ABOVE: A cyclist says SUV that was carrying police chief Bill Blair almost hit her in a bike lane. Peter Kim reports.
TORONTO – A Toronto cyclist alleges she was almost hit by Police Chief Bill Blair’s SUV after it swerved into a bike lane.
Meghan Orlinski was biking to class at Ryerson University Wednesday around 12 p.m. When she was near the intersection at University Avenue and College Street, she noticed a large black SUV encroaching on the bike lane.
Orlinski says the SUV twice veered into the bike lane. The second time, she said, she was forced to swerve.
“So out of reflex and because I didn’t know what to do, I kind of hit the side of the door,” she said.
It was then, she said, Chief Blair rolled down his window and scolded her. He was not the one driving, she said.
Toronto Police spokesperson Mark Pugash denied Orlinski’s claims, saying Blair’s SUV never crossed into the bike lane. Instead, Pugash said the first thing Blair heard was banging on the side of his car. He then rolled down his passenger-side window and was asked to identify himself.
“He identified who he was and his advice to her very simply was, ‘It’s not a good idea to bang on the side of vehicles,’” Pugash said. “’That sort of aggressive behaviour is not helpful and if anything it can take situations and make them worse.’”
“He was not in the bike lane,” Pugash said.
But a fellow cyclist and witness of the alleged event who did not want to give his full name confirmed Orlinski’s version of the events.
Orlinski says she has been cycling for upwards of 9 years and is a member of the all-girl cycling advocacy and female empowerment group dubbed ‘The Deadly Nightshades.’
She says her experience is not uncommon for cyclists in Toronto.
According to a leaflet on the Toronto.ca website, there were more than 1,100 cyclist collisions in 2011. While there were no injuries in 163 of the collisions, there were 2 fatalities. Of those 1,100 accidents, 222 happened when either the motorist or cyclist sideswiped the other.
– With files from Peter Kim