A bike ride through Toronto’s High Park just might land you a speeding ticket if you’re unlucky, as officers have been posted up in the popular destination with radar guns, trying to nab riders punching over the speed limit.
Since at least the summer of 2020, cyclists have been targeted for speeding in city parks by police and parking enforcement officers wielding radar guns, a practice met with public criticism and questions about the allocation of resources towards such an obvious non-threat to public safety.
Well, it’s happening again, and personal injury lawyer David Shellnutt is among the cycling advocates raising awareness about the issue on Twitter.
I’m hearing the police at out at High Park again. Sorry to ruin your day. Careful riders.
— The Biking Lawyer (Dave Shellnutt) (@TheBikingLawyer) June 21, 2022
Shellnutt tells blogTO that he has been aware of the problem for a while, as fellow cyclists have been using it to avoid the busy and, at times, dangerous Bloor bike lanes just north of the park.
“A friend of mine [was] going through the park on his way to work and [was given] a $120 ticket. The next week, he was biking in the bike lane adjacent to the park — he likes the park to keep safe — so he’s like, ‘I guess I’ll just go on the bike lane next to it,’ and gets hit by a right-turning driver who fails to yield the right of way and smashes his collarbone.”
“The driver gets less of a ticket than my client did for speeding on his 70s Raleigh in High Park.”
Shellnutt cites the police’s own data on injuries caused by cyclists compared to drivers in the area in questioning cops’ motives for targeting bikes in High Park.
“People are getting killed on the street next to [the park]. It does not make a lick of sense what they’re trying to do.”
1 of nearly 17,000 Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) collisions since 2006 per Toronto police database have been in High Park. None in main loop so popular with people on bikes. This effort is at best a distraction to making our streets safer for all road users. h/t: @dereklind https://t.co/lv3I1iDunB pic.twitter.com/MF07y3OK2m
— MWCC (@midweekcycling) June 16, 2022
Shellnutt wonders if this is “a targeted campaign against cyclists,” wondering aloud about the possible motivations for investing such resources.
“If your guys every year have to ask for another $25 million and resources are tight, what are they doing spending money on things that aren’t actually a problem? There are no stats to back up what they’re doing.”
Nice that Toronto is so crime free that they can spare officers for this.
— Chris McCue (He/Him) (@McCueChris) June 15, 2022
And sometimes, these actions are more than just a nuisance, Shellnutt recalling a case of a BIPOC cyclist who contacted him the previous week to report a radar gun being pointed in their direction and mistaking it for a firearm.
Given recent revelations about policing in Toronto, it’s not hard to see why a cyclist from a marginalized community would be frightened to see an officer pointing a gun-shaped object at them from afar.
“You’ve got cyclists feeling sort of uncomfortable, terrorized,” says Shellnutt.
It’s interesting how it’s always about “the best use of limited policing resources” and somehow policing cyclists was high on that list?
— Brian 🇺🇦 (@Bravado_5) June 15, 2022
While he may not support police trying to ticket cyclists when there are arguably bigger fish to fry, Shellnutt admits that bikes speeding through parks is not an ideal situation, though he has solutions in mind.
I wish those same officers would come out to my Ward and deal with the cars who I see daily sliding into crosswalks at intersections coming close to hitting pedestrians #BetterTimeUse #TOPoli #Ward24 #Scarborough
— Paul Ainslie (@cllrainslie) June 15, 2022
“Last summer, we asked my local councillors to look for community solutions to this,” suggesting an alternative like a dedicated morning period for cyclists to use the park as a speedy and safe alternative to bike lanes.
“I understand people get a little unnerved when a cyclist blows by in the park. I’m sure that happens, and I’m not discounting anybody’s feelings or experiences, but [seeking] solutions to those problems.”
In defence of their actions, a Toronto Police representative tells blogTO that the blitz is being done “in response to concerns and to help keep the community safe.”
“Members have been working with City by-law officers by stopping vehicles and cyclists witnessed speeding or committing offences such as failing to stop at stop signs. Police officers and by-law officers educate the driver or rider on their behaviour.”
“These members situate themselves at stop signs at various locations in the park. This has served as an educational piece for cyclists being advised of the HTA infractions they could face as well as the inherent dangers of going too fast. Toronto Police Auxiliary Officers have also been detailed to patrol the park as well.”
“This has been welcomed by the local community as well those visiting the park.”
Though he acknowledges that cyclists speeding through public parks can be a danger and nuisance to parkgoers, Shellnutt argues that “just because we have a billion-dollar hammer doesn’t mean every problem is a nail.”