By Jack Lakey
Published On Thu Nov 19 2009
JACK LAKEY/TORONTO STAR
Cyclists are asking Toronto police to get tough on drivers who park in bicycle lanes, and particularly habitual offenders such as parcel delivery trucks.
As the city expands its network of cycling lanes to create a defined space to separate bikes from vehicles and pedestrians, cyclists have been emailing and calling us about adverse side effects, including drivers who think the lanes are also meant for parking.
Lawyer Alan Heisey, an avid cyclist and former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, called recently to bend our ear about delivery trucks occupying bike lanes – forcing cyclists into traffic.
After sending a letter of complaint to the president of a major parcel delivery company, and receiving a reply that said its drivers will continue to park in bike lanes because it’s more efficient, Heisey is asking police to be more aggressive in ticketing bike lane blockers.
The police services board will consider Heisey’s request at its monthly meeting Thursday.
“It is my observation that police enforcement of parking regulations on bicycle lanes has not kept up with the provision of such facilities, and one of the primary functions of such lanes is as a lay-by for motorists, taxis, couriers, utility companies and other public agency vehicles for short-term parking,” Heisey wrote to the board.
Among his requests is that cameras like those used to catch red-light runners be set up in some areas “to allow photo monitoring of transit and bicycle lanes and the imposition of fines for illegal stopping and parking.”
Yvonne Bambrick, executive director of the 800-member Toronto Cyclists Union, said she’ll also appear before the board to seek deterrent measures, such as doubling the average $60 fine for blocking a lane, with higher penalties for repeat offenders.
“We need the city to prioritize enforcement of the rules,” Bambrick said in an interview. She said there should be a specific charge for obstructing a cycling lane.
Sgt. Tim Burrows of Toronto police traffic services, which includes parking enforcement, said it would be easier to crack down on drivers if there were a specific charge instead of the current charge of occupying an existing lane.
“Whenever the offence describes exactly what’s going on,” it’s easier to inform and educate drivers about the infraction, and easier to enforce, Burrows said.
But it’s likely to lead to a glut of traffic signs that drivers already ignore or seldom notice, he said.
We found an example of the problem Tuesday on Gerrard St., east of Yonge St. and next to O’Keefe Lane, which runs through Ryerson University. A green car with four-way flashers on was stopped in the eastbound cycling lane.
The driver made notes in a binder and checked messages on a BlackBerry for at least 15 minutes while a steady stream of cyclists swerved around her car.
That’s exactly the problem that Heisey and the cyclists union want the police services board to fix.