The Battle of the Bike Lanes In Toronto
The Toronto Sun is not the kind of paper that would care much about the troubles of cyclists trying to navigate the Fedex lane or the donut lane or snow lane or the lets-rip-it-up-for-services-because-it's-just-a-bike-lane. But they do rise up to defend the public when they see somebody getting away with something they can't, like parking for twenty minutes to get lunch right in front of a restaurant when Joe Public would have been fined sixty bucks. Now that's worth getting worked up about. The Sun got on the case, and got a quick response. They write:
Instead of protecting their own, Toronto Police brass called the officer's parking actions "stupid" and "unacceptable."
"That's not kosher at all. It's right in our procedures that, outside of exigent circumstances, you do not park illegally, and that includes in bike lanes," said Sgt. Tim Burrows, of the force's traffic services department. He added higher-ups at the force were "incensed" when they heard about the Annette St. incident.
"It's very unfortunate that the officer decided to do this, but from the top on down, it's something that will not be tolerated," he insisted.
Councillor Pam McConnell, who is vice-chairman of the Police Services Board, didn't think much of the Cops putting themselves above the law.
"There are no laws that are for the average citizen that are not for the officers. It is quite the opposite," she said yesterday. "The city is very much growing up in terms of its understanding of different modes of transportation.
"I think that it is a wake-up call for all of our division commanders to be talking to their officers about this (bike lane) priority of the board ... and the importance of not only enforcing the law, but adhering to the law and modelling the law."
The Cops are Tops in Toronto, and if you are a politician you criticize them at great risk to your career, especially if you represent a suburban district. That is probably why one of our most outspoken bike advocates got all mealymouthed:
"I think police merit special consideration," said Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who cycles to City Hall from Scarborough most days. "Yes, he (the officer) shouldn't have done that, and if it was a member of the public, I'd say yes, that member of the public should get a ticket, but I would make an exception for the police."
And of course the Toronto Sun, which puts cops above cyclists in a heartbeat, quickly realized the root of the problem and decided that what we should really do is get rid of the bike lanes so that the Cops can park in front of restaurants again. They editorialize:
Bike lanes should go where they make sense, not to make trendy political statements about "green" living. And not as traffic calming measures on streets that should move cars. If they don't work somewhere, [like in front of restaurants that serve coffee to cops] get rid of them.
And it isn't like this is only a Toronto problem; the Gothamist wrote about this case:
Maybe it's just a police checkpoint to make sure cyclists have the legally required bell, light and reflectors? Or perhaps the city needs to paint it a vibrant green, like some other bike lanes, to better catch the officers' eyes? There must be a logical explanation, because one would hate to think the NYPD harbors any ill will toward cyclists!
The police should be clearing bike lanes, not parking in them. If they don't respect the law, who will?