Toronto Parking Enforcement Officer Kyle Ashley is on a mission to keep the city's bike lanes clear of parked cars, one tweet at a time.
Riding a bicycle and armed with his smartphone, the officer uses his Twitter account to spotlight delinquent delivery vans and cars who have parked where they shouldn't.
His posts — which sometimes feature the sheepish drivers he has just ticketed — are warnings of the physical dangers and financial penalties of blocking bike lanes.
Ashley began tweeting as a way to try to connect with people outside of the moment when he's issuing a ticket, one that he says is often fraught with "unbridled aggression."
"Sometimes people come back to the car and they come at me as if I had parked the car for them," he said Monday. "I'm simply contracted to help enforce the laws that keep us safe."
Tackling the sense of driver 'entitlement'
On Monday morning, he issued at least two tickets, but said that his presence also helps deter people from breaking the law and helps to keep the bike lanes clear.
By tweeting and chatting with passersby, he hopes to raise the profile of both the city's cyclists and the public service aspect of parking enforcement, Ashley said.
When asked whether people are apologetic about blocking a bike lane, Ashley hesitates a beat and then says: "Sometimes."
"There definitely is a sense of entitlement," he said. "'Oh, I'll just be two minutes to grab that delicious cup of coffee.' That already costs seven dollars. By the end of an encounter with me it's going to cost $157."
This June — bike month in Toronto — Ashley will be patrolling the downtown area on his own bicycle every day, splitting his time between enforcement and spreading the word about parking rules on social media.
An avid cyclist himself, he's also an advocate for better infrastructure to help separate the roadway.
"We need to look at protecting cyclists," he said. "We need to have these dedicated lanes that are protected. Cars have airbags, cyclists don't."
Toronto police are launching a campaign this week to remind drivers to share the road, focusing on observing a one-metre gap around cyclists, keeping bike lanes clear and cutting down on dooring.
58 cyclists doored this year
While many of his tickets focus on vehicles that have blocked cycling lanes, Ashley said that dooring remains the biggest hazard when biking around town.
There have been 58 cyclists doored this year, according to a police report, but this cyclist cop said he estimates the actual number is much higher.