Metropolitan Toronto Police

Comments on Licensing of Cyclists and Couriers

May 20, 1992

To: Barbara G. Caplan

City Clerk ,City of Toronto

Department of the City Clerk, City Hall,

Dear Ms. Caplan:

In response to the request for comments on the issue of bicycle licensing,including jurisdiction, cost and enforcement priorities, extensive consultationhas been undertaken by this Force in order to present a perspective whichconsiders not only the rights and responsibilities of cyclists, but theextent and level of involvement the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force isable to undertake in addressing this concern.

There is no doubt that the increased number of cyclists appearing onthe streets of Metropolitan Toronto, many of whom appear to experiencedifficulty in complying with traffic laws, causes concern both from a safety,as well as an enforcement perspective. While there will always be somemembers of the community who feel that laws do not apply to them, by andlarge the problem appears to be one of information and education.

It is important to note that cyclists can be divided into two broadcategories - namely those who utilize this vehicle for recreation or transportation,and those for whom it is a means of employment. In considering the useof licenses as a medium to encourage compliance with the law, the differencesbetween these two groups must be taken into consideration.

With respect to the first group, it is felt that licensing would nothave any discernable impact on riding behaviour. While arguments may bepresented in support of testing as a means to ensure a minimum level ofcompetence, the administrative and logistic difficulties posed by the numberand broad age range of cyclists would make this an arduous option. Further,this is an issue which, to ensure a level of consistency and uniform application,would require implementation at a provincial level, at significant cost.

From a policing perspective, licensing as a means to enhance enforcementis ineffectual. The requirement for cyclists to identify themselves underthe Highway Traffic Act is sufficient for policing purposes. With respectto the general cycling population, it is felt by this Force that in lieuof licensing, a major education and public awareness initiative would bebeneficial to promote both safety and compliance issues. The MetropolitanToronto Police Force currently works in conjunction with the City of TorontoCycling Committee in addressing both cycling education within the Forceand public awareness campaigns for the public at large. We are currentlyexamining a modified Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) to approachthis issue, although this is an initiative which is costly and requiresthe involvement and participation of media, community, government and police.

The Force is also undertaking the development of a Decentralized Trainingpackage for all its officers pertaining to bicycle safety and enforcement,to ensure appropriate charges are laid where warranted. Together with thecontinued development and deployment of bicycle units at various divisions,concerns relating to the "recreation/transportation" cyclistscan be addressed.

In relation to the second category of cyclists - the couriers - an alternativeapproach must be examined. Considerable concern has been voiced by boththe public and police officers with respect to the riding practices ofsome couriers. While they make up a relatively small percentage of thecycling population, their high profile has generated a variety of complaintsranging from the frightening of pedestrians to the causing of injuriesand damage.

It is agreed that a system of licensing could ensure a minimum levelof operational competence and safety knowledge prior to the issuing ofa courier licence, and where appropriate, re-testing and refresher courses.Questions are raised however, as to the uniformity and control of a licensingsystem. Would licences be issued to only those couriers on bicycles, orwould the system extend to other modes of transportation utilized? Wouldthe loss of one's "courier licence" due to numerous riding infractionsrestrict that individual's right to ride a bicycle while not acting ina courier capacity? This results in a considerably more complicated enforcementscenario.

There is a further concern over jurisdiction, and the application ofsuch an initiative without agreement across the metropolitan area. To beeffective, the system should encompass all of Metropolitan Toronto, withsome thought given to the inclusion of neighbouring cities and/or regions.Without a regionally uniform approach, the issue of enforcement becomesinequitable. At the same time, the cost of implementing such a system mustalso be closely scrutinized, with a thorough evaluation of alternativeapproaches to the encouragement of appropriate cycling behaviour.

From a policing and enforcement perspective, the same considerationsapplied to the general cycling population can be applied to couriers. Underthe Highway Traffic Act, all cyclists are required to identify themselves,and it is not felt that the specific licensing of this group would resultin a major shift in enforcement capability.

Considerable attention should be given to the involvement of couriercompanies in addressing this issue, and in promoting the concepts of bicyclesafety and legal compliance for their employees. Together with public awarenessand enforcement, it is likely the problems can be resolved in a constructivemanner. Should the evaluation of these approaches not indicate a positivelevel of change, the impact of courier licensing would require furtherexamination.

William McCormack

Chief of Police


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