CYCLISTS MUST JOIN CALL TO DEFUND POLICE
Updated: Jan 11
“Allyship is about more than an Instagram post. It’s about listening to people you claim to support. It’s about grabbing your bike, riding down, and standing in solidarity with the communities that make Toronto the remarkable place that it is.” – Dave Shellnutt, The Biking Lawyer
On Friday, June 19, 2020, 25 riders of the Toronto Bike Brigade provided bike marshaling support for a massive all-day Sit-In from Yonge and College (Police HQ) to Nathan Phillips Square led by #NotAnotherBlackLife. The purpose of the protest was to call for the defunding and ultimate abolishment of police.
Throughout the Sit-In, intersections were closed and protesters sang, chanted, danced and screamed their frustrations at systemic racism. Bike Brigade riders stood watch and ensured the safety of these #NotAnotherBlackLife protesters. People on bikes did this.
What’s happening in the U.S. isn’t a regional issue. It’s a systemic issue.
Toronto is incredibly diverse. Yet Black and Indigenous people are severely over represented in deadly police interventions. This has been the case for close to 20 years.
Black Lives Matter Toronto has brought forward a solution. They're not trying to abolish public safety. BLMTO are simply demanding that a public service that has failed so many Torontonians in the most violent of ways be replaced with effective methods of providing safety and security – methods that reject the murder and brutalization of Black people. (For more information read more here.)
This is an important moment for our city
Let’s embrace new ideas and take a generational leap forward for our city.
On any given day, cyclists care about and advocate for the betterment of Toronto. Now is the time for cyclists to really stand with racialized communities. We must also demand the police be defunded and systemic racism and anti-Blackness be seriously addressed.
We must listen!
Even more broadly, our friends, loved ones and fellow citizens in Black, Indigenous and Trans communities (to name but a few) across Toronto (and the globe) have asked us to join them in demanding change.
It is our duty to support the movement to defund the police and combat systemic racism.
However, it is also an opportunity for the cycling community.
Cyclists Can Build on this Momentum
There’s a pressing need for change between cyclists and the police too. The cycling community's interactions with police services are rife with evidence of police failures.
Last year, I wrote about how police services fail cyclists in dooring cases. By refusing to provide insurance information, police (and the province) block treatment for injured people.
Lack of Enforcement
Many cyclists are seriously injured by cars and dangerous drivers. However, as the Toronto Star reported:
“According to statistics released ahead of police board meetings this week, Toronto Police enforcement of Criminal Code traffic offences – serious charges such as dangerous driving, failure to remain at the scene of a crash or impaired driving – hit a new low in 2018, continuing a trend of year-over-year declines each year since 2012.”
The Star also reported, that Toronto police issued roughly 234,000 fewer Highway Traffic Act tickets in 2018 than in 2009.
Collisions rose steadily as enforcement fell. 2018 saw the most pedestrians and cyclists killed in the city since at least 2005.
Toronto police have failed to protect people on bikes and other vulnerable road users.
It’s time to use our collective voice as cyclists to rethink community safety and demand change.
We actively attend council meetings. We are engaging in infrastructure and active transportation debates. We came together in a pandemic to deliver essential goods to Torontonians who were vulnerable and isolated.
We ride bikes to make our lives and this city better.
If you’re a cyclist reading this, I would encourage you to support Black and Indigenous calls for defunding and stand with them.
Now is the time to be bold; not reactionary in our thinking.
Dave Shellnutt – The Biking Lawyer
Contact your local politicians.
Donate to Black and Indigenous organizations doing the vanguard work.
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