Riding Bicycles on Sidewalks in Toronto – Police Seldom Enforce By-Laws

Update: see previous posts – January 6, 2011 City of Toronto Is Considering Licensing Cyclists, January 4, 2011 Toronto Takes Advantage of Rush Hour Gridlock By Tripling Parking Fine$, October 24, 2011 Toronto in Process of Updating and Harmonizing Cyclist Bylaws & Considers Licensing Cyclists, September 28, 2011 Results of Sept.27/11 Bicycle/Pedestrian Blitz on Danforth Ave/Broadview Ave, September 16, 2011 Casual cyclists feel much safer on sidewalks, rather then the Road, September 7, 2011 Opening of Doors of Motor Vehicles,  September 5, 2011 Bike Trails Through Two Hydro Corridors and Leaside Rail Corridor, August 11, 2011 Bicycle Safety Called for by Ontario Medical Association, August 9, 2011 Police/T.T.C Target Drivers/Pedestrians/Cyclists at T.T.C Stops from Aug.8 – 14, 2011, August 5, 2011 Results of Bicycle/Pedestrian Blitz on August 3 & 4, 2011, August 2, 2011 – Bicycle/Driver/Pedestrian Blitz on Danforth Ave from Victoria Park to Broadview Ave on August 3 & 4/11, July 30, 2011 Pedestrian Injured by Cyclist Calls for Regulated Cycling in Toronto, July 28, 2011 Bicycle Helmets Lead to Fewer Head Injuries for Cyclist’s Who Wear Them, July 17, 2011 Cyclists Ignore the Signs at Kew Gardens, July 13, 2011 Toronto Bicycle Lanes Eliminated, July 9, 2011 Cyclists Continue Riding the Wrong Way on a One-Way Street (Huron Street), July 8, 2011 Toronto Police to Ticket Cyclists and Motor Vehicles Ignoring Cyclist’s Space, July 7, 2011 Careless Driving Causing Death?, May 4, 2011 Police Charge Parent of Young Cyclist Not Wearing His Bicycle Helmet, May 2, 2011 Cyclist on Powered-Assisted Bicycle Charged with Not Wearing a Helmet and Impaired Driving, March 9, 2011 Cyclist Launches 20 Million Lawsuit against Cycling Club & Association, January 27, 2011 Time to Update the Cycling Laws in Toronto & Ontario?, January 8, 2011 Toronto is Ready to Invest in the Safety of Cyclists,December 22, 2010   Toronto’s First Count of Downtown Cyclists (Sept. 2010) , November 8, 2010 Week Long Pedestrian Safety Campaign/Blitz, October 10, 2010 Bike Boxes , September 16, 2010 Private Member’s Bill requires a minimum of one metre paved shoulder be added whenever designated provincial highways are repaved to reduce accidents/fatalities , August 26, 2010 Police Lay 400 Charges Against Cyclists/Pedestrians , May 19, 2010 Motorists Must Stay 3,4 or 5 Feet Away from Bicyclists , March 29, 2010 Toronto’s Zero-Tolerance Bicycle Blitz , November 16, 2009 Most Dangerous Intersections for Pedestrians – Toronto (2008) , October 12, 2009 Idaho Stop Law , September 7, 2009 Toronto Police Bicycle Safety Blitz , March 21, 2009,  Bicycle Accidents Toronto, Reported in 2008 , December 20, 2008 City of Toronto Considering Installing “Rumble Strips”

see source

Cyclist riding on sidewalk, with large tires, with one hand on handlebar and the other hand holding a cellphone to her ear

A law is only as effective as its’ enforcement.

In the spring of 1997 the Ontario Provincial government passed legislation to amalgamate seven (7) cities and boroughs (Metro-Toronto, East York, Etobicoke Municipal Code, North York, Scarborough, Toronto Municipal Code, York) into the unified “City of Toronto”.

By January 1, 1998 seven (7) municipal governments were merged into one, the “City of Toronto”.  After this happened, a challenge to the new City council emerged; to harmonize all of the different by-laws of all the seven (7) cities and boroughs into single simplified by-laws, that were easy to understand and interpret, with a single fine.

Now, fourteen (14) years later, the City Council, on the urging of citizens and the Toronto Police, are grappling with the harmonization of seven (7) different by-laws (some of them which are decades old) surrounding cyclists with bicycles with a tire-size of 61 cm or 24.1, riding on the city’s sidewalks, endangering pedestrians.  The age-old by-laws of the former seven (7) cities and boroughs are all different, with a range of fines that range from $3.75 to $90.00.

The intent of this by-law is to allow young children (with bicycles that have a tire-size of less than 61 cm’s. or 24.1 inches) to cycle on the sidewalk safely, while they learn to ride.

Pedestrians while standing or walking on sidewalks have been killed when cyclist’s have crashed into them or through them.

On August 4, 2011 74-year-old Nobu Okamoto decided to take a morning walk to the bank, he never arrived and never would.  While he was walking on Finch Ave. W. near Sentinel Road in North York, he was struck by a 33 year-old cyclist riding his bicycle (with large tires that exceeded 61 cm’s/24.1 inches) on the sidewalk.  The injuries he sustained, which proved fatal, included a fractured skull, head injuries, a dislocated shoulder, internal bleeding and cuts and scrapes to his body.  He was never able to speak to his family again following the collision and later died, leaving his family devastated.

The police in North York conducted an investigation.  The decision was made to charge the 33-year-old cyclist.  An officer issued a ticket with a fine of $3.75 for riding on the sidewalk.  The officer made a mistake on the ticket, citing a violation of the Highway Traffic Act, instead of the North York By-law 31001 – section 14, which carries a fine of $3.75.  The ticket was subsequently withdrawn.  The police did not re-issue the ticket, in its’ correct form, citing the By-law 31001 – section 14, rather than the Highway Traffic Act.

The fact that the police officer made a fatal error when constructing the ticket shouldn’t come as a surprise. On November 22, 2011, over three (3) months after Mr. Okamoto was fatally struck by a cyclist, Alok Mukherjee, Chair, Toronto Police Services Board, provided the City of Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee with a report titled “Enforcement of Cycling Infractions in the City of Toronto”. In the report (see chart below), it was revealed that police had not issued any tickets for cyclist’s with larger tire sizes riding on the sidewalk in several municipalities for a number of years.

If tickets for cyclists illegally riding on sidewalks are never issued, then it is understandable that the officer who wrote the ticket, would have been doing it without previous experience or from other officers who have had dealt with these by-laws.

The Enforcement of Cycling Infractions in the City of Toronto report clearly indicate that there were no charges laid against cyclist’s (with tires larger than 61 cm’s or 24.1 inches) riding on the sidewalk in North York (except the ticket issued and withdrawn to the 33-year-old cyclist who fatally struck Mr. Okamoto), East York, Scarborough and York (4 of the prior 7 municipalities) in 2009, 2010 and 2011, up to Nov.22/11.

It is difficult to fathom why the police refused to enforce the “no riding on the sidewalk” by-laws in four (4) former municipalities (East York, North York, York and Scarborough) in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  By refusing to enforce the by-laws in place, cyclist’s are given tacid approval by police to continue to ride on the sidewalks of these four (4) municipalities with bicycle’s with tire sizes of 61 cm’s or larger.  Police aren’t at all serious about stopping bicyclists from riding on sidewalks in these 4 municipalities and have refused to provide any general deterrent to this by-law breach in any of these munipalities and apparently condone it.

Torontonians are avid cyclists.  In a 2009 study, 54% of Torontonians identified themselves as casual cyclists in 2009. In the fall of 2010 the City of Toronto conducted a physical count of bicycles entering a larger downtown area between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. The number of cyclists entering the smaller downtown area during these rush-hour hours was 7,655.

On January 4, 2012 the City of  Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee met to discuss the harmonization and enforcement of different City by-laws with respect to bicycle’s with wheel sizes that exceed 61 cm’s, riding on sidewalks.  The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee has referred this item to an official or other body without making a decision.

On February 6, 2012 the City Council with grapple with a single by-law (to cover all former seven (7) municipalities) and a single fine to deal restricting cyclist’s with tires that exceed 61 cm’s/24.1 inches riding on sidewalks.

The City Council will pass this harmonized by-law on February 6, 2012, but does it really mean that pedestrians are safer?  If police refuse to enforce this new by-law on the sidewalks in the former North York, East York, York and Scarborough, then it will fall short of its’ objective – to keep sidewalks safe for pedestrians who use them.

Laws only act as a deterrent if they are consistently and uniformly enforced across the entire City.

Enforcement (tickets issued) of Cycling Infractions in the City of Toronto

Enforcement Totals (# of tickets (charges) issued each year for cyclist’s with large tires riding on sidewalks )20092010  2011 to  date
 x = 0 charges laid x = 0 charges laid x = 0 charges laid
By-law – Bicycle with over 61 cm (or 24.01574801 inches) wheels on sidewalk:
Metropolitan TorontoBy-law 32/92sec17 (1)515 – charges laid792 – charges laid465 – charges laid
East YorkBy-law 92/93sec14            x            x                x
Etobicoke Municipal CodeBy-law 240sec 6D10 – charges laid20 – charges laid12 – charges laid
North YorkBy-law 31001sec 14            x            x                x
ScarboroughBy-law 23949sec 14            x            x                x
Toronto Municipal CodeBy-law 400sec 400-15C142 – charges laid20 – charges laid966 – charges laid
YorkBy-law 2958–94sec 14            x            x                x



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