An Inappropriate Response

Bob Mionske, author of the excellent book Bicycling and the Law, posted a story on his blog yesterday about a terrible incident in Ontario, Canada in which a driver ran down 5 law abiding cyclists riding single file in a marked bike lane. If the collision in-and-of-itself wasn’t bad enough, Mionske describes the Ottawa Police Service’s response to the incident:

Apparently shocked by the senseless carnage, Ottawa police decided to address bicycle safety as a part of their Integrated Road Safety Program. The target of their bicycle safety campaign?


Directing their attention at safety violations made by cyclists, Ottawa police ticketed 340 cyclists in August, and handed out 500 free bicycle bells. Additionally, police handed out hundreds of information pamphlets on safe cycling at intersections known to be a high-risk for collisions between cyclists and motorists.

Mionske goes on to suggest that a more appropriate response would have been a stepped-up enforcement action against reckless, drunk, and aggressive automobile drivers:

What about a stepped-up enforcement action against drunk drivers? What about stepped-up enforcement against reckless drivers? Against aggressive drivers? Against drivers who harass law-abiding cyclists? What about targeting the most dangerous violations of the law, like excessive speed, or red light running? Wouldn’t any of these have been a more appropriate response than a program targeting the victims of this horrific incident?

I wholeheartedly agree.

Read the full article at

14 Responses to “An Inappropriate Response”

  • Bicycle Laws: An Inappropriate Response « Discovering Something New Every Day says:

    […] Bicycle Laws: An Inappropriate Response September 17, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments An Inappropriate Response […]

  • Andy K says:


  • Duncan Watson says:

    I read the original article yesterday. A horrible response and infuriating on many levels.

  • Red Cyclist says:

    This is exactly how the Tucson police respond when we have accidents as well. Nuts is right!

  • Clifford says:

    Yeah, we in Ontario are not fairing particularly well in regards to cyclists vs psychopaths.

    Not sure if you’ve heard of the recent tragedy that’s set all tongues afire. In Toronto, around two weeks ago, the former provincial Attorney General (Michael Bryant) murdered a cyclist (Darcy Sheppard). After a little tiff that appeared to be initiated by Bryant, the cyclist was suddenly rammed onto the hood, then bounced off mailboxes and street polls, and, after finally being run over, left to die on the sidewalk. Which he did.


  • bongobike says:

    Some people have an internal combustion engine for a brain.

  • Nick says:

    I am shocked and embarrassed though unfortunately not surprised about the actions of my home city. Pathetic.

    We are a society that is very good at protecting most people most of the time from unnecessary and unlucky harm to the person. Our medical system, law enforcement, social support network and legislature are constantly involved in campaigns to protect us from everything—major violent crime to accidents on the ski slope to leaching water bottles. Yet we continue to encourage and subsidize a network of violence that assaults our civil liberties, safety and environment built right outside our front doors of which each of us everyday is a victim. Madness.

  • Black Pearl says:

    Unfortunately, like the Poor, the drunk, distracted and foolish will always get behind the wheel in 2,000 pound machines and wreck their havoc.

    Their lives are too full to ride a bike, or even care for those who do and are inconsiderate enough to get in their way, and law enforcement is on their side.

    Oh well.

  • Sharper says:

    My only thought: how many motorists will we cyclists have to mangle and murder before they become easily blamed victims of collisions?

  • uber says:

    i was senseless…but i will have to argue that both parties were to blame for this whole mess. the cyclist paid with his life…the motorist will now pay with his in a slightly less ‘definite’ way.

    cyclist was the drunk one here though.

    i also agree that the reaction by the Ottawa police was brutal and one sided. I think both cyclist and motorists need some education. careful when using the word ‘murder’ in this situation. just puts you in the same light as those defending the motorist blindly and extreme reactions on either side isn’t right when both parties had some level of blame in this incident.

  • Sharper says:

    Maybe we should be careful with the “m” word, uber, but how would you prefer to describe the act (and I assume you’re referring to the Toronto incident in the comments, not the Ottawa incident in the main post) of using a potentially lethal machine to intentionally harass, intimidate, and injure another human being, particularly when that use ends up causing death?

    “Murder” might be loaded language, but sometimes you need to emphatically call a spade a spade before people will stop using cute euphemisms for it.

  • Clifford says:

    @ Sharper
    Also, when people pull the “both are to blame” card, I really feel like presumes a commensurate response using commensurate force. Which it wasn’t.
    If we imagine the situation with commensurate bodies, it would be like bumping into a fellow pedestrian in the street and having them suddenly bludgeon you with a baseball bat, or carve you with a chainsaw. Both are to blame?
    To blame for bumping, yeah.
    But in the event that follows, the brutally violent action is one person’s response.

    Anyway, I’ll always take a strong rhetorical defense of Sheppard, if only to compensate in a small way for the lack of a voice afforded to him (silenced first by death, then kept quiet by lack privilege compared to the power of Bryant’s hand).

  • Molnar says:

    I live in a town in Massachusetts that just received a $5,000 grant for the police to increase harassment (not the way they phrased it) of cyclists and pedestrians. No money to patch potholes that will break a bicycle wheel, no money to enforce rules of the road for motorists, but extra money to persecute the innocent. Cyclists are assumed to be criminals where I live.

    I once lived in Toronto, and was out riding in the same area as Jocelyn Lovell on the day he was run down by a truck. One likes to think that Our Good Neighbour to the North is a bit more civilized, but the reality is that attitudes are bad almost everywhere in North America.

  • robert johnson says:

    All Canadian Cyclist should start a huge letter writing campaign to their elected representatives. This is total crap and paints some Canadians as backwards. Although there are similar situations in the US, many communities are progressing especially after forming bicycling advocay organizations like the BTA in Portland, OR. Bicycling will never be more than a crap shoot until laws are in place to punish drivers who abuse cyclists or whose reckless behaviours have consequences. It is a known fact that the quality of life in urban environments that celebrate cycling is significantly higher.


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