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driving concerns

Last year, I got my first-ever ticket while riding a bike. I slowed down but didn’t stop at a crosswalk where somebody was waiting to cross. (I didn’t see him in time.) I’m wondering if police issued more tickets last year, especially with so many more people cycling because of road closures and COVID-19. – Ravi, Toronto

While cycling boomed in Toronto after the COVID-19 lockdowns, the number of cycling tickets fell, Toronto police said.

In 2020, Toronto police issued 76 tickets for cyclists who broke the rules of the road – that’s seven fewer than in 2019, even though more people were out on bikes last year.

After the first lockdowns last March, bike stores quickly sold out of bikes, and that’s expected to happen again this year. Last summer, more than 36,000 people were cycling, on average, on closed streets every weekend day.

But that surge in cycling apparently didn’t come with a surge in enforcement in Toronto, said David Shellnutt, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in cycling-related cases.

Shellnutt said the only campaign he’s aware of was a speed trap set up along an Etobicoke cycling path.

Police said they didn’t give out any tickets at the Etobicoke speed trap, which flagged cyclists going over 20 km/h in the dedicated bike path.

“If the goal is road safety, the consequences of cyclists [breaking traffic laws] is minimal,” said Patrick Brown, a Toronto-based lawyer who specializes in bike accidents. He said that he generally doesn’t receive cases where cyclists hit other cyclists or pedestrians, and even in such cases, the impact often pales in comparison to the impact of collisions caused by drivers.

Toronto generally doesn’t track collisions between a cyclist and a pedestrian or another cyclist. There’s been one fatality in recent years. In 2016, an 84-year-old woman died of her injuries after a cyclist hit her.

In 2020, 21 pedestrians and four cyclists were killed in traffic collisions in Toronto. That’s three more cyclist deaths than in 2019, despite reduced traffic. But Toronto saw 18 fewer pedestrian deaths last year than in 2019.

Police said they don’t know whether unsafe behaviour on bicycles is going up or down. Determining that “would require more time to analyze.”

Numbers up across province

While Toronto police handed out fewer tickets to cyclists in 2020, cycling tickets across the whole province went up last year.

According to Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General (MAG), police laid 1,647 charges against cyclists in Ontario in 2020. That’s 417 more than the 1,230 charges in 2019.

Of the charges laid last year, more than half were related to equipment – for instance, not having proper lights or a bell.

Of the traffic charges, 132 were for not stopping at a stop sign, 168 were for not stopping at a red light and 22 were for not signalling a turn.

The ministry didn’t specify where the tickets were issued.

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