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Traffic cops powerless to enforce bike lanes

The Toronto Star: Traffic cops powerless to enforce bike lanes

Keeping lanes clear may take higher fines and more ticketing power

DENISE BALKISSOON/TORONTO STAR

Ticket cops don’t have any teeth when it comes to enforcing bike lanes. That’s the message from the police and city hall after complaints about taxis clogging up the 6-month-old bike lane on Lower Simcoe St.

“Those pictures are very disturbing,” said Const. Hugh Smith, about photos the Star published this week, which showed a long line of taxis idling in the bike lane outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

He sees three main obstacles for parking enforcement officers trying to enforce bike lanes.

One, there’s no specific bylaw. Smith can’t track how many tickets are issued to cars sitting in a bike lane because such tickets are bundled with any others handed out for parking in a no-stopping zone.

Next, the fine is too low. Last November, Yvonne Bambrick of the Toronto Cyclists Union made a presentation to the Toronto Police Services Board, asking for tougher enforcement around bike lanes.

She wants the $60 fine for cars that cross a solid white line to enter a bike lane to be doubled to $120, which is closer to the $100-$150 fine charged for parking in a fire route or a handicapped space.

“We’re told to stay as far right as possible, then we’re forced to swerve into traffic,” says Bambrick.

Her suggestions were passed on to the city manager. Councillor Adam Vaughan, a police board member whose ward includes the convention centre, says council should be discussing a bike lane bylaw by the spring.

“Ticketing is the only way to do it,” said Vaughan, who said the discussion would include the possibility of raising the fine.

Smith also sees it as a major problem that parking enforcement officers are required to ask drivers to move before ticketing them. Most will just pull away if they see an officer approaching their illegally stopped car.

The constable, who is on the Cycling Advisory Committee, thinks parking officers should have the power to immediately issue a ticket to any car parked illegally, and to have the ticket stick even if the car leaves. That’s a recommendation police have made several times to the province, which has said only that it will consider changing the “drive away” ticketing rules.

In the absence of such enforcement, cyclists will push for physical separations, such as concrete barriers between bike lanes and traffic, say all three. “Maybe,” said Vaughan, “that’s the ultimate solution.”