Important Number Missing From Toronto Police Bicycle “Blitz”

Toronto Critical Mass - April 25, 2008 066

Every time the Toronto Police launch a “blitz” campaign, all we seem to care about are the numbers.

How many tickets were issued? How many law-breakers were brought to justice? How many scofflaws now have to pay a hefty fine?

But when all is said and done there is one number that is almost always absent. This is probably the most important number, the one that ultimately frames the true issue at hand. The one number that could reveal whether or not these “blitzes” actually yield results at all.

Let’s look at the numbers we already have: Prior to the “blitz,” Toronto Police warned 250 cyclists that they were breaking laws in relation to the Highway Traffic Act.

During the “blitz” 367 tickets were issued to cyclists. (PDF:

Without the missing number though, these totals are meaningless. Alone, these totals can be spun to mean whatever you want. And that’s exactly what is happening…

You see, the missing number from this scene is the number of people on bicycles that the Toronto Police actually encountered. With this number we’d have an idea of possible problems. We’d have a percentage, one that would carry over to future campaigns. We’d have context.

However, without these numbers we have generalizing. We have people jumping to conclusions based solely on their limited experiences. Is 367 tickets a lot? Since we do not know how many cyclists passed by Toronto Police during these 3 days, then we cannot know. Did they ticket 90% of the people on bicycles they encountered? Or was it just 10%?

If the Toronto Police really want to influence positive change, then include this vital missing number. Every cyclist should follow the rules of the road. But how many do? We want to know! Do not let anecdotal evidence, the kind that runs rampant in news article comments, distort the facts.

Photo via the BikingToronto Flickr Pool


  1. Good post Duncan.

    To be totally accurate, not only should the total numbers of cyclists be recorded, but the locations of the “blitzes” should stay consistent.

    It’s really the only way data like this can be useful for analysis. :)

  2. A further stat that I’d love to see, is the number of turn signal related offenses compared to the number of automobile drivers who don’t signal.

    I’ve *never* seen a car ticketed for not signaling, so why would they be targeting cyclists for the same infraction?

  3. Great post.
    The more I read/watch the news… the less informed I feel.

  4. Have to agree with the OP, but really, how relevant is any of this to anyone? Ppl misbehaving on two wheels are mostly only a danger to themselves? How far should we take this Nannie State really? Is this about protecting folks in their 20th-century motorized carriages? In not, then why the bother? Either way, makes no sense…

  5. Nice job by TO police. I’d sure like to see more cyclists obeying the traffic rules which might prompt respect on both sides and eliminate the ugly cars vs. bikes. And just maybe I wouldn’t get so much flack from other cyclists who get ticked off with me for stopping for streetcar doors, etc. For sure, go around me if I’m too cautious and slow to suit you: but please ring the bell to let me know you’re either approaching or passing.

    I would, however, like to see this taken a step further: how about the cops enforcing the please don’t treat the bike lane as a taxicab waiting area? And maybe start warning or charging motorists for stuff like edging out cyclists, not allowing them at least 3 feet of road so they don’t have to worry about the driver’s mirror catching you, opening their car or truck doors without looking or even thinking about cyclists that may be approaching. Sure, I know: it just may cost the driver demerits but I’ve yet to see them warned. And what do I care about that driver losing demerits when I’m sprawled on my butt in the street and have to spend time recovering, having my bike realigned, or in the ER department?

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