Toronto Police Mounted Unit trading cards

Spencer's trading card

Did you know that horses in the Toronto Police Mounted Unit have trading cards? One of the mounted officers at the East York Canada Day celebration had a giant wad of cards for Spencer, one of the horses attending the party, and was going through them quickly as dozens of kids (and Risa) mobbed him. The front, above, has a formal portrait taken at the top of Riverdale Park. The reverse has short bios for both human and horse officers:

Reverse of Spencer's trading card


And here’s Spencer (on the right), his colleague, and their riders shortly before they were surrounded by horse lovers and card traders on Canada Day:

Spencer (on the right) and partner at the East York Canada Day party.

Spencer (on the right) and partner at the East York Canada Day party.

My own personal G20

I don’t live in the G20 security zone and I don’t often find myself there in the normal course of events, but I do need 24/7 emergency access to 151 Front Street West (geeks in the audience should recognize the address), which is directly across the street from the Convention Centre and deep inside the security perimeter. Yay. So I went and got me one of these ultra-high-tech ID cards that appears to be completely unforgeable without the use of an ink jet printer and a laminating machine. And really, who has that kind of stuff just lying around? You’d have to be some kind of Forest Hill zillionaire. Maybe there’s an RFID tag hiding in that card somewhere, but I doubt it.

Anyway, the original info about these cards from the Toronto Police Service said that it was a good idea to have one, but that they weren’t mandatory; you can get into the perimeter if you have this card and government-issued photo ID, or just government-issued photo ID and a plausible reason to be inside, or just a plausible reason to be inside. My take on that is that the cards will go from being optional today, to being mandatory tomorrow, to being useless on Saturday because no one will be getting in, no matter what ID or reasons they have.

My plausible reason for being there yesterday and today was taking due precautions for business continuity in the highly unlikely event that all hell breaks loose and 151 Front is damaged or taken off the grid. Such an event would pretty much screw the Internet in Canada for a few weeks. I expect nothing of the sort, but plan for the worst, hope for the best, and all that.

Both yesterday and today, I got into the perimeter without any problem, locking my bike up in front of 151 and having friendly chats with the police officers nearby; no ID, justification, or body-cavity searches required. One officer today joked that he may need to use my bike lock (Master Lock Street Cuffs) to arrest some protesters. I was certainly aware of being surrounded by cops, but everyone seemed relaxed and friendly, even if on alert.

Many of the bikes locked up along Front Street had police seals on them, for reasons unkown. My bike didn’t get one on either of my two trips down, though it would have been a nifty souvenir. Two of the officers milling about at Front and University did ask me how long I’d be, because if my bike was still there when a security lockdown started, the lock would be cut and my bike removed. Informed that I’d only be about 20 minutes or so, they offered to keep an eye out and save my lock if a removal crew came along. I guess that’s good news. I was surprised to see so many post and rings still in service in the perimeter, but many more than usual were unused.

At the height of lunch hour, Front Street at Simcoe was basically deserted. There are usually more people at this intersection on Sundays at 6 a.m. I’m used to looking out this window while I wait for a server to reboot for the umpteenth time in the middle of the night, so it was a nice change of pace.

Rent-a-cop or rent-a-truck?

For an event like this, the police obviously need more vehicles than they have. The good news is that however much they’re spending on rentals out of the $1 billion security tab, they didn’t direct a significant portion toward painting their temporary vehicles in the official colours, opting instead for a printed sticker and an ID scrawled in grease pencil. The drawback to this is that anyone with a rental truck and an ink jet printer (there’s that subversive tool again!) can do a pretty mean impression of a police van. After I took this picture, I was even more amused to see the POLICE sticker on the driver’s door placed above a prominent Air Miles logo. I thought of a frequent protester program: get arrested in this van three times and get an all-expenses paid flight to Syria. Woo! (Return fare not included.)

