A sprawling park in the middle of a large urban centre should be a place of peace and refuge.
However, it’s been anything but in High Park this summer.
We’ve been documenting the ongoing conflict between cars and cyclists all season. And the drama keeps on coming.
First, cyclists felt they were being unfairly ticketed for “speeding” in the park. Next, an off-duty officer harassed a cyclist, resulting in a formal report. Then, a police officer hit a cyclist with their car. There’s even been a protest led featuring hundreds of passionate city cyclists and cycling advocates.
Last month, Toronto lawyer David Shellnut (AKA “The Biking Lawyer”) told STOREYS that the Toronto police have been responsible for recent violence, harassment, and a collision in High Park -- and have faced zero repercussions.
Now, the shocking High Park drama continues.
Grenadier Pond in High Park
On September 3rd, elite cyclist Marcel Zierfuss was the victim of assault by a motorist and hit and run in High Park when riding his bike.
“You have this enforcement blitz in High Park that’s been targeting cyclists all summer,” says Shellnut in a call with STOREYS earlier today. “But the only incidents that we’ve heard of are a police officer hitting a cyclist and damaging their car; an off-duty cop hunting down and harassing a cyclist; and now, this vigilante member of the public -- unprovoked -- tears after a cyclist in his vehicle, using it as a weapon.”
Shellnut is representing the cyclist, who suffered a serious concussion and whiplash, among other injuries. His bike is completely ruined. He explains how Zierfuss was cycling in High Park when a Toyota Corolla passed him and began driving erratically and “shouting stereotypes” about cyclists.
When the driver started to turn his car into Zierfuss’s path, Zierfuss yelled at him and moved past his car. Then, the driver sped after Zierfuss before abruptly pulling in front of him and slamming the breaks, causing Zierfuss to violently slam into the vehicle.
“Marcello lives at Yonge and Summerhill and goes across the city to cycle in High Park because that’s where he feels safe,” says Shellnut of the incident.
Meanwhile, the High Park neighbourhood has been a hot spot for speeding cars -- something made glaringly clear recently when it was recently revealed that a speed camera on the notoriously dangerous Parkside Drive handed out more tickets than any other area in the city in June and July -- comprising a whopping 10% of all tickets given.
“The photo radar implemented on Parkside Drive -- ticketing 4,539 cars -- is demonstrative of why we were concerned that such a public push was focused on cyclists in the park who miss stop signs, when we have this killer road literally beside the park where people have died in the past year and there’s collisions causing serious harm every other week, practically,” said Shellnut.
Shellnut says we should focus on road safety where it matters most -- streets like Parkside Drive. "There's no chance I would cycle on that road," he says.
We also need more peace and harmony between cyclists and pedestrians so that we don't see more violence in the park in the form of cars used as weapons.
“If you’re a cyclist and think this situation is about to happen to you, you need to get off the road and take a license plate,” says Shellnut. “We also wanted to point this story out to the general public and say ‘everyone needs to cool down.' Tensions are high but it's not worth escalating violence to the point somebody could get seriously injured or killed."
Shellnut has also written to the Toronto Police Services to inquire whether the cyclist enforcement blitz is warranted in High Park, given the data. "The flames have really been stoked this summer between the police and cyclists, and we really need to take the temperature down," he says.