‘We don’t want to have those cyclists move out into traffic’: Parking enforcement supervisor

Aaron Griese, one of Hamilton's bylaw enforcement officers

Aaron Griese is one of the city’s bylaw enforcement officers tasked with paying special attention to places where vehicles are parked or stopped blocking bike lanes. (Greaser1313/Twitter)

Bicycle-riding parking enforcement officer Aaron Griese hit Hamilton streets on two wheels earlier this month, looking for places where bike lanes are blocked by parked vehicles, and ticketing the offenders.

As more and more bike lanes have been painted in in Hamilton over the last several years, some people driving cars, trucks, taxis and delivery vans haven’t quite caught on to the fact that the lane is a protected space and an illegal – and unsafe – place to park or stop.

“We’d be remiss if we weren’t out there trying to look for violations,” said Michael Newell, the city’s supervisor for parking enforcement and school safety.

“We don’t want to have those cyclists move out into traffic.”

For years, cyclists have complained and sent tweets to the city’s main account, asking for something to be done.

This summer, cycling advocate Tom Flood and his six-year-old son Oliver popularized the hashtag “#BlockedInHamOnt” to highlight places where a parked vehicle forced cyclists to veer out into live vehicle traffic.

A cyclist is unable to move forward due to a Canada Post delivery truck blocking the bike lane.

Oliver Flood gets blocked in by a Canada Post delivery truck on a city bike lane. (Tom Flood)

The attention the campaign brought to the issue inspired the new focus for bylaw officers like Griese, said city spokeswoman Ann Lamanes.

The city has been getting complaints and comments about the issue for a while, but Griese’s keenness to ride a bike for his enforcement duties gave the city a way to respond, she said.

“We now are in a position where we have an officer who can mobilize quickly to a situation and also monitor the hashtag in real time,” she said.

Name and shame

Griese and four other bike-riding bylaw officers are tasked with a special focus on ticketing anyone obstructing the bike lanes. And they also respond to other violations, not just bike lanes.

Griese got started with a bang, seeming to pattern some name-and-shame tweets after his Toronto counterpart, Kyle Ashley, who had some success with Canada Post after calling the postal service’s delivery trucks out on Twitter.

But the public education side of the effort is muted for now. The city of Hamilton has asked Griese to stop tweeting for a while until he can receive social media training from the city.

He’s still monitoring the #BlockedInHamOnt hashtag, city spokeswoman Ann Lamanes said.

Newell said the city hasn’t expressly tracked bike lane obstruction tickets before. They tend to be categorized as no-stopping or no-parking tickets, ranging from $26 to $60 a pop. But now, he said, officers are being asked to log them as bike lane for data-gathering purposes.

Flood said the city’s new focus on the lanes seems to satisfy what he was after with the effort – to get enforcement, and to see more awareness of the problem.

“We got what we were looking for,” he said.

But he said he and Oliver will keep tracking the number of blocked lanes they find, in case the problem continues.

Canada Post called out

Beyond monitoring places where people find bike lanes blocked, the public shaming on social media is an integral piece of the enforcement effort in Toronto.

Last month, ​Canada Post announced its vehicles would stop parking in bike lanes while making deliveries or pickups throughout the city of Toronto.

That announcement came after Ashley, Toronto’s most proactive bike lane enforcer, thrust them into the spotlight of his Twitter account.

Canada Post previously told CBC Hamilton that their employees are expected to follow traffic laws in every city when serving customers, which includes no-stopping zones like bike lanes.

“If there is an issue, customers should contact us so that we can investigate and address it,” said Sylvie Lapointe, a spokesperson for Canada Post.

Source: CBC News