All right, now this is the final straw. I don’t mind giant fences, thousands of cops with riot gear patrolling the streets, downtown emptying of all life, the protests, the over-the-top media, the general inconvenience, the highway closures, or the enormous cost. Hell, I don’t even mind the fake lake. But sealing off the cute old mail slot by the elevators in 151 Front is more than I can take.

Truth be told, in the 13 or so years that I’ve been making regular visits to 151, I’ve never been sure that the mail slots were in regular use anyway. I’ve always just assumed that they were part of the building’s semi-old-timey heritage (and more than a bit of an anacronism considering its current duties) and it never occurred to me that I could drop a letter into the slot and have it do anything other than sit forgotten inside the wall for the rest of eternity.

With any luck, I’ll be enjoying the G20 summit from the shores of a real lake. Part of me really wants to hang around for the weekend just to see how the local media goes crazy trying to blow every little thing out of proportion, but a much bigger part of me just wants to snooze on a hammock. Decisions, decisions.

Where's a cop when you need one?

Yesterday afternoon, I was riding west along Summerhill Avenue, which forms part of bike route 41 through Rosedale and Moore Park. Traffic there is usually pretty calm and slow-paced, but shoppers and delivery trucks always seem to be jockeying for space in front of the Summerhill Market; so much so that a paid-duty police officer is frequently directing traffic in front of the store.

So I was riding along and could see two car drivers getting ready to pull out of their street parking spaces and directly into my path. One driver had the good sense to wait, but the other didn’t and just pulled into the traffic lane directly in front of me. I’d been anticipating the boneheaded move, so I was already in position to avoid the car if necessary, but it’s still pretty annoying to be either unseen or ignored in broad daylight. To cap the annoyance, after the driver cut me off and then slowed down in front of me, he held his hand up to thank me for letting him in. I started swearing at him under my breath. “Don’t wave at me, jerk. I didn’t let you in, I just avoided being hit. There’s a difference you know.”

And then for the first time ever in my many years of riding in the city, something almost perfect happened: the paid-duty officer at the Summerhill Market flagged the driver down and gave him a lecture. I couldn’t hear the driver’s protestations from my spot behind the car, but the officer’s half of the conversation went something like this:

You know you almost hit that cyclist, right?


It’s not his fault. He’s just riding along the street.


It’s on you to look for traffic before you pull out of your parking spot. It’s dangerous.


You have to be more careful. You could kill someone if you don’t look.

The officer eventually waved the driver on and I thanked him as I rode past, feeling quite a bit better than I had 30 seconds earlier. Overall, not a bad start to my ride.

What would have made the moment perfect instead of merely almost perfect? If the officer had pulled out a ticket book and given the driver a summons under the Highway Traffic Act, I would have had time to pull out my camera and take pictures. Oh well. It still made my day to have someone other than me lecture a driver for cutting me off.

Locomotive 1, Cruiser 0

There's just something about police and parking

We all know that just like many other drivers, some police officers regularly park in bike lanes and other no-stopping zones. But the picture and an almost throwaway aside in this story from the Star illustrate that some officers don’t just have a rather liberal interpretation of the proper use of bike lanes, but they also seem a little confused about who has the right of way on those little ribbons of steel that crisscross the city. Surely even the most hubristic officer should realize that parking in the train lane is a losing proposition.

Also, top marks to the Star for using the fine phrase “stuck in the wigwags.” Although the term “wigwag” (yes, I had to look it up) is not technically applicable to the drop-down barrier that the cruiser is stuck in, I’m still filing it away at the very top of my “gotta-say-it-myself-someday” notebook.

