A cyclist has been caught on camera smashing the side mirror of an SUV to pieces in west-end Toronto, in an apparent road rage incident that has police and cycling advocates calling on drivers to share the road.
Yousif Devlin said he was driving in the Queen Street West and Dufferin Street area around 4:30 p.m. Sunday when he saw a confrontation brewing between the cyclist and the driver and decided to start filming.
“I was on my way to the grocery store and all I saw was the biker turning around to the driver’s side of the car and I figured, ‘OK that’s going to be a fight going on,'” he told Global News Monday.
“That’s when I opened my window and I heard him say, ‘You almost killed me back there, why are you laughing at me?’ And then he started smashing the side mirror.”
Devlin said he then followed the driver, who sped up to catch the cyclist while what was left of his mirror dangled precariously from the SUV, and another confrontation ensued before the two went their separate ways.
“I just figured they were going to start arguing because I’ve actually seen that before. I just didn’t expect him to break anything.”
Devlin said he wasn’t surprised by the interaction at all, something he’s seen numerous times in the past both in Toronto and as a child growing up in Qatar.
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He added that more separated bike lanes could address the issue in the city and help defuse similar road rage incidents between cyclists and drivers in the future.
Jared Kolb, executive director of Cycle Toronto, said that although the organization doesn’t advocate for “vigilantism” on the streets of Toronto it’s important to know there may be something that led up to the confrontation before the camera was rolling.
“Maybe the person riding the bicycle was grazed, maybe they were hit by the driver. We don’t know and there’s not enough information,” he said, adding people should record the licence plate and call police in those situations.
“It’s not a safe bet to take the law into your own hands and I think there’s a lot of heat on Toronto’s roads and at the end of the day, what we really do need to focus on is on separating cyclists and drivers on our streets.”
Kolb said better protected bike lanes are needed on local roads, which other jurisdictions have shown can lead to more people cycling and less confrontations between drivers and cyclists.
“In Toronto, the number one barrier that’s holding people back from riding more often is that sense of safety on our city streets so there’s still a great deal more that we have to do,” he said.
“These close calls or near misses are common. We know that the City of Toronto is analyzing near misses on Bloor Street and so we’ll see some of that data later this year and I think that’ll help paint the picture.”
“What we do know from across North America and in Europe is that physically separated bike lanes are a really great antidote to be able to dial down the anger on our streets.”
VIDEO: Road rage incident on Toronto highway caught on camera
In Ontario, drivers are expected to abide by a one-metre passing rule that allows for cyclists to have the space they need to stay safe.
Toronto Police Const. Clint Stibbe said the situation could have been a lot worse had it escalated a lot more “out of hand.”
“I mean the fact that the individual is essentially destroying the car — he’s committing a criminal offence by smashing the mirror off that vehicle,” he said.
“That being said, in context, we don’t know what happened. We’ve had these types of situations before where individuals have been run off the road … however we don’t know the whole story.”
Stibbe said the situation was “very concerning” because it could lead to the driver attempting to drive the cyclist “off the road” or strike them — causing a “slippery slope” that could lead to serious injury or death.
“The flip side is — do we see aggression? Yes we are seeing it between all road users, not just drivers and cyclists, but cyclists and pedestrians, pedestrians and drivers. It is a very combative or difficult atmosphere for drivers and/or any other road user in the city,” he said.
“So this is why we need to be a little bit more courteous to each other. The challenge that we’re having though is unfortunately road rage — whether it’s the cyclist, the driver, or the pedestrian — is being taken out on the individual or on, in this particular case, the car.”
Stibbe said these types of situations are become more commonplace due to “traffic congestion” in the city, but also because it’s difficult to predict would could set someone off.
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“I’ve seen people lose their minds over very minor things,” he said.
“Being cut off, turns into literally a Dukes of Hazzard type interaction where vehicles are cutting each other off, cutting off other vehicles, tailgating — coming on the verge of collisions because of a simple lane change that perhaps was done in error.”
“So we need to just take a breath, step back, was it really worth it?”
Toronto police don’t track road rage incidents specifically and Stibbe said he searched for a criminal complaint made in connection with the time and location of the incident but found nothing.
“The reality is — we as a society unfortunately are taking out our aggressions a little bit too freely and we need to monitor what we’re doing because all we’re doing is putting everybody else at risk,” he said.
“The solution is we have to get along because really everybody is entitled to their space on the roadway, regardless of what method of transportation they use. Whether it’s by foot, a car or by bicycle.”
Stibbe said the “way of the future” is increasing access to cycling networks in Toronto, but unfortunately that’s a “slow moving objective.”
“It’s going to take some time and some money to get there,” he said. “But it is coming … and this going to be the biggest challenge that we have.”