporting that some cyclists are reporting that the police are looking for cycling infractions more recently:

Have you noticed anything? It’s been the same on my commute (I hardly *ever* see any cops).

The Union offers a few good tips too:

“Please also note that officers should not be asking you for a driver’s license, though you should provide ID when asked. Demerit Points DO NOT apply for cycling infractions.
If you receive a ticket for an infraction, please make sure that it is noted as a cycling infraction. If you should encounter an officer who says different, please take note of their name/badge number (should be on the ticket i f you receive one) and get in touch with us via info@bikeunion.to – we will share this information with our contacts at Police Services and try to make sure that accurate information is shared with the officer in question.”

On the issue of ticketing… I am glad that cops are ticketing cyclists.

Bad behaviour by some cyclists make us as a whole look bad. I’d rather take a bit longer to get to work by stopping at red lights and not thinking I’m the most important thing on the road, and really don’t understand any cyclist who thinks differently.

What are your thoughts?

(top photo by Darren Stehr via Mez Dispenser)
  • Bradley Wentworth

    I do not think police should increase ticketing of cyclists, for the simple reason that the Highway Traffic Act was not written with the safety of cyclists in mind. I’ll cite two illegal behaviours I engage in to illustrate:

    -I have only a front brake on my bike, whereas the HTA says you must have a rear brake (see below). A front brake alone, if properly used, will stop a bike in as little distance as is possible. See http://sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html So technically I’m breaking the law with my brake placement, but it’s better for my safety.

    -The “right hook” is, by some analyses, the number one cause of bicycle-vehicle conflict: a car turning right and hitting a bike. Getting hit from behind is very low on the list if you exclude cyclists who ride at night without a rear light. Therefore, I jump a lot of red lights just before they turn green, after checking that the way is clear, because you are most visible when in front of traffic. I’ve been pulled over but not ticketed for this before. Countries with sophisticated cycling infrastructure have either bicycle-only boxes at the front of an intersection (New Zealand) or bicycle traffic signals that turn green a few seconds before car signals (Denmark.)

    A common scenario in Toronto: a busy intersection where on the far side you have a vehicle parked or illegally stopped in the right lane, and cars on the near side waiting in both lanes. The right lane driver tries to merge into moving traffic on the left, and so is watching his left mirror, but if he has to swerve suddenly back to the right he will smash into you. Motorists are not supposed to do this, but they do anyway, just as I am not supposed to jump red lights; when I put myself in all drivers’ field of vision and get clear the dangerous merge zone, giving space for drivers to jump the queue, I’m much safer.

    Legality does not equal safety with respect to the HTA. Update it for cyclists and change the infrastructure and then I’d advocate ticketing.

    HTA text on bicycle brakes: No person shall ride a bicycle on a highway unless it is equipped with at least one brake system acting on the rear wheel that will enable the rider to make the braked wheel skid on dry, level and clean pavement. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8, s. 64 (3).

  • Ben

    The red light situations you describe are quite common, Bradley. And I agree that edging out as a light is about to turn green is something I do too. But I have to say, the vast majority of cyclists running reds and stop-signs that I see are simply blowing through without stopping, or maybe slowing down slightly, but then plowing on through.

    Are the road laws as applied to bikers perfect? No, far from it. But they are all we have at present, and I think not applying them at all isn’t a solution.

    Officers should be urged to use discretion when ticketing, and not to throw the book at someone who for safety’s sake edges out into the intersection a bit early.

  • lukev

    The cyclists who are blowin red lights need to be ticketed. They give all us safe cyclists a bad rep.

  • duncan

    I agree, the risk of right hooks at intersections is always present. I can’t count the number of times a driver has squeezed up on my left to make a right turn only to then block my way because of pedestrians crossing.

    Rather than worry about running a red light I’ve come up with a better solution. I simply take the lane. If it’s not a dedicated right turning lane then I sit in the middle. I get honked at, but I simply ignore them. Most drivers sit and wait like they are legally supposed to. Cabbies honk up a storm and inch closer, which is intimidating but they won’t run you over, so sit steady and go when the light turns green.

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  • lock

    What *is* the fine for biking with no shirt anyway… that’s pretty gross. Hope they threw the book at him. Maybe if he had man-boobs…

  • I’m with Bradely. I’ve been ticketed for riding on the sidewalk. The reason I rode on the sidewalk was because there was wither no bike lane, or there were cars parked in the bike lane, and I felt safer riding on the sidewalk at a pedestrian jogging speed.

  • Colin

    ….Theres a fine for biking with no shirt ? Thats like my favourite thing to do

  • T

    I don’t condone running red lights… though there are some pretty dinky intersections out there… how about the one on Harbord where the linuxcafe is.

    But getting caught up in something unintentionally, or being busted for running a stop sign while exercising caution would by annoying.

    After all, I would encounter less stop signs on my rides if I wasn’t forced to take residential streets in order to not be doored, hit, etc..

  • Veronica

    I commute about 20km each way to work and back several days a week. I wear a helmet, have lights on the bike and a bell and wear cleats. I chose a path to get to work and back riding on quiet residential streets and almost exclusively avoiding major roads. There are no bike lanes on this route. There are lots of stop signs and some traffic lights. I always obey the traffic lights but not the stop signs, when the intersection is empty. If there are cars at the intersection, I obey the right of way, but don’t get off my cleats and sometimes I glide through if a car is not signaling to make a turn. Yesterday I glided through one of the all way stop signs at one of these small intersections on a residential street. The intersection was empty and a few seconds later I was pulled over by a police officer. He asked for my id. I had only my driving license with me and gave it to him. He notified me of passing through the stop sign, went back to his car and came back a few minutes later with a $110 ticket. On the ticket he had all my information including name, address and license number. The ticket didn’t explicitly mention I passed through a stop sign on a bike. But where the ticket asks for the plate number of the car he just put a line through it. Then he left. On the rest of my ride home I encountered several cyclists and none stopped at these small all-way empty of cars stop signs on residential streets. Makes sense to me.

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