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Cyclists frustrated by speeding tickets handed out in High Park

·3 min read
Tracy Osborn says she was riding her commuter bike when she was ticketed, and says she wasn't racing.  (Submitted by Tracy Osborn - image credit)
Tracy Osborn says she was riding her commuter bike when she was ticketed, and says she wasn't racing. (Submitted by Tracy Osborn - image credit)

Some Toronto cyclists say they were surprised and frustrated this week after being handed tickets in High Park for biking above the posted speed limit of 20 kilometres per hour.

Tracy Osborn said she and her husband were riding downhill on the west side of the park Tuesday morning, when they were each ticketed $125.

"For me, it was disbelief: I'm getting my first speeding ticket on a bike," said Osborn, who noted she was riding a commuter bike, and that there weren't many people around at the time.

The same thing happened to Daniel Oulton Tuesday: he was commuting to work through the park when he was given a ticket at the bottom of a hill.

"I was quite frustrated because there's lots of cars and golf carts in this park that go much faster," said Oulton.

Submitted by Daniel Oulton
Submitted by Daniel Oulton

"I thought it was quite a poor use of resources to be ticketing cyclists who have no way of knowing how fast they're going."

The cyclists were ticketed as part of a joint enforcement blitz from police and city bylaw officials. On Monday and Tuesday, officers handed 126 tickets to drivers and cyclists for speeding or failing to pause at stop signs.

But both Osborn and Oulton told CBC Toronto they felt the approach was unfair, and think the city is enforcing road rules unevenly. They say they don't often see officers stopping cars driving dangerously around cyclists — something they say poses a greater risk to public safety.

Conflict a long-standing issue, says councillor

The enforcement blitz was prompted by a "growing trend" of drivers and cyclists barrelling past children's play areas and failing to obey stop signs in the park, the City of Toronto said in a statement.

Toronto police were involved because bylaw officers, on their own, don't have the authority to pull over vehicles in motion, the city said.

Conflict between cyclists and pedestrians has been a long-standing issue in High Park, particularly on steep hills, said Coun. Gord Perks, who represents Ward 4, Parkdale-High Park.

Perks said he's heard both from cyclists who feel the speed limit is too low, and residents who are concerned about cyclists going at high speeds — even some who say they've been hit by bikes themselves.

Turgut Yeter/CBC
Turgut Yeter/CBC

Perks said the city recently launched a "movement strategy" to improve the travel network in High Park and better serve everyone's needs. An online survey to that effect has launched and will collect feedback over the summer months.

In the meantime, Perks urged cyclists to keep their speed down.

"There are signs posted saying 20 kilometres an hour — there's a good safety reason for that," said Perks. "On that steep hill, people wind up going very, very fast."

In a statement to CBC Toronto, Sgt. Murray Campbell of Toronto police said the city's bylaws are in place to keep park users safe.

"As with roadways and all other vehicles, the higher the speed, the more likely the possibility of being involved in an incident and the incident having the possibility of more severe injuries," said Campbell.

"This goes for any vehicle, including bicycles."

A Toronto Police Service dataset that lists traffic collisions, where a person was killed or seriously injured, includes 15 incidents coded as "cyclist strikes pedestrian" between 2006 and 2020.

Better ways to promote safety, says lawyer

Robin Pueyo
Robin Pueyo

Still, lawyer and cycling advocate David Shellnutt thinks the ticketing is an over-reach.

If the city wants to encourage safe cycling, Shellnutt said, there are better ways to do it, such as hiring volunteers to hold caution signs and hand out information, or working with cycling groups to educate their members.

"Toronto has got to stop trying to police its way out of every situation that arises," he said.

As for Osborn and Oulton, they now feel reluctant to bike in the park.

Osborn plans to avoid it for the time being, while Oulton said he's continued, but at a much slower pace.

"I'm trying to stay on the brakes while I'm in the park," he said.

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