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Toronto motion calling for e-bike courier regulations sparks contention

Click to play video: 'Toronto councillor pushes for regulations for e-bike deliveries'
Toronto councillor pushes for regulations for e-bike deliveries
WATCH: Toronto councillor pushes for regulations for e-bike deliveries – May 9, 2023

A Toronto city councillor is calling for accountability and safety measures for the many e-bike delivery drivers in the city, citing a need to address public safety concerns, but cycling advocates counter the issue could be handled a better way.

University-Rosedale Coun. Diane Saxe said there is a growing public safety concern for pedestrians because of the amount of e-bike couriers who drive in an unsafe manner on the road, in bike lanes, and on sidewalks.

Saxe’s motion proposes delivery drivers should be required to wear unique markings when on the job so they can be easily identified if they’re being unsafe and for council to request increased enforcement for couriers who drive on sidewalks or other illegal behaviour.

Saxe, an avid cyclist herself, said she counts herself among those who have an issue with e-bike couriers after one nearly knocked her off her bike a couple of weeks ago.

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“Two people I know personally were knocked down and seriously injured, one woman is still dealing with chronic pain,” she said “I get bitter complaints from all across my ward that this is a real problem.”

Councillor Diane Saxe said there is a growing problem with the number of e-bike delivery drivers who are operating on the sidewalk and she said pedestrian safety must come first. Matthew Bingley/Global News

Pedestrians have to come first, said Saxe, and her solution is a requirement for delivery drivers to put on a vest with their company’s name and an identifying number when they’re on the job.

“One of the reasons that we haven’t had enforcement is that you can’t identify these folks, you can’t identify them,” she said. “Even if you manage to take a picture before you get knocked down, what do you do with it?”

But many in the city’s cycling community have been quick to decry the motion, with some arguing it doesn’t address the issue in an efficient way. Among them is cycling advocate and lawyer David Shellnutt, who is questioning which entity would oversee the program to ensure compliance.

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“We have an existing driver complaint system in Toronto where you can experience dangerous driving or road violence and report it to Toronto police,” said Shellnutt. “Those dangerous driving complaints, even with videos, go unanswered for months and months and months, if they ever get a response.”

Cycling advocate and lawyer David Shellnutt worries Saxe is targeting the wrong people to address safety concerns. Matthew Bingley/Global News

Shellnutt also voiced concerns that any new laws would be unfairly targeting people who are trying to make a living, whose companies have incentives for dangerous behaviours in order to meet deadlines.

“This is a situation where we should employ organizations like Cycle Toronto to do public education campaigns,” Shellnutt said. “We should talk directly to Uber, Skip the Dishes, and Door Dash and say ‘What are you doing to ensure the people that you put on our streets are riding safely?’

“These are all steps we should take before sending police after vulnerable working people.”

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The head of public policy and communications for Uber Canada told Global News it is willing to work with the city to find ways to improve public safety, while noting in a statement that everyone on the Uber platform is expected to follow the law.

“We continuously look for ways to improve road safety and are happy to sit down with government and stakeholder partners,” said Laura Miller in an email.

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