Toronto cycling advocates ask mayor to focus resources on motor vehicle incidents that cause injuries

Biking lawyer David Shellnutt has taken issue with three clients having to go to court next week, while a driver who allegedly hit a cyclist had charges dropped by the city prosecutors. Mark McAllister reports.

By Mark McAllister and Meredith Bond

Toronto cyclist advocates are questioning the use of resources on bringing riders to trial as a motorist has their charges dropped in an incident that injured a cyclist.

David Shellnutt, known as the Biking Lawyer, said they are currently representing three different cyclists who are awaiting trials for allegedly speeding in High Park.

Shellnutt explained it comes at the same time, another client of his, who was injured by a motorist on the Lake Shore West bike path that same year, learned the City’s Prosecutor’s Office had dropped charges against the driver who allegedly hit him.

The reason given was a lack of resources for prosecutions after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Shellnutt.

He said it demonstrates a misuse of resources.

“It strikes us and ours, especially the one with the broken ankle that people who are allegedly speeding in a park on bicycles are made to go to trial, [where] no one was injured, but a driver who runs down a cyclist on Lakeshore West bike path causing him to have surgery and his life affected [gets] away scot-free.”

In a letter to Mayor Olivia Chow and city councillor Gord Perks, which includes High Park, Shellnutt requested a review of the city prosecutor’s handling of all motor vehicle-related cases from 2021.

Shellnutt said he is aware they can not be involved in any prosecutions and doesn’t want city council to interfere, but he hopes the “cycling mayor” would suggest that the focus of resources should be what causes the most harm on the road.

“The mayor signs off on a $1 billion-plus budget for policing and so I think suggestions could be made to police that they focused their resources as well on motorists.”

“We know that’s statistically 99.4 per cent of collisions causing harm on our streets are caused by motorists, not cyclists,” said Shellnutt. “Every available resource should be going towards fixing road violence and addressing dangerous driving in Toronto.”

When asked about the letter, Mayor Chow said she couldn’t comment on any specific case.

“Police have a responsibility to enforce the Highway Traffic Act and ticket folks as to what speed the cyclist was going. Was he putting anyone, or was she putting anyone in danger? I don’t know. So I can’t really comment on it,” said Chow.

Andrey Petrov is one of the cyclists headed to trial next week to fight the ticket. Petrov tells CityNews he was cycling with his wife on their usual path through High Park when they both received a ticket for speeding. His wife’s ticket was dropped, but his fine wasn’t.

Petrov said as far as he knows, many of the tickets issued that day during the blitz by police to both cyclists and motorists were dropped.

“A big goal behind this trial is to figure out what the thinking is behind all this. Why we’re doing this and what we’re trying to achieve,” said Petrov.

He felt it was important to go to trial for this speeding ticket.

“I would hope that it would be an environment that’s less antagonistic between law enforcement and cyclists. It definitely feels like not everyone, perhaps, but people, especially drivers, look down on cyclists.”

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