Cyclists angry after Toronto officials ticket them for speeding in popular park
TORONTO -- Days after dozens of cyclists were ticketed in Toronto's High Park for speeding and running stop signs, it appears the rule breaking continues, leading some to question whether the problem is with the cyclists or the rules themselves.
Not a single cyclist stopped at stop signs at a High Park intersection as CTV News Toronto watched for an hour -- from lycra-clad racers to families out for an afternoon ride.
Young people, older people, people with and without helmets, and even one person doing a wheelie through the stop sign. One person stopped near a sign, but that appeared to be just to get directions.
That level of widespread rule-breaking is a sign that rules designed for cars are not necessarily applicable to bikes, said The Biking Lawyer, David Shellnutt, and rather than ticket a vast cross-section of cyclists, it’s better to have a conversation about what the rules should be.
"Rulebooks are designed around the car, and in Ontario the car is king," Shellnutt said, who pointed out that speeding and stop sign laws try to keep people safer from cars, which are responsible for the vast majority of injury and death on the roads.
He says ticketing cyclists for not following them to the letter when they're being safe is unfair.
"We ought to be catching up to the times. COVID caused a cycling revolution. Let's tweak the rules and legislation as needed to make sure that people are safe but that rules apply fairly," he said.
Last week, complaints from the public led city officials to put up a trap, ticketing 62 cyclists for speeding and running stop signs, said Carleton Grant, the City of Toronto's executive director of Municipal Licensing and Standards.
"It's not the Tour de France. It's not a race, it's a park road," Grant said.
Some park users said very fast cyclists using the park to exercise can make them nervous.
"They whip through pretty quickly, that’s the danger," said Katie O’Dell, a mom out biking with her family.
But the enforcement blitz also handed $125 speeding tickets to Tracy Osborn, who said she was using the park route to find a safer way to the water than going on Toronto's roads. Officials said she was going 35 in a 20 zone, downhill, she said.
"Police officers are focusing their time, effort and tax dollars are ticketing people who are biking in a safe manner through the park. So it’s a misalignment of resources," Osborn told CTV News Toronto.
They also nabbed Daniel Oulton, who said he was coasting down a hill en route to his job in the park itself.
"I was quite frustrated because I have no way of knowing the speed on my bike. I don’t have a speedometer," he said.
Twenty-two cyclists were ticketed for speeding and 40 were ticketed for running stop signs, Grant said. Cars were also ticketed too at 64 total tickets, he said.
Toronto already allows cyclists to vary from some road rules — they are allowed to go the opposite direction down some signposted one-way streets, for example.
Other options for the park could include a speed limit that changes depending on the time of day, so that cyclists could exercise in the early morning hours without breaking the rules, but have to slow during peak hours to not disturb other park members, Shellnutt said.
Several U.S. states allow cyclists to treat stop signs as a yield sign in what’s called the "Idaho stop", which recognizes that it takes more effort for cyclists to stop and start, and that cyclists are much less dangerous to the public than even small cars.
Sally Fogel, visiting High Park in Toronto from Idaho, said that the approach doesn’t turn regular cyclists into chronic rule-breakers.
"It's probably safer overall," she said.
Grant said that the Idaho stop "seems reasonable, but is not in place right now," and said changes would have to be made to Toronto’s park bylaw.
"It's something we could look at and work with the cycling community on what is a safe and appropriate way to do this," he said.