Toronto drivers, be warned: if you encroach on or park in any of the city's limited number of bike lanes, you may find yourself being publicly shamed for it by a trio of plucky parking officers.
When it comes to their job as ticket-writers, Kyle Ashley, Sabrina Kloetzig, and Erin Urquhart go above and beyond the call of duty. Thanks to the platform afforded to them by social media, they have been spreading a message to motorists, letting them know that there is absolutely zero tolerance for bike lane predators—or irresponsible bikers, who they will come down on as well when they are spotted breaking road rules.
It all started with Ashley. Looking to give himself a sense of purpose at work, the lifelong cyclist fought for a role that made him the only parking officer to be solely tasked with a bike-centric portfolio. Armed with the knowledge from a social media training program at the police training college, he decided to see if he could further engage with the community by detailing his exploits on social media.
So he did. And by all estimates, it has been a resounding success.
Ashley's @TPS_ParkingPal Twitter account has garnered over 5,400 followers and has affected real-life change. Steadfast in his approach, he was undeterred by the prospect of publicly calling out a major crown corporation like Canada Post, which he has done with both it and other companies.
"When one car is parked illegally it creates a domino effect," said Ashley. "If we see good behaviour coming from our companies, that really sets a tone for the rest of the road on how to be respectful."
His triumphs had the public clamoring for more officers like him, and earlier this summer, they got their wish. Kloetzig and Urquhart joined the bike beat with him, incorporating the social media wrinkle just as Ashley had.
Though their work has represented a clear victory for road safety efforts in Toronto, it is only one piece of the puzzle, which will rely greatly on infrastructure development to further enact change. Cyclists are frustrated with the slow roll-out of the city's bike plan, which promises 525 km of new biking infrastructure over the next 10 years, but has no immediate calls to action for new lanes on major roadways, and has left regions like Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke with no protected bike lanes at present.