Riding a bicycle with Toronto Police officers at your side is different than cycling alone on busy downtown streets.
Antony Hilliard experienced that during a bicycle education and awareness campaign organized by Toronto Police and Cycle Toronto.
The “Ride a Mile in My Cycle Shoes” event took place on December 2.
“The officers blocked traffic for us to make turns and that was quit helpful,” said Hilliard, who was one of three community representatives nominated by Cycle Toronto to ride with police on some city streets with bike lanes.
The group, that included officers from 14, 51 and 52 Divisions, along with Parking Enforcement, rode for an hour before calling it off because of extreme cold weather.
“Even though the ride was brief, we got a sense of what tickets parking officers can write and we also started a conversation with 14 Division about holding a town hall meeting in the spring to discuss some of the challenges cyclists face on city streets.”
Hilliard said he has been cycling on College St. since Grade Two.
In the last three years, bicycle traffic has increased on College St. by almost 67 per cent. Last September 19, Cycle Toronto counted 680 bikes and 618 cars travelling westbound on the street near Spadina Ave. in a one-hour span between 5 and 6 p.m.
“Enforcement is a big piece of the puzzle in terms of solving congestion," said Kevin Cooper, who also participated in the ride with police. “We have to make sure that the road is safe for everyone, including myself who cycle year-round.”
Kirsten Edgerton was the lone Parking Enforcement Officer among the group.
“It’s important that we get individuals to understand how to use bike lanes and also deter motorists who pull over in bike lanes to drop off persons or products and, in so doing, force cyclists into oncoming traffic,” she said.
Transit Patrol Constable Marco Ricciardi was one of nine Toronto Police officers who participated in the campaign.
“It’s good we get to ride with these guys so we can see a bit of what they experience,” he said.
Corporate Communications Constable Victor Kwong said the “Ride a Mile in My Cycle Shoes” emerged from an online conversation between the police and the cycling community.
“The discussion centred around bike lanes and enforcement on the @TorontoPolice Twitter account,” Kwong pointed out. “The cyclists were talking about how unsafe they felt and there was also some talk about whether or not Toronto Police is even out there doing enforcement.”
Some of the Service members were out of uniform to get a sense of how an average cyclist interacts with traffic.
“We thought we would go along with them, out of uniform, to get a sense of what it takes to ride without a uniform and get a better appreciation for what cyclists deal with on a daily basis,” Kwong said.