'You can't silence the person': Bike lane officer speaks out after police suspend Twitter account
Toronto police say concerns arose about Kyle Ashley's Twitter account inside and outside the service
An outspoken parking enforcement officer known for taking on some of the city's most notorious bike lane blockers says he won't be silenced, despite Toronto police suspending his Twitter account Friday.
Kyle Ashley, who has made it his mission to keep the city's bike lanes clear of delinquent vehicles one tweet at a time, has called out everyone from Uber drivers and cabbies to Canada Post and FedEx.
He made headlines this past summer when the national delivery service announced it would stop parking in bike lanes when making deliveries or pickups.
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But on Friday, Ashley's account, @TPS_ParkingPal, was temporarily suspended after what Toronto Police Services spokesperson Mark Pugash told CBC News were "concerns over the appropriateness of some his postings."
Police won't specify what prompted review
Pugash wouldn't say what posts specifically prompted the review, but said concerns were raised both internally and externally and had been escalating. "I'm not going to get into specific postings because we're in the process of looking at them and so I don't think that's appropriate," he said.
Thanks for your question. Kyle's account has been temporarily suspended while we review concerns re appropriateness of some of his posts ^mg—@TorontoPolice
An emotional Ashley told CBC Toronto he was at home sick on Friday when two members of the Toronto Police Service showed up at his door.
"They came into my home and lambasted me about my Twitter account and how they wanted to take control of it," he said.
Pugash rejected Ashley's description that the managers who showed up at his home "lambasted" him, saying that was "a completely inaccurate description of what happened."
Instead, he said, they showed up at Ashley's home for a routine "wellness check."
Ashley says there was no mention of any specific interactions that prompted the review but that he was told to stop engaging on multiple occasions with people in Montreal "because someone's offices had called and an election was coming up."
'Two wheels has provided more than four'
Since September, a grassroots push has been brewing in Montreal with the Facebook group #dansmapiste hoping to push politicians and police to crack down on bike lane blockers in that city.
The most hurtful part of his ordeal, Ashley says, are assumptions about his intentions. His tweets, he maintains, have never been for personal attention.
"I don't have a mean bone in my body," he said. "All I've wanted to do is take our city and make our streets safer."
But if prompting a discussion about safety was his goal, he appears to have done just that.
Pugash says when Ashley started he was the only officer tweeting about bike-lane offences.
"There are now several more," the police spokesperson acknowledged.
"He has done excellent work, there's absolutely no doubt about that," Pugash said. "He has raised the profile of the issues of bike lanes and other things very very significantly."
When Ashley's tweets caught on with the public, the bike lane officer says a kind of community started to form.
"Two wheels has provided more than four ever could," he said. "Two wheels here in Toronto has given me community, passion, purpose."
'I'm not going anywhere'
For now, Ashley says, he says he's hopeful he can still play a role in building a community around street safety. He also says he's still expected to report to work Monday morning, and plans to meet with the Ontario Police Association next week.
On that Pugash said: "His job as a parking enforcement officer is to enforce the law and if he is able to do that, then I see no reason why he shouldn't have that opportunity to do that."
And while he doesn't know what the future holds beyond Monday, Ashley says, he plans to continue advocating for safe streets, no matter what.
"I'm not going anywhere ... Whether or not I have a Twitter account doesn't define me as a public servant, but it definitely helped my job," he said.
"You can silence my Twitter but you can't silence the person."