This year it's Toronto's turn to reassess where scooters can be parked. For the past few years, the city has been a parking delight full of easy choices. If I wanted to I could park my scooter on any street without paying a fee. If I wanted to I could park my scooter on the sidewalk and not be ticketed. I often chose the sidewalk option for two reasons: I wasn't taking up valuable street parking and I didn't have to worry that an automobilist might not see the scooter in his rear-view window before backing up.
I never parked my scooter on the sidewalk in a way that could block pedestrians or access routes. Nor did I ever see any other scooter obstructing pathways. Yet last week, during Canada Road Safety Week, Toronto police launched a blitz of ticketing called the "Sidewalk/Boulevard Parking Campaign." Apparently, there has been a bylaw on the books saying two-wheeled vehicles can't park on sidewalks. Apparently, Toronto police decided it was time to enforce that bylaw.
So early in the week, riders came out of offices and stores in downtown Toronto to find a yellow $60 parking ticket in their handlebars.
For those of you in countries like Italy and Vietnam the campaign may be hard to understand.
I took this picture in Bologna, Italy, a few years back.
Copywright: Debi Goodwin
The scooters filled a square and the surrounding sidewalks and no one seemed concerned.
This one is from Ho Chi Minh city where scooters often do impede pedestrians.
Copywright: Debi Goodwin
The picture's from outside a market where riders parked where ever they felt like. But, then, so did carts and trucks and, again, no one seemed to mind. In the city centre there is often nowhere else to park except on the sidewalks and the business savvy of the city has responded to that fact.
Clever entrepreneurs charge riders a small amount to leave their scooters and motorcycles in front of their shops and restaurants. They line up the bikes so they're almost touching and pedestrians can just make it past them.
At the end of last week I rode my scooter in downtown Toronto for the first time since the crackdown and, from what I saw, the police had won the day. I still saw scooters on sidewalks but they were on the sidewalks of small streets or streets away from the business centre. But downtown, riders had taken over street parking spots, parking five or six to a spot. I found it hard to find a place to park and, as I finally backed into one next to four bikes and way too close to a parked car for my comfort, several bikes cruised up and down the street looking for spots.
The campaign, at least, will have the effect, I hope of making motorists aware of scooters on the street. But the results - at least on the street I parked on - seemed ludicrous. The sidewalks were wide, smooth and empty. And now they are unsoiled by two-wheeled vehicles. When I grew up people used to refer to the city as "Toronto The Good." It's definitely aiming for "Toronto The Orderly."
Copywright: Debi Goodwin (squished i-pod pictures)
There are, no doubt, confusing and real problems being created by the changing mix of vehicles on Toronto roads. There are more scooters downtown and there are slower electric scooters and motorised bikes, whose riders stick to the curb and travel in bike lanes. I just never noticed that parking on the sidewalk was one of those problems.