On July 3rd, ten people were injured when two cars jumped the sidewalk on Lakeshore Boulevard. The Toronto Police Service responded by casting blame on the victims in confusing and incorrect statements.
“What we’re finding down there is people aren’t paying attention to the countdown timers, a lot of people take it for granted,”
“Even if there are 20 seconds remaining on the clock, the right of way belongs to the driver.” [http://metronews.ca/news/toronto/728133/toronto-car-crash-at-bay-and-lakeshore-raises-questions-about-road-safety/]
As cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users it is in our best interest to work with the Toronto Police Service to identify problems and contribute to solutions. Without our engagement the sincere efforts of many Toronto Police officers to make our streets safer are frustrated. And with the message currently being sent – that we’re taking our lives into our own hands – this relationship is impossible.
How can such an incident prompt a critique of pedestrian behaviour rather than the dangerous driving that caused such terrible harm? What do pedestrians legally crossing an intersection have to do with cars running into people on a sidewalk?
This is not an isolated occurrence.
Most recently a TPS representative responded to the problem of cyclists being “doored” by people exiting parked cars. “Realistically there’s no reason for us to track it because it doesn’t meet the criteria of a collision,” [http://read.thestar.com/#!/article/51c9951b93e8e472104a7782-toronto-cyclists-fear-dooring-but-police-don-t-track-it]
Earlier this year on a morning when a number of pedestrians were struck by cars, TPS responded by suggesting people who are not brightly dressed are putting their own lives in danger by legally crossing the street.
One veteran police officer recently offered this amazing tip “Pedestrians, may I suggest you follow the sidewalk at the furthest point away from the road in order to avoid any out of control cars.” [https://twitter.com/SgtJackWest/status/346577879578058752]
We understand that offering advice on how to be safe in our public spaces is a legitimate and helpful thing for the police to do.
But blaming people for engaging in perfectly legal behaviour normalizes the dangerous and illegal behaviour of others. It suggests that non-drivers must go to extreme and unreasonable lengths to protect themselves from others’ recklessness. Leaving the house wearing a colour other than orange, crossing an intersection with less than 20 seconds left on the counter, or walking in the middle of a sidewalk represent neglect on our part. That is silly and irresponsible.
As a result, the Toronto Police are losing an irreplaceable resource - the ability to communicate openly with the public, to work collaboratively in mutual trust and respect toward a safer city for all. Surely the Toronto Police Service has this goal in common with everyone who uses our public roads.
We ask the Toronto Police Service to consider the outcome of these messages. The negative impact is clear: it puts the TPS in an adversarial relationship with law-abiding citizens while normalizing unlawful behaviour.
We ask the Toronto Police to work with us as partners in this, as people affected by it, and as people whose experience, knowledge, and investment in our City are a necessary part of the an effective strategy.
We would like to be part of the solution.
Why are you treating us like the problem?
What's happening here is going to change. Together we can send a strong message to the Toronto Police Service that it has to change now.