Friday, August 27, 2010

The Buzz on The Fuzz

Received a helpful email today from the Toronto Cyclists Union on how to avoid traffic tickets on your bike ... Read on to save some dough (and stay safe while not contributing to cyclists' bad reputation in this city)!

Fellow Cyclists,

Please note that Toronto Police are now regularly paying closer attention to the behaviors of cyclists on the road, and giving tickets for infractions. Several people have noted getting ticketed this week in particular.

This is not all bad news of course. With this increased attention comes a greater awareness of the negative impacts that some driver behaviours / driving infractions have on the cycling population, along with increased ticketing for these actions. Although we don’t like to discuss it much, there are many drivers and cyclists that drive and ride recklessly and are sometimes deserving of fines – though unpopular, penalties are proven to be an effective tool to help motivate behavior change.

That said, many feel that an $85 fine for not having a bell is unreasonable, in particular when your voice can be more effective in many cases… Unreasonable or not, it’s the law and you can avoid this particular fine by spending a mere $5 on a bell and 5 minutes installing it. Besides, the sound of bike bells is so lovely, the more the merrier!

Please take a moment to consider your cycling habits (good and bad) and remember that cyclists, as per the Highway Traffic Act, must follow the same rules of the road as other vehicles, and are subject to many of the same fines. Cyclists are required by law to have front and rear lights after dusk and before dawn, to have reflective tape on the front and back of their bike frame, to signal direction & lane changes, etc...

Some fines that apply to cyclists:

- Disobey stop sign or fail to stop $85
- Fail to signal for stop or turn $85
- Cyclist riding in or along crosswalk (this included X-walks, and pedestrian crossings at intersections) $85
- Red light, fail to stop $260 - plus 5 costs plus $60 victim surcharge = $ 325
- Red light: proceed before green $260
- Fail to stop on right for emergency vehicle $400
- Careless driving $400 - plus 5 costs plus $90 victim surcharge = $500

Additional cycling related infractions for which you can be fined can be viewed at this excellent City of Toronto site. Please note however that although the fines for Running a red light, and Careless driving have recently been increased, these changes are not yet reflected on the City of Toronto site.

Demerit Points
One very common misconception/error made by Police is that demerit points apply to cyclists.

Demerit Points DO NOT apply for cycling infractions

Please note that in response to the confusion around whether or not Demerit Points apply to cyclist, the yellow infraction tickets have recently been modified to show clearly that the fine is for a cycling related infraction.

Two things to look for on the ticket:

1. Near the top there is a 'Motor Vehicle Involved' box - the officer should put a check in the '[ ] N' box to indicate ‘No’.

2. Near the bottom is where a license plate number would be included - this should be left blank, and then in the license plate code box next to it, a 'C' should be marked to indicate Cyclist.

It is advisable to provide ID when asked to do so by police. If you do not regularly carry ID on you, you can simply identify yourself, and provide your pertinent information, verbally – you are legally allowed to do this. Most officers will request a driver’s license because it helps them to know your level of understanding of the rules of the road.

Please note: If you know that you have made a mistake and are in contravention of the law, it is better to accept the ticket gracefully rather than lose your cool or fight with police. Even if you feel you have not done anything wrong, arguing with a police officer is rarely a good idea and can lead to more problems than it’s worth.

If you, or someone you know has been ticketed incorrectly, or been treated poorly by police when stopped for an infraction, please connect with ARC (Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists)

Safe cycling,
Yvonne & the bike union team