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  • Writer's pictureDave Shellnutt

Cyclists on Trial as Road Violence Rages

Dave Shellnutt


December 4, 2023

Mayor Chow & Councillor Perks

Office of the Mayor

100 Queen St. W.

Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Dear Mayor Chow and Cllr. Perks,

Cyclists on Trial for Speeding[1]in a Park

while Road Violence Spirals out of Control in Toronto

Throughout the summer of 2021, hundreds of cyclists were targeted by police/by-law officers and ticketed in High Park. Now, over 2 years later, the Toronto Prosecutor’s Office has seen fit to bring some of these matters to trial. Our office remains deeply committed to opposing the anti-cyclist rhetoric, policy, and enforcement witnessed in High Park in 2021, throughout the 2023 mayoral election, and beyond.

We are pro-bono representing 3 cyclists who face full trials the week of December 11th for allegedly speeding in a park. The public and private costs of these trials will be significant.

In addition to the misuse of resources, we question the public interest in prosecuting cyclists without speedometers. There is no statistical evidence to support a public need to prosecute cyclists in these cases. In fact, the data suggests, and we demand, that all municipal prosecutorial resources be focused on road violence perpetrated by motorists.

Cyclists in High Park caused no reported injuries or collisions in 2021. The only reported collision causing serious injury in High Park was a cyclist being hit by a motorist in 2020 (TPS KSI data).

From 2006-2022 of the 3,112 pedestrian-related collisions recorded in the Toronto Police Service KSI database, 0.6% involved a cyclist. The rest involved motorists.

Over the relevant 2-day ticketing blitz in 2021, 62 tickets were issued to cyclists and 64 to drivers for speeding and failing to stop at stop signs. This represents unequal and unfair treatment of vulnerable road users.[2]

All of these incidents involved motorists.

These numbers bear out what we see in our legal practice. During the 2021 High Park cyclist crackdown, we were retained by 3 people on bikes seriously injured by motorists on streets adjacent to High Park. One of the 3 cyclists awaiting trial was one of them. His $125 ticket for speeding was more than what would have been issued against the driver who failed to yield the right of way and hit him ($110), if that driver was ever charged.

Some may suggest that speeding cyclists should be held to account. This is an arguable position assuming similar or more serious cases are being prosecuted.

Recently, our office learned that a motorist who hit our cyclist client on the Lakeshore West bike path in April 2021, had their ticket dropped by the Toronto Prosecutor’s Office.

Our client suffered an ankle injury requiring surgery. His life and work forever changed.

When we inquired why this charge was dropped without notice to the injured party the Toronto Prosecutor’s Office replied that COVID-19 delays meant resources had to be considered and cases dropped:

As you are no doubt aware the pandemic created many delays for matters before the Courts […] the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, including an unprecedented back log in cases before the Courts (and the necessary reduction in court operations in responding to that pandemic), has required that very challenging and difficult decisions have had to be made in balancing the existing backlog as well as the continuing addition to that backlog.

As a result, all prosecutors have had to make some difficult decisions in order to ensure that we are complying with our obligations as prosecutors to address the backlog before the Courts and our Charter obligations. Our office has carefully weighed and considered many factors in making the decisions we need to make in accordance with our obligations and the guidance outlined in the Crown directives.

The charge you are inquiring about was withdrawn as a result of all the considerations and circumstances I have mentioned above.

If prosecutions are being impacted by resource scarcity, surely people who cause injury to others on our roads must face justice over and above those who do not.

It strikes us and our injured client as contrary to the public good that charges are being dropped against motorists who cause actual life changing harm to vulnerable road users, while cyclists on their way to work face full trials for supposedly riding a bit too fast down a hill.

We kindly request a review of the City Prosecutor’s handling of all motor vehicle related cases from 2021 onwards.[3] We recommend an investigation and report on MVCs including but not limited to total number of relevant cases brought to trial, charges dropped, or early resolution achieved – if resolution was achieved what convictions were negotiated. Particular focus should be paid to cases that led to injury of another road user(s).

Our office and our clients would be happy to speak with you at any time.

Kind Regards,

Dave Shellnutt

Lawyer & Advocate

Cc: news media and community partners.

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