Petition update

Parking patrol Kyle Ashley widens bike safety net, serves notice to taxis

Julie Mollins
Toronto, Canada

Aug 8, 2017 — Park illegally and face the consequences, cautioned Toronto’s celebrity ticketing officer on Monday, ratcheting up pressure on Uber and other taxi services to stop parking in bike lanes while they wait for passengers.

Since June, Kyle Ashley (@TPS_ParkingPal), who works with the Toronto Police Services parking enforcement division, has been tagging vehicles parked illegally in bike lanes with a $150 ticket and in a photo on Twitter as part of a revolutionary public awareness campaign.

“Uber, Royal Taxi, Co-op – I’m calling you out because you need to educate your fleet – and Uber, you definitely have the technology to push notifications to your drivers telling them to get out of bike lanes," PEO Ashley told radio station Newstalk 1010.

“We will tag you – both in the Twitter post and with a parking ticket,” he added, explaining that cyclists are put at risk by blocked bike lanes when they are forced to skirt around illegally parked motorists into lanes of flowing traffic.

Since PEO Ashley’s Twitter campaign using the #bikeTO hashtag went viral, some corporate offenders and Canada’s national postal service have stopped parking in bike lanes.

Beck Taxi owner Gail Souter (@GailBeckSouter) now sends daily reminder alerts to cabbies telling them to avoid using the bike lanes as a car park, reports suggest. Her actions have been effective. Cyclists have noticed fewer scofflaw Beck taxis as drivers now use the lanes mainly for quick drop offs and pick-ups, not for parking or as a cab stand.

As the controversy in the city over imposing law in the bike lanes reached fever pitch in July, Toronto Mayor John Tory (@JohnTory) weighed in, personally requesting that officials at Canada Post tell their drivers to stop blocking the lanes, supporting PEO Ashley’s demands and adding a David versus Goliath dimension to the initiative.

“This is not a war on the car, it’s a war on things that are unsafe,” said PEO Ashley, who conceived the campaign and was empowered to educate drivers who disobey the law after being trained in social media use by Toronto Police Services. Not only are cyclists at risk, but all road users are put in danger by illegal activities in the bike lanes, he said.

The official month-long bike lane ticketing "blitz" in the city kicked off in June and was initially intended to conclude on July 7.

At first, the campaign seemed to ruffle feathers in some quarters and cyclists feared chaos would soon return to the bike lanes, inspiring the launch of a petition. PEO Ashley said in a CBC interview that partly due to the success of the petition, the police decided to bolster the safety focus by keeping him on the dedicated bike lane beat.

Additionally, this week he began to receive full time support from two other social media savvy parking patrols. Sabrina Kloetzig (@TPS_pke_rider) and Erin Urquhart (@TPS_BikeHart) are now part of the city's new “Bike Lane Brigade.”

Between 2011 and 2015, an average of 56 cyclists were killed each year – more than one a week across the country, according to Transport Canada.

“This is not a war on the car, it’s a war on things that are unsafe,” PEO Ashley said, adding that there many legal places for vehicles to park if drivers change their mindset and plan ahead. “It’s a matter of being courteous to other people,” he added.

This week, PEO Ashley also attended a talk by Graham Larkin, director of Vision Zero Canada. Larkin, based in Ottawa, delivered an illuminating presentation on the vital role government plays in street safety.

Vision Zero, which sets a target of no deaths or serious injuries on roads, has been a central tenet of road traffic safety law over the past 20 years in Sweden, where it originated.

Larkin, who established Vision Zero Canada in 2015, described street safety and infrastructure shortcomings, explaining that actions are at times taken without proper foresight.

Other members of the Vision Zero community also attended the presentation at Scadding Court Community Centre, including representatives from civil society, government, injury prevention charity Parachute Canada, and community organizations Bells on Bloor and Ideas for Ward 30.

Related links:

Bells on Bloor

Ideas for Ward 30

Vision Zero Initiative

Vision Zero Canada

Parachute Canada

Scadding Court

Transport Canada

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