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Assaulted for Biking past a Streetcar


Yesterday, Denise Ing broke one of her cardinal rules of biking and biked by a streetcar stopping for passengers.  A waiting passenger assaulted her and the other TTC passengers supported this action.


I’m friends with Denise, and she’s one of the nicest people I know, and I share her belief that cyclists should not bike past stopped (or stopping) streetcars.  Assaulting someone is a crime, and the TTC driver as well as the TTC passengers who did nothing after this happened should be ashamed.


Denise admits that she shouldn’t have biked past the streetcar, and the following is her story:


For the worst days of winter, I had decided to combine my Bixi membership with a TTC Metropass in order to keep biking a regular part of my commute.  As I biked east toward the Bixi station at Queen St. W. and York St., I spotted the 501 Queen streetcar coming up behind me.  In a bid to catch the 501, I raced towards my destination, arriving at the intersection just behind a 502 Downtowner streetcar with passengers already stepping off the curb.  

In a split second, I decided to go against my better judgement, and proceed on my bike.  This action also went against my personal beliefs; I am usually the cyclist waiting patiently for TTC commuters to board and disembark, and shouting at cyclists who callously plow through them.

But my impatience got the better of me, and I committed an offence.  As I biked behind a passenger, he turned around suddenly and body checked me.  The sturdiness of the Bixi saved me from flying into the glass TTC shelter, and I recovered quickly.  I screamed at the man who had just assaulted me, while he shouted back his justification for this act.  

I quickly parked my Bixi at the station, and ran back across the intersection in time to board the streetcar of my assailant.  I demanded that the streetcar operator call the police to report an assault.  There was a collective groan from the passengers.  The TTC employee asked me if I was hurt.  I was forced to admit that I was not.  “Do you really want to delay this streetcar full of people for nothing?” he asked.  Some of the passengers started heckling me.  

In desperation, I asked the TTC employee to kick my assailant off the streetcar so that we could both wait for the police on the sidewalk.  I could not hear his answer in the chorus of protests.  “Why should he be kicked off?” “You shouldn’t have been cycling past a stopped streetcar!”  “It was your fault!”  I cannot recall hearing anything from my assailant, who hid at the back, letting others take up his cause.

As I stood in the middle of the streetcar, shaking from the adrenaline still coursing through me, I withered under the hostility and indifference.  For these TTC passengers, I represented every cyclist who almost hit them when they should have stopped, every fixie aficionado who couldn’t skid stop fast enough, every cyclist who biked merrily on, oblivious to the shouts of outrage directed at his or her back.

I retreated for the exit of the streetcar, throwing accusations at the passengers that they had just assisted in an assault.  One passenger got up abruptly, announcing that she was getting off because she did not support the assault.  Others watched in silence.  To the credit of the streetcar operator, he did not slam the doors shut in my face.  

It meant a lot to have the support of that one passenger, but it was upsetting to be the focus of the simmering anger of TTC riders, kindled by a thousand discourteous acts of my fellow cyclists.

[photo by draughtsmon]

  • Checking comments.

  • twointow

    We all make mistakes, good for Denise for being willing to talk about it.

    I am most dismayed at the reaction (lack of action) of all the bystanders! I hope that many people read this and that it will inspire them to be like the lone passenger that disembarked to show she did not support the assault.

  • In my opinion, on a scale of morals the assault far out-weighs the riding through the crowd – and the inaction by the crowd against the man who assaulted the cyclist outweighs both. The fact that everyone, but one, supported the perpetrator of the assault through inaction because they were in a hurry speaks volumes about how this rat race economy has us all suspending our human spirit.

    Good for that one ‘someone’, who got off the Assault Car in protest. Reminds me of a saying , “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing”.

  • Arete Papakonstantinou

    A bit of an eye for an eye really. The fact that the body check didn’t cause injuries I can’t support her too much. That said, had she be wearing clipless and ended up falling and hitting her head the situation could have gone from setting things even to something disastrous. I ride clipless and if someone were to body check me while clipped it would be bad. This is in addition to all the other permutations of possibilities and the usual issues associated with vigilante action. The body checker walked a thin line.

  • Harry Smith

    I have almost been hit by people who make ‘bad judgement calls’, and sorry, but if you had made contact with someone with your bike, it would have been a totally different matter. The guy doesn’t know you are a considerate biker, doesn’t know that you never did it before. So the best thing to do is to cut your losses, and move on. If you had hit someone with your bike, it wouldn’t have been called assault, but technically it should have been if you were purposely breaking the law. He didn’t beat you until you were bleeding so consider it a lesson learned in consideration, especially when in a very busy and uptight city like Toronto. Thank god you didn’t do it in a place like Detroit or NYC where they would have shot you instead.

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