Preliminary Doors Open 2007 sites online

The city has released the preliminary list of buildings taking part in Doors Open Toronto this year. Here are the locations I’m going to try to visit this year:

  • The Distillery District has a number of normally off-limits sites open, including the Malt Kilns and the Scale Tank Loft.
  • The Lambton House is on one of my regular cycling routes, but I’ve never been inside.
  • The Queen’s Wharf Lighthouse on Fleet Street first joined Doors Open last year, but I was unable to make the trek that weekend. I won’t miss it this year.
  • Canada Post’s South Central processing plant must be one of the more fascinating operating industrial sites to take part in Doors Open.
  • Although Todmorden Mills is just down the street from my house and I’ve been there more times than I can count, they sometimes open up the old Don train station for Doors Open.
  • The Toronto Police Marine Unit has a wonderful old wooden patrol boat in the boathouse that I’d love to admire from aclose.
  • The TTC has two intriguing sites open: Lower Bay and the Harvey Shops on Bathurst.

Two more posts will follow in a few days: one recommending sites I’ve visited on previous Doors Open weekends, and another lamenting buildings that are not taking part this year.

Operation Safe Journey

The Toronto Police issued a press release (thanks to Martino for the link) on Sunday announcing the start of Operation Safe Journey, a week-long blitz against drivers and cyclists who endanger pedestrians. Bravo! But tellingly, the press release also promises to target “pedestrians who fail to obey traffic signals or who fail to yield to traffic.”

If you believe the CityNews take on the crackdown, it’s aimed almost entirely at pedestrians. City’s story typifies the blame-the-victim mentality of the media and the police, stating, “Many of those killed last year were guilty of crossing the street in the worst possible place and at the worst possible time.” Mmm, smells like Rob Ford. Yes, it’s your own damn fault if you venture into the city without a car. You’ve got some nerve, not waiting (and waiting, and waiting…) your turn to cross the street. Don’t you know that streets are for cars?

So as a public service to the Toronto Police, I’m rewriting their press release. This is how it should read:

In 2006, there were 57 traffic fatalities in the City of Toronto. Thirty were pedestrians, with one?third of them over 65. In contrast, 38 people were killed by guns in the City of Toronto in the same period.

These were tragedies that need not have occurred.

As members of our society and as road users, whether as pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists, we share a responsibility for preventing these tragedies.

Motorists must exercise more caution when manoeuvring their 2-tonne vehicles around the city, and remember that pedestrians don’t have crumple zones, air bags, or seat belts to keep them safe in collisions. In fact, in your haste to be the last car turning through the advanced green a full 5 seconds after it stopped flashing, or make that right turn without looking where you’re going, or zip past the bus stopped in front of the crosswalk, you’re putting pedestrians’ lives at risk. Oh, and your premiums may go up a little after your insurance company pays a few thousand dollars to scrape a dead pedestrian out of your grill.

Being in a car does not automatically give you the right of way. Shaving a few seconds off your mad cross-town dash isn’t a good enough reason to endanger someone’s life. Just because a pedestrian isn’t in a car doesn’t mean that she isn’t in as much of a rush as you are to get to where she’s going.

Pedestrians should remember that many motorists don’t see you unless you’re inside a shiny metal box on four wheels. Many of those that do see you consider you to be a nuisance, serving no purpose but to delay them on their appointed rounds. The motorists who do treat you with the respect you deserve risk being rear-ended by all of the other motorists. Please look both ways before you cross the street.

On Monday, March 19, 2007, the Toronto Police Service will embark on a one?week education and enforcement campaign entitled “Operation Safe Journey”. This campaign will target motorists whose aggressive driving habits endanger the safety of pedestrians.

And next week, we’ll be running Operation Safe Shootings, a blitz targetting people who get shot. It’s their own fault, you know.

Of course, what they really wanted to write probably looks something more like this:

Hey Pedestrians! Get outta the way!

Note for the argumentative: I am a motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian, though not necessarily in that order. Of the three groups, motorists have the largest burden to act responsibly because of the amount of damage they can inflict on the other two groups when something goes wrong. Yes, there are irresponsible cyclists, and irresponsible pedestrians, but let’s be honest about where the responsibility lies.