Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cyclists need to obey laws to earn respect

Toronto Sun - By GARY GRANT
Last Updated: 2nd June 2009, 3:17am

City Hall seems hell bent on inundating the city with bicycle lanes whether we need them or not.

The latest "must have" streets being Jarvis and, maybe the Danforth in the future.

I'm not against bicycle lanes in principle, and in moderation, but the streets that currently have them share two characteristics: The bike lanes are under utilized and traffic is a mess. People need to get to work and school and until our mass transit system is vastly improved the practical way for most people to get downtown is by car.

Does the anti-car faction really believe our downtown office towers are going to be filled by thousands of happy, healthy and sweaty cyclists?

Which brings me to the cyclists themselves. I acknowledge cycling is healthy, cycling is green, cycling is cool, yada, yada. But cycling can also be dangerous, especially in the big city. And while cyclists are big on demanding their rights, when it comes to acknowledging their responsibilities -- not so much.

Anyone who heard me during my tenure as Toronto Police's top traffic cop or has read one of my columns in the Sun knows I am no apologist for the thousands of idiot motorists out there.
But most cyclists are no better. Notice I didn't use the politically correct cop-out that most cyclists are law abiding and the few bad ones spoil it for the rest. On the contrary, in my experience most cyclists routinely ignore the most basic rules of the road and engage in risky and selfish behaviour.

In my policing days, I routinely referred to cyclists as cycle-estrians because it seemed they wanted to enjoy the rights of both. Red light coming up? No problem, just make a quick turn and drive through the pedestrian crosswalk on a green light. Obstruction up ahead? No problem, just jump the curb and speed along the sidewalk sending pedestrians scattering. Then, when it pleases you bounce back onto the road and scream obscenities at the motorist who opens his car door into your path. No wonder he didn't see you, you weren't there a second ago, you were on the sidewalk!

I can't remember the last time I saw a cyclist obey a red light at a "T" intersection. Sometimes they stop and then ride through but most often they don't bother to stop at all. If a motorist can't do that why should a cyclist?

I defy anyone to be able to see a cyclist approaching from behind on a dark rainy night when the cyclist is without a light or any reflective clothing or equipment. Not even a bell to warn the unsuspecting motorist they are about to squeeze between his vehicle and the curb.

And while motorcylists are obliged by law to wear a helmet, cyclists 18 and older are not.
I know they wouldn't look as cool in a helmet but are they any less susceptible to a serious head injury?

By all means we should protect the rights of cyclists, but we should also hold them accountable to the same standards as all road users.


That means obeying the rules of the road, utilizing safety equipment and acknowledging that road safety is a shared responsibility. Maybe then cyclists will be more consistently afforded the respect that they demand.

Perhaps the time has come to consider a small licensing fee for bicycles. The revenue could be used to create a database to assist the police in recovering some of the thousands of bicycles stolen each year and it would enable the cyclists to make a small financial contribution towards the ever growing network of bike lanes.

They would have the pride of ownership, just like motorists!


  1. Wow, this sounds like a rant out of some right-wing newspaper. You are the spokesperson for the Toronto Traffic Police?

    If you are concerned with safety of toronto citizens, how about you approach safety a bit more objectively?

    How many people are killed and injured by cars in Toronto?
    How many people are killed and injured by bicycles in Toronto?

    Now, if a cyclist breaks a traffic law, you say, "they aren't earning the respect of the cars on the road". Well, that's a bit non-issue isn't it? Since the cyclists aren't hurting anyone, you really shouldn't care at all. You complain that cyclists switch between being pedestrians and cars. Well, that's basically what you have to do to survive. I'm not going to sit in the middle of a busy intersection to turn left. I'll get smoked by some driver who "didn't see me". I will cross like a pedestrian.

    You need to realize that cars cause virtually all the safety problems in the city and that is where you need to focus your efforts. A license or test for cyclists? Wrong. How about a mandatory proper driver training course? How about mandatory refresher tests every 15 years? How about suspensions for drivers that injure other people due to carelessness? Try to focus on the real safety problems.

  2. ah, I now see this posting is in fact directly cut-and-pasted from a nutbar right-wing newspaper. Why post this? Do you agree with it?

  3. JASON - Whether I agree with this or not isn't the reason why I posted it. Toronto Bike Month, edgy, a traffic expert and it would create some conversation are my reasons.
    My challnge is to convince people that obeying the law and looking out for each other is the answer to reducing collisions, injuries and death in Toronto. If I re-post something it is done to raise awareness and create dialogue, because the more we know, the more of an educated opinion we can express.
    To comment on your left turn scenario...I agree. What I ask is that you come up to that intersection as a rider, get off your bike and walk it through the crosswalk as a pedestrian, get back on as a rider again. All laws obeyed, you are safer! You see, we agree, just on how we get there might differ.
    Here is where I will disagree with you. Cars are not virtually all the safety problems. People who use our roadways are. Anyone who disregards the safety of others through inattentive, selfish, self serving behaviours is the problem. Drivers already do go through testing, a course and suspensions for their carelessness...cyclists never. I honestly hold no regard for one form of transportation over the other. Pedestrians, drivers and yes even cyclists have a shared responsiblity in road safety. To brand all all drivers or all pedestrians or all cyclists with a broad stroke label is unfair and not a true of the facts. Too look with honesty and openess is the beginning to focusing on the real safety problems. People, not their methods of transport.
    Thanks for your comments! PS - You'll see throughout this blog there are more left wing paper posts than right wing, be careful not to label.