Astrid Idlewild’s friends were quick to help when they learned the avid cyclist had been allegedly assaulted by a motorist on Wednesday evening, but it took police nearly three hours to arrive on the scene.
The freelance writer was riding west on Bloor Street near Christie Pits Park around 5:40 p.m. when a man driving a minivan honked his horn and passed so closely that the vehicle struck Ms. Idlewild’s left arm.
Ms. Idlewild overtook the van further west on Bloor Street, at Ossington Avenue, before stopping near Concord Avenue, intending to tweet the vehicle’s license plate number.
There, she says, the “big, old guy” parked, grabbed her forcefully by her lapels, and threatened her. Ms. Idlewild said the man’s breath smelled of alcohol.
“I said, ‘First of all: I’m a woman. And second of all: you’ve been drinking,” said Ms. Idlewild.
The man then got back into his car and left. Ms. Idlewild dialled 911 around 5:45 p.m., and a dispatcher promised a response.
Ms. Idlewild, who has worked as a bicycle messenger, said she is used to the occasional confrontation or close call when riding. “I’ve learned to have louder vocal cords,” she said of her years cycling.
She then sent out a tweet about the encounter, followed by others criticizing the police’s slow response. Word spread online, and Ms. Idlewild’s friends took notice.
Paisley Rae, a social media consultant, jumped in a cab at King and Dufferin Streets with a portable battery pack after learning that Ms. Idlewild’s phone was dying. Another friend, Kate Negin, biked from Jarvis and Isabella Streets, hoping the situation would be resolved by the time she arrived.
“I was really hoping not to see her there,” Ms. Negin said. “I get there and she’s just standing there.”
Ms. Idlewild made two additional calls to the police switchboard and was told no cars were available. At 8:27 p.m., she was taking shelter inside a friend’s car , still sending out tweets, when a police dispatcher phoned to say that officers would arrive shortly.
Six minutes later, two squad cars arrived on the scene.
Ms. Idlewild repeated her story to two officers as her impromptu support group grew to six: local residents Valerie De Grandis and Andrew Gardner had heard the news on Twitter and stopped by to see if they could help.
Const. Christopher Meuleman of 14 Division brought Ms. Idlewild into his squad car to take a formal statement. By the time the pair emerged at 9:15 p.m., the other officer had left the scene and used the license plate number to track down the driver.
Police said the driver was charged with assault.
Wendy Drummond, a spokesperson for the Toronto Police, said Ms. Idlewild’s call was deemed important, but less so than a situation in which life and limb were immediately threatened.
“Is it ideal for somebody to wait that long for police? No, it’s not ideal,” Const. Drummond said Thursday morning. “But we have to allocate our resources that are available to use appropriately.”
Const. Drummond said 35 other calls for service across 14 Division came in between the time of Ms. Idlewild’s initial call and when police were sent to Concord and Bloor around 8 p.m.
Const. Meuleman said he was rerouted to respond to a medical call after initially being dispatched.
Const. Drummond, who would not say whether this prioritization suggested a need for more police on city streets, said a vehicle’s license plate number is broadcast to officers when a driver is believed to be intoxicated.
In total, Ms. Idlewild spent about four hours on Bloor Street.
“I’m just glad it’s done,” Ms. Idlewild said.
Ms. Idlewild accepted Const. Meuleman’s offer of a ride home. The officer loaded Ms. Idlewild’s bicycle into the trunk of his squad car, securing it in place with some loose police tape.
Special to The Globe and Mail