As tensions between cyclists and police in High Park have boiled over in recent weeks, critics say the key to long-term safety solutions at the park lies in changing its use, not increased police presence and fines.
Alison Stewart, senior advocacy officer for nonprofit Cycle Toronto, says high tensions in the park have been heightened by law enforcement.
“The targeting of cyclists in High Park is not only unproductive, it is unfair,” Stewart said.
“We can’t attack individual behavior. But we can take care of the safety of our roads by ending conflicts.”
Cycle Toronto says it has become “increasingly alarmed” by recent skirmishes between cyclists and police, requesting a meeting with Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto Police Chief James Ramer to defuse the tensions in a letter sent on Friday. His call comes days after a Toronto cyclist was hit by a police cruiser.
Stewart and other critics say the incident highlights the need to change the way people move around and use the park, rather than increasing police presence.
It’s something the High Park Movement Strategy has been exploring since its launch last year, but changes to park infrastructure and use won’t come until next spring.
“It’s a slow process, and in the meantime people are at risk,” said Lee Scott, steering committee member of Walk Toronto, a pedestrian advocacy group.
Scott says that in addition to redesigning the park’s interior, the city needs to work faster to transform the surrounding streets. According to townspeed camera outside High Park on Parkside Drive issued 2,845 speeding tickets in May, about 14% of the 20,052 tickets issued in Toronto, and most of all devices.
“With these types of situations arising, it makes sense for the city to institute this plan as soon as possible,” Scott said.
Police say law enforcement ‘welcomed’ by community
Toronto police say that while their presence in High Park is just a “small” part of their citywide traffic control plans, it is also in response to concerns from members of the community – especially families with young children, runners and dog walkers – regarding speed. cyclists and vehicles.
“This has been well received by the local community as well as those who visit the park,” said Const. Robert Reid told CBC Toronto in an email.
Reid says the police approach has been to educate and warn cyclists who are speeding or ignoring stop signs, and officers can “use their discretion when deciding to issue a ticket.”
However, cycling injury lawyer David Shellnut says police appear to have launched a targeted enforcement campaign against cyclists in High Park, even though vehicles are involved in most of the deaths and serious injuries .
“You can walk into any intersection in this city and see motor vehicles breaking the law,” said Shellnut, who says she represents dozens of cyclists who have been hit by vehicles in the High Park area alone.
“People tell us that they are [not] go to High Park. They are afraid. They feel intimidated and harassed.”
In a statement from the mayor’s office, spokesman Lawvin Hadisi said Mayor John Tory supports police in exercising their discretion when enforcing the law. She also says the mayor needs to “look all around” to make sure everyone is safe.
“This is a big park in a big city and no one should be surprised or outraged that from time to time the police will enforce the law in response to complaints from the community,” Hadisi said.
Hadisi says Tory is “pleased to review” the expediting of the elevated park motion strategy review and asked staff to ensure they consider “innovative solutions” to help all users of the park to better enjoy the park.
The public can weigh on the future of High Park in an online poll on whether to reduce car traffic as it does on weekends, or continue to share the road under current rules.