Redesigned street is popular but ‘you really have to keep your wits about you,’ admits mayor.
Toronto police will hit the waterfront this weekend to launch a traffic blitz on crowded Queens Quay.
In a news release issued Friday, the force said officers will be on the street Saturday and Sunday afternoon, between noon and 4 p.m., and the blitz will target “motorists, cyclists and pedestrians not obeying the rules and committing unsafe acts.”
The release said the goal of the initiative was to enforce the rules but also educate the public “on how to make Queens Quay a safe place for everyone.”
The lakeside boulevard reopened in June 2015 after a $128.9-million overhaul that took three years and was intended to allow drivers, bikers, pedestrians and public transit to coexist on the same road.
While the redesign has proved popular and Queens Quay is a favourite destination for locals and tourists, it has also prompted complaints from people who say the unfamiliar configuration is sowing confusion and conflict among road users not use to sharing the street.
Waterfront Toronto, the publicly funded agency that led the redesign, is still making adjustments like adding signs telling pedestrians to watch for cyclists at intersections where they might come into conflict, and installing additional traffic lights to discourage illegal left turns.
But potentially dangerous behaviour, like drivers illegally using the streetcar right-of-way, is still a common sight.
Mayor John Tory, who did a walk-through of Queens Quay with Toronto police officers and members of Waterfront Toronto on Friday afternoon, said he believed the redesign has been successful but people need time to get used to it.
“I think it is working as well as you can expect when this is a concept that is I think quite new for Torontonians,” he said.
The mayor said that with all the activity on Queens Quay “you really have to keep your wits about you,” and admitted that during the walk-through he accidentally wandered into the path of bicycles because he wasn’t paying attention.
But he rejected any suggestion that Waterfront Toronto had bungled the project.
“I don’t look at it that anybody made a mistake,” he said. “We’ll continue to learn, but it doesn’t mean you don’t do these things. This is part of building a modern city that is going to be shared by people who want to get around in different ways.”
Const. Barry Bates of 52 Division said that last summer there was “an extraordinary number of accidents” on Queens Quay. He estimated there were about 70 collisions between Rees. St. and York St. This year that number has declined, he said.
According to Bates, while Queens Quay has had its issues the problem is mainly with the amount of people who use the street rather than with its design.
“When you overload something, it breaks down. . . There’s no correction for that. It’s just part of being downtown in an urban environment.”
About eight uniformed police will take part in this weekend’s blitz, plus parking enforcement officers, Bates said. The service intends to concentrate on issues like cyclists riding too fast, drivers making improper turns, pedestrians crossing the streetcar right-of-way, and road users of all kinds disobeying signals.
According to Bates, the officers will favour educating people over handing out tickets. “That’s all we can do, do our best to educate. It’s an ongoing process. It’s not going to end this summer.”
Laura Feltz, who has lived in the area for six years, said she welcomed the blitz. Her eyesight is deteriorating, and she sometimes has to be extra cautious on the street, especially at night.
“You don’t have to stay too long to see people doing the wrong things,” she said.
“You’ve got people who don’t obey signals, you’ve got pedestrians who are new to this city and they’re trying to understand where they’re going and not really paying full attention.”
The rules, one more time
Confused about the redesigned Queens Quay? Don’t worry, the police are here to help. This weekend they’ll be educating (and possibly ticketing) road users who don’t follow the rules. Here are the types of behaviour they’ll be focusing on.
Unsafe crossings: It’s not illegal to cross the street mid-block, Const. Barry Bates of 52 Division said, but with pedestrians forced to traverse both streetcar tracks and car lanes to get to the other side of Queens Quay, police will be advising people pay extra attention. “Use a crosswalk if you can,” Bates said.
Speedy cyclists: The Martin Goodman Trail that runs along Queens Quay is a popular cycling route, but some riders seem to love it a bit too much. Many don’t heed the signs to slow down. “This is a family area,” said Const. Bates. “As far as having a wide-open bicycle track, this is not it . . . Cyclists need to slow down and share the (trail).”
Reckless turns: A major cause of the high number of collisions last year was drivers ignoring left-turn traffic lights, particularly at the intersection with Lower Simcoe St. Waterfront Toronto has added additional signals to make it clearer to drivers when it’s safe to turn left, but police will be watching for motorists who ignore them.
Signal scofflaws: There are separate traffic signals on Queens Quay for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and streetcars. During the blitz police will be watching for anyone who disobeys them. “Whatever group decides at one point, ‘I’m not waiting,’ it’s going to have a trickle-down effect to everybody else,” said Const. Hugh Smith.
Group works to expose unfair traffic enforcements in Winnipeg
When it comes to parking tickets some spots in Winnipeg are set up to see driver’s fail, according to the founder of Wise Up Winnipeg.
Todd Dube and his group are working to expose what they call unfair traffic enforcement in the city. He said a new system, starting on Monday, doesn’t fix the root problem of a backlog in traffic tickets.
“What they did was they avoided the actual issue,” Dube said.
“The issue should be … why is there such a tremendous backlog at traffic court? Why are there so many thousands of people suddenly angry and pleading not guilty?”
Dube went on a ride along with a Winnipeg Parking Authority parking-ticket enforcer, who wanted to remain anonymous, on Saturday and checked out some of the spots that continuously rack up tickets.
“He just has had enough [after] five years telling the city, his bosses, his management, this is an unfair spot [and] there is ambiguous or contrary signage,” Dube said of his ride-along with the ticket enforcer.
“The city should be correcting the locations not taking advantage,” he added.
The parking-ticket enforcer is so fed up he is resigning on Monday, Dube said.
Right now, drivers who want to challenge a parking ticket go to court at the provincial Highway Traffic Matters building.
If the presiding judicial justice of the peace agrees with the gripe, the wrongly ticketed driver doesn’t pay; if the justice of the peace disagrees, the driver must pay the ticket at the Winnipeg Parking Authority building.
Starting Monday, drivers will see a city traffic screening officer at the parking authority building, who will decide whether there’s any weight to the complaint. That officer will decide if there’s a reduction or if the ticket will be dismissed.
If the city official decides the parking ticket was warranted after all, the driver can then appeal to a provincially appointed adjudicator for a fee of $25, which will be waived if the adjudicator ends up siding with the driver, city officials said Friday.
That completely misses the point, Dube said. The problem is with poorly marked and confusing signs and tree limbs getting in the way, he added.
“These [parking-ticket enforcers] round their bend on their beat, and they know there is going to be a car parked there, like there is every hour, and they keep issuing tickets,” he said about hot spots in the city.
Wise Up Winnipeg held signs at Grant Avenue and Wilton Street warning people of photo enforcement. (Travis Golby/CBC)
On the tour, Dube said they stopped at five hot spots, but there are more than 40 around the city. The worst ones are downtown near the University of Winnipeg.
“They are locations where you can stand and look at the tower of signs for 20 minutes …. And everybody will have a different opinion on whether you can park or not,” Dube said.
It’s not the only battle that Dube and his group are fighting. On Sunday they held signs at Grant Avenue and Wilton Street warning people of photo enforcement.
Driver killed July 8 in Newfoundland and Labrador after metal shrapnel exploded into the car
Transport Canada says it is investigating the first recorded case in the country of a fatality involving a ruptured driver-side airbag inflator.
Authorities say the driver of a 2009 Hyundai Elantra in Newfoundland and Labrador involved in a two-vehicle collision was killed on July 8 when the airbag inflator exploded and fired metal shrapnel into the passenger compartment of the car.
“The incident was a low-speed collision, which was expected to be survivable,” a Transport Canada spokesman said in an emailed statement.
The ruptured inflator was manufactured by ARC Automotive Inc., a company based in Knoxville, Tenn., and is not related to recent Takata airbag inflator failures, Transport Canada said in a news release Thursday.
The cause of the ARC inflator rupture has not been determined, the federal government department said.
“Should a safety defect be found, owners will be notified,” Transport Canada said.
Two previous incidents involving ARC inflator ruptures occurred in the United States, both causing serious injuries.
Transport Canada said ARC is co-operating with investigators, and that Ottawa is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States on the issue.
The Associated Press reported that about eight million inflators built by ARC are under scrutiny, mainly in older vehicles made by GM, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia.
U.S. government investigators started looking at ARC inflators in July 2015, following reports that an Ohio woman was injured when her 2002 Chrysler Town & Country minivan crashed and the inflator ruptured. Separately, another person was reported injured in an inflator rupture involving a 2004 Kia Optima.
NHTSA said the Elantra involved in the crash in Newfoundland and Labrador had an ARC inflator made in China.
The probe of ARC inflators differs from the larger recall of 69 million inflators in the U.S. produced by Takata Corp. Several automakers in Canada have announced recalls of vehicles equipped with Takata inflators.
In the Takata case, explosive ammonium nitrate is used to inflate the airbags. However, over time the chemical can degrade, burn too quickly and blow up metal inflator cannisters.
Ammonium nitrate is also used in ARC inflators, but investigators are looking into whether a blocked vent can leave the gas with no place to go, leading to a pressure buildup and a rupture of the inflator assembly.
Drug charges dismissed against young white female driver and her black boyfriend, but woman calls experience depressing and says her boyfriend’s basketball career is ruined.
