A Toronto police safety campaign aimed at protecting vulnerable cyclists found a significant number of aggressive drivers unwilling to share city streets among a total of 1,617 tickets issued in just one week.
Of those, police handed out at least 800 citations for “particularly aggressive behaviour,” Toronto police Sgt. Brett Moore told the Star, an outcome he called “significant, but not surprising.”
“Drivers are still not getting that a bicycle belongs on roads just as much as they do,” a fact that has frustrated Toronto police for a while, he said.
The campaign, which ran between June 17 and 23, saw officers looking for drivers who were speeding, driving while distracted or impaired, or driving aggressively.
Aggressive driving “can be a whole basket of big things,” Moore said, including erratic lane changes, not yielding properly, speeding or racing, and getting distracted around bikes.
Police also saw several instances of “dooring” — when drivers or passengers open their doors into the path of a cyclist or pedestrian without looking — and found drivers were parking in bike lanes “fairly frequently.”
Jamie Stuckless, executive director of the province-wide Share the Road Cycling Coalition, said the campaign was well timed to help new riders.
“June is Bike Month, so I’m happy police were able to make roads safer during a month when everyone’s urging new bikers to get out on the roads,” Stuckless said.
“But it definitely needs to be an everyday thing and not a just a single week of action.”
Ryerson University professor Said Easa, who studies city infrastructure and road safety, said he doesn’t think campaigns that target aggressive drivers “do much” for cyclists’ safety.
“Really, at the core of it all is the fact that we need better infrastructure in Toronto for bikers,” he said, saying the city has a responsibility, not just police.
Easa added that bikers also need to better understand how vulnerable they are on the road.
“Speaking a cyclist myself, sometimes I think we don’t understand the aggression comes from our own actions with drivers,” he said. “You’re just not safe on roads when you’re sharing it with that little distance between yourself and these aggressive drivers.”
Moore said it’s been a while since Toronto police’s last cycling safety ticket blitz.
An earlier campaign in 2017 was focused on road safety education, rather than enforcement.
“I can certainly say I’m not surprised by how many people were ticketed this year though,” he said. “We all see it every day on the roads.”
The ticket campaign is part of the city’s Vision Zero plan to reduce traffic deaths, Moore said
In June, Mayor John Tory announced “Vision Zero 2.0,” a revamp of the plan that was launched in 2016 but has so far failed to reduce the rate of deaths on city streets.
The updated plan calls for lower speed limits — which Tory said he wants implemented quickly, with stickers over existing signs if need be — as well as short-term design changes using paint, bollards and other features.
A May poll found nearly two-thirds of Torontonians believe city streets aren’t safe for cyclists.
Temur Durrani is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @temurdur