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May 2024 Sydenham Rd Incident

An open letter to the Hamilton Police Service (HPS), city councilors of Hamilton, and residents of the City of Hamilton and surrounding area,

Cycle Hamilton is a non-profit organization dedicated to the vision of making Hamilton the best place to get around by bike. We work with the City to collect data such as pedal-poll counts, feedback from community members for advocacy work, and we organize group rides to keep our community connected and encourage safe cycling habits.

On May 22, 2024 a driver in a pickup truck traveling downhill on Sydenham Rd in Dundas crossed a double-solid line into an oncoming traffic lane to overtake a cyclist. The cyclist has stated that at this time they were traveling at the speed limit, which means that the driver of the pickup truck needed to exceed the speed limit to overtake. While speeding to overtake, the driver moved to the left side of the road into an oncoming traffic lane, and then veered back to the right lane and subsequently clipped the cyclist with the trailer he was towing, causing the cyclist to sustain life-changing injuries including a fractured pelvis. The driver did not initially stop at the scene and was followed by one of the other cyclists in the group to a stop sign down the road. The driver was then made to stay there to wait for police. 

Since the incident, reports from the Hamilton community have surfaced with mounting evidence that this driver has a history of intentionally harassing cyclists. This includes a now-deleted video posted by a person with the same name as the driver, showing aggressive behavior of the person behind the camera including running stop signs & red lights, stalking cyclists, and yelling at them.

We, the board members of Cycle Hamilton, stand in solidarity with the victims of these crimes and all vulnerable road users in our city who increasingly face daily harassment from drivers, who are often uneducated to an unreasonable degree about the rules of our roads. No one deserves to be verbally harassed, let alone struck by a vehicle, simply because the driver doesn’t understand that our laws require cyclists to ride on the road and allow the cyclist to occupy an entire lane.

On June 19, 2024 the HPS issued an improper passing charge to the driver of the pickup truck. This charge typically carries a penalty of an $85 to $150 fine. 

A fractured pelvis is an extremely serious injury with a long recovery time and potentially life-long effects. Despite this, the driver was charged with a minor traffic infraction, when charges such as careless driving and aggravated assault would be much more appropriate. We are extremely concerned that an egregious crime was committed against a vulnerable road user, and the response from the HPS appears to be completely inappropriate.

Canada is a high-trust society where we expect people to follow the rules without much enforcement; the HPS operates under this assumption. When serious crimes like this are committed without serious consequences, it damages the trust community members have in our systems and each other. As our belief in our high-trust environment continues to evaporate with each incident like this, the ability of the HPS to function as it was designed is undermined more and more. 

This appears to be the weakest effort possible from the HPS during a time when their public support seems to be at an all-time low, despite their budget being at an all-time high. It appears that there will be no further action or charges from the HPS, which means there is still a dangerous vigilante actively targeting cyclists. 

Cyclists have told us they do not feel safe. We don’t know how to respond.

We, the board, demand that the woefully insufficient charges laid against the driver be amended. We also demand an internal investigation on the handling of this case followed by a public release of these findings, as too many questions remain. How is it possible that this incident did not result in a charge of careless driving?

Sincerely, 

Tim Carr