Pulled over by a Durham Regional Police officer on a September afternoon, her nearly 7-foot-tall boyfriend in the passenger seat, Beverly O’Grady instantly suspected the real reason for the traffic stop.
She wasn’t speeding, she wasn’t driving erratically, there were no road safety concerns that would justify a stop under the Highway Traffic Act — all of which the officer, Const. John MacKinnon, later acknowledged in court.
The reason for the traffic stop, O’Grady believed, was because she has light skin, and her boyfriend — Jeffrey Ferguson-Cadore, a past member of Canada’s national basketball team — is black.
“I knew right away,” said O’Grady, 32, in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “Right away.”
In a straight-shooting ruling tossing the drug charges laid against O’Grady and Ferguson-Cadore that resulted from the traffic stop, Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Charney came to the same conclusion, finding MacKinnon had no legitimate reason to pull the car over and was instead racially profiling the occupants.
“The police officer’s initial suspicions and concerns for the safety of the young white female were based on the fact that she was seen in the company of a black male,” Charney wrote. “There was really nothing more to it than that.”
O’Grady is relieved after Charney’s ruling, but said it doesn’t take away the depressing result of the experience.
“Now, I don’t even feel comfortable driving with a black man in my car. It’s sad,” she said.
In an email Wednesday, Durham Regional Police spokesperson Dave Selby said the service is aware of Charney’s ruling and is reviewing it. MacKinnon could not immediately be reached for comment.
The ruling stems from a September 2014 traffic stop, when MacKinnon was nearing the end of his shift and noticed a silver sedan leaving the parking lot of a Whitby motel.
Formerly with the vice squad, MacKinnon later testified that he knew the motel was frequented by escorts and their pimps, and noted the “young-looking white female” in the front with a black male. He said he was concerned for her safety, believing it was possible she was a prostitute in the company of her pimp.
MacKinnon began following the car and ran the licence plate information, finding the car was registered to a woman born in 1965. He turned the sirens on and pulled over the vehicle.
In his arrest report, the officer provided two reasons for the stop: he was suspicious because the occupants of the car didn’t align with the age of the registered owner, and he had concerns for the young female driver exiting an area known for prostitution.
According to the judge’s version of events, after pulling over the car, MacKinnon asked O’Grady to step out of the car then asked her if she was an escort — and whether he would find her photo in “Backpage,” a website that has ads for escorts.
“I’m like, what? What is Backpage?” O’Grady told the Star Wednesday, recalling MacKinnon’s question. “I was shocked. I was confused.”
The officer asked her why she was coming out of the motel, and she explained that she and her boyfriend — her passenger — were planning a party and were checking out the motel as a place for out-of-town friends to stay. When asked whose car she was driving, O’Grady explained that it belonged to her mother.
According the judge’s summary of facts, MacKinnon commented that he could smell marijuana coming from the car, called for backup, then police searched the vehicle, ultimately finding a digital scale with white residue believed to be cocaine, 10 tabs of Oxycocet, seven grams of powder cocaine, 4.3 grams of crack cocaine and 25.2 grams of marijuana.
Both O’Grady and Ferguson-Cadore were arrested and jointly charged with four counts of possessing controlled substances for the purposes of trafficking.
The couple mounted a charter challenge to exclude the drug evidence found against them, arguing their rights were violated because they were arbitrarily detained and the officer did not have reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence was being committed.
Charney agreed, finding there were “serious” charter violations by police, with significant negative impacts on O’Grady and Ferguson-Cadore. Calling it a “selective” stop, Charney found there was no legitimate reason to stop the car.
The judge questioned why MacKinnon would have found it suspicious that the driver of the car was likely not the same person registered as the owner, since family members frequently share the same car.
“There is nothing illegal, unusual or suspicious about a driver not matching the description of a registered owner,” Charney wrote.
Charney excluded the drug evidence obtained from the search of the vehicle, and the charges against O’Grady and Ferguson-Cadore were dismissed.
In an email to the Star, Jonathan Pyzer, O’Grady’s lawyer, called the judge’s ruling significant, since court findings of racial profiling are historically rare — “despite our clients reporting them as commonplace.”
“It is also significant that as a white woman, Ms. O’Grady was found to be the victim of racial profiling as part of a biracial couple. It is an important statement that racial profiling very much exists in our society today, whether consciously or subconsciously, and that neither will be tolerated by our Courts.”
O’Grady said the case has negatively affected her boyfriend’s future in basketball. Once a player for professional teams in Japan and Iran, she said the charges against him prevented him from travelling. “This whole case ruined his career,” she said.
Ferguson-Cadore could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His lawyer, Paul Aubin, could also not be reached.