Police say cyclists who slap neon-green ‘I parked in a bike lane’ stickers on cars are risking a mischief charge. But the campaign could go viral.
Cyclists can buy a roll of neon-green stickers to express their displeasure over errant drivers parking in bike lanes and putting cyclists at risk.
By: Olivia Carville Staff Reporter, Published on Tue Sep 23 2014
A sticker campaign that aims to publicly shame Toronto drivers parked illegally in a bike lane is drawing global interest, though police have dubbed it “vigilante justice.”
Led by two anonymous city cyclists, the campaign encourages people to slap a neon-green sticker that says “I parked in a bike lane” onto offending cars and to then post pictures on social media. Cyclists can buy a roll of 20 stickers for $5 through the campaign website.
Inspired by frustration over the dangers of cycling in Toronto, the idea has since spread around the world, with the stickers in hot demand as far away as Germany, Australia and Singapore, an organizer told the Star via the campaign email address.
“I didn’t expect it to blow up like this,” the organizer said.
The sticker crusade highlights more than just the issue of cyclist safety in Toronto — it also calls attention to what could be deemed a loophole in the law governing parking tickets.
In Ontario, unless the parking enforcement officers actually affixes a ticket to the windshield of an offender’s car, it’s considered void. This allows people who see they’re about to be ticketed to run back to their cars and drive away without breaking the law.
The sticker campaigners hope to change two things: the drive-away loophole “joke” and the bike lanes themselves.
A painted line on the road offers only an “illusion of safety for cyclists,” the campaign organizer said via email.
“I have been hit by cars twice while riding in a bike lane. So, we decided it would be a funny way to vent our frustrations, and hopefully make people think twice about their actions,” the organizer said.
“If the campaign bothers you, you should try commuting for a week via bike in the city. I’ll bet a whole roll of stickers you’d change your tune by the end of it.”
The law isn’t helping much; between 75 and 80 per cent of tickets issued to cars parked in bike lanes are cancelled due to drive-away offenders, Toronto Police media relations officer Const. Victor Kwong said.
The “old school rule” is voiding thousands of parking tickets and probably costs the city millions of dollars, according to Councillor Mike Layton (Open Mike Layton’s policard). “It’s not that these people aren’t breaking the law; they just happened to be able to move their cars before they got a ticket,” he said.
In July, Layton submitted a motion requesting that city council approach the province about amending the law to allow all parking tickets to be posted to the vehicle-owner’s registered address — a practice used in other provinces. The motion has been referred to the city manager.
More than 111,000 parking tickets valued at almost $5 million were cancelled in 2008 because of drive-aways, according to a 2009 city audit report.
However, police are warning participants that the guerrilla alternative of stickering private property could be deemed legally to be mischief — an offence punishable under the criminal code.
Police understand cyclists’ frustrations, but “committing a mischief to right another offence” isn’t the answer, Kwong said. “It seems like vigilante justice.”
Kwong warned campaigners that stickering could prompt road rage incidents.
“For their own safety, we would advise them to go through the proper channels” if they see a car parked in a bike lane, he said.
Toronto Bicycling Network advocacy director Joey Schwartz said the campaign was an “aggressive way of addressing this issue,” and “They should expect aggression back from drivers.”