Can Social Media Help Keep the Bike Lanes Clear?

Public Domain. PvOberstein/Wikimedia Commons

It can if the right person is doing the tweeting.

Canada Post, the Canadian crown corporation that is the postal service and is now big in the online shopping package delivery service, has been one of the worst offenders when it comes to parking in Toronto's bike lanes. But all the delivery companies do it and it really didn’t seem like the police would do anything about it.

Many have complained that the police take the windshield view when it comes to cyclists, don’t take them seriously and don’t enforce rules about parking in the bike lanes. So it was really surprising when Toronto parking enforcement officer Kyle Ashley started popping up on Twitter while doing his day job taking photos of cars blocking bike lanes. David Rider wrote in the Star last month:

It is surprising music to the ears of a bike community used to fraught relations with Toronto police. The parking unit previously ignored tweeted pleas from cyclists. When traffic officers did speak they seemed keen to blame cyclists — even one killed by a motorist — in what many saw as evidence of a car-centric view of streets.

It is true; his tweets and tickets are beloved by the cycling community, and I certainly wondered if he could keep this up. But in fact, Ashley even had departmental approval. His boss Brian Moniz tells the Star that the officer...

...has been instrumental in a very short amount of time in engaging, appealing and listening to the concerns of the cycling community via social media. This was a community in which we lacked engagement previously. Kyle’s consistent engagement, determination and dedication to duty has been noticed and appreciated by all levels in our organization.

Recently Ashley complained that Canada Post really bugged him the most, because it is sort of part of the government as a crown corporation. He tells David Rider:

“The flagrant disregard for the bike lanes is strongest from them. I don’t know if they think they have impunity because the trucks say Canada Post, or if they just don’t care about the public image or the public safety.”

But with mainstream media picking up the story from social media (with a lot of writing by David Rider), Canada Post had to start paying attention, and has announced a new policy: Don’t block the bike lanes. If you can’t stop safely and legally then bring the package back.

Canadda post notice

Canada post statement/Screen capture

Even the mayor hopped on the bandwagon, but as is his wont, John Tory turned it into an issue of cars as much as bikes, congestion as much as safety.

When we create bike lanes it is not with the intention that any vehicles will park there ... It isn’t just a matter of disrespect for the law, it’s a public safety issue because when a cyclist then goes around a truck into traffic and then goes back into the bike lane that is a moment of great vulnerability for the cyclist in particular but also for a (driver) who might not be expecting this.... By adjusting deliveries and drop-off locations, Canada Post showed the impact that an effective partnership can make when it comes to fighting congestion. Once again, today, Canada Post has shown it is prepared to do the right thing.

As usual, he is much more concerned about inconveniencing drivers. But if we don’t have him in our corner, at least we have Parking Enforcement Officer Kyle Ashley on his bike. For now, anyway.