A cyclist riding through High Park in Toronto Canada says that the same police officer who struck him while riding his bike on Tuesday evening was seen giving other cyclists traffic tickets earlier in the day. The incident comes amid an uproar from many cycling advocates regarding Toronto Police officers targeting and ticketing cyclists who frequent the park on their bikes. “Last night, while harassing people on bikes in High Park, a Toronto Police officer hit a cyclist in a bike lane,” wrote lawyer David Shellnutt, aka "The Biking Lawyer," on Twitter.
Cyclists and joggers going through High Park in Toronto.
A cyclist says the same police officer who struck him while riding his bike through High Park on Tuesday evening was seen giving other cyclists traffic tickets earlier in the day. The incident comes amid an uproar from many cycling advocates regarding Toronto Police officers targeting and ticketing cyclists who frequent the park on their bikes.“Last night, while harassing people on bikes in High Park, a Toronto Police officer hit a cyclist in a bike lane,” wrote lawyer David Shellnutt on Twitter.
Matthew Moore says he was taking his turn at a four-way stop when a police SUV turned into him, striking the front of his bicycle. He wasn’t hurt in the collision, but his bike was damaged. A photo of the police accident report shows the collision involving the officer occurred at 6:30 p.m., according to Shellnutt's tweet.
Moore said he believes that Officer James Forcillo had been targeting cyclists earlier in the day and that he saw him give out three or four tickets before Moore was hit. He said he plans to file a complaint with Toronto Police's professional standards unit over what happened on Tuesday night. Cycling advocates have been calling on police to stop targeting cyclists in the park since last week when a video of an officer handing out a ticket to a cyclist went viral on social media.
Toronto Police say they have been ticketing cyclists in the park for riding on trails that are off-limits to bikes, and that they have no plans to stop. “The Toronto Police Service enforces the rules of the road, and that includes in parks,” spokesperson Meaghan Gray previously told CBC Toronto.
“We have had complaints in the past about cyclists riding on pedestrian-only trails in parks and that's something that we will continue to do, to enforce the rules of the road.”
Gray said police have issued more than 100 tickets to cyclists in High Park so far this year.
Shellnutt alleges the officer in the photo assaulted a community member and harassed cyclists in High Park on Tuesday.In a statement to CityNews, TPS says it is investigating the incident and will provide an update once more information is available. “As we are in the early stages of the investigation, it would be inappropriate to provide further comment at this time,” the statement read.
The lawyer says he has been in touch with the cycling community and has been made aware of several other incidents involving police in the park. He says he has been told officers have been handing out $110 tickets to cyclists for rolling stop signs and has heard reports of police aggressively going after cyclists they believe are breaking the law. “There’s a lot of people that are really upset right now because they’re being targeted,” he says. “I think what’s really happening is that the police are trying to scare people out of the park.”
Shellnutt says he will be in court on Thursday morning to fight the tickets that have been handed out in recent days. “I’m going to be asking the judge to dismiss those tickets and that’s because the police are targeting cyclists,” he says. “If the police are targeting cyclists, that’s not reasonable.” Shellnutt says he has been in touch with several cyclists who have been ticketed in recent days and says most of them have been issued $110 tickets for rolling stop signs.
He says there is a “zero tolerance” policy in place for cyclists in the park and that police are handing out tickets for minor infractions. “Basically, if you roll a stop sign, you’re getting a ticket. If you don’t have a bell on your bike, you’re getting a ticket. If you ride your bike on the wrong side of the road, you’re getting a ticket,” he says.Shellnutt says he has been in touch with TPS and was told that the increased police presence in the park is due to the number of collisions involving cyclists. He says he was also told that police will be monitoring the park for the foreseeable future.
“The police are just way too heavy-handed in the way they’re enforcing the rules of the road,” he says. “They’re giving out way too many tickets for very minor infractions.”
The official TPS statement states that the officer was not charged after striking the cyclist.