When motor vehicles are weaponized
In case you haven’t seen it yet, there is a video going around of a person driving a car who appears to purposefully collide with another person biking along the Martin Goodman multi-use trail. The CBC article has the full video.
Context is important.
Here is what we see when we watch the video. At 0:17 the person on a bike comes up to the black sedan, with a scolding head shake at 0:19. 0:31 shows the sedan heading west. By 0:51, the sedan has slowed and appears to turn left into a driveway. 1:00 shows a dog walker going west, and two people on bikes going east, and the collision at 1:09. At 2:08, you can see the sedan doing a 3-point turn in the driveway, and drives away at 2:30.
What the driver was charged with
The article mentions that the driver is facing three charges under the Highway Traffic Act (HTA): failure to remain, failure to report an incident, and failure to yield. There were no criminal charges laid.
What appears missing in these charges
The issue we see is that the HTA is designed to address incidents and crashes that happen through negligence and carelessness. The video evidence indicates there is more to the story, and it is galling that that criminal charges, such as assault, aggravated assault, or assault with weapon, are not being explored in addition to infractions under the HTA. Even being charged with failure to remain under the criminal code could mean up to five years in prison, however, that is not what happened. The scolding head shake seems to have provoked a reaction. Had that person in the sedan been holding a stick or a club, and had acted aggressively in the same way as they did with their vehicle, the charges would likely be criminal. In this case, because the person was behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, this type of aggressive behaviour is more likely to be excused than weighed against the criminal code.
This culture of accepting aggression needs to change.
It’s already heartbreaking when people are injured and killed through negligent driving - as a small fine or infraction doesn't adequately reflect the lifelong impact on those affected and their friends and families. Transformative changes need to happen at the provincial level to bring Vulnerable Road User (VRU) legislation to Ontario. Bike Law Canada was a key player in the recent effort to pass Bill 158 (Protecting Vulnerable Road Users Act), which would have amended the Highway Traffic Act to include stronger consequences for a collision that seriously injures or kills a person walking or biking. But to think that behaviour with malicious intent would be treated the same way as an inadvertent crash is outrageous. Incidents like the one captured on video are a sober reminder that everyday road violence is very much a reality in Toronto.
So what are we doing about it?
Cycle Toronto and our partners are working on a host of advocacy projects to make our streets safer through design, education, and enforcement. Protected intersections, a safe and connected cycling network, traffic diversion and calming measures, and automated enforcement are all priorities that we’re calling on Council candidates to support through our #BuildtheGrid election campaign and broader work on the #BuildTheVisionTO coalition. The funds that we’re raising through the Ride for Safe Streets presented by Bike Law Canada go directly to supporting this work.
We won't stop working to end road violence.
We need a culture shift around how we talk about road violence. We should aspire to the principle that everyone has the right to travel safely and without threat, no matter how we choose to get around.