Toronto cyclist challenges High Park speeding ticket in court
A Toronto lawyer is taking the city to court over a speeding ticket police officers issued to her while she was riding her bicycle down a hill in High Park, arguing the law itself is unfair and should be overturned.
Saba Ahmad filed a constitutional challenge to a rule that limits the speed of any vehicle to 20 kilometres per hour, pointing out that expecting cyclists to conform to that speed despite varying terrain would introduce new risks that would make cycling less safe.
The challenge moved forward at a hearing Friday which, if successful, could make it harder for authorities to prosecute cyclists going above that speed limit and could result in a changed law.
“I thought that it was profoundly unfair, unjust, I couldn’t even believe there’s a law about that,” Ahmad told CTV News Toronto.
Ahmad had just finished dropping her kids off at daycare in High Park in July 2021 when she was accused by Toronto police officers of going 36 kilometres per hour on a park road, which has a posted 20 kilometres per hour speed limit.
She was one of hundreds of cyclists that have been ticketed in the park since the Toronto police began doing blitzes in the area. Police have said the blitzes were motivated by complaints from people about speeding cyclists.
Ahmad has a commuter bicycle, wasn’t racing, and like most cyclists has no speedometer, she says. She said she valued the exercise because her gym had been closed during the pandemic and exercise is important to her health. The route through High Park was a good choice because of some of the dangers on city roadways, she said.
“Because of the risk of death or injury, I typically choose the safest routes available to me when I commute,” she wrote in an affidavit, pointing to Toronto’s cyclist deaths despite the city’s Vision Zero commitment to eliminating them.
Ahmad said she got a radar gun to test cyclist speed and found virtually every cyclist went over the speed limit at the spot the police were testing. Her affidavit says she even tested the speeds of her seven and 10-year-old children, who rose to speeds of 33 kilometres per hour and 40 kilometres per hour just through gravity.
That speed is normal and safe because it preserves momentum for the next uphill, she wrote in the affidavit, and slowing down might appear arbitrary to a nearby cyclist and would increase the risk of a collision. If the momentum isn’t preserved, the bike becomes wobbly — also a risk in traffic — and some might have to get off to push up the next hill, she said. A speeding bike does not pose the same safety risk to the public as a speeding car, she said.
“I believe the law as enacted puts my life at risk, by preventing me from operating my bicycle in a safe manner, and in fact requiring me to operate my bicycle in an unsafe manner. Complying with the law is not possible and attempts to comply with it put cyclists in danger,” she wrote.
The prosecutor in the case wrote in a response to Ahmad’s application that it should be “dismissed as the application is deficient in substance and in form.” But, she said, the court heard on Friday that the prosecutor would drop the opposition and let the process continue.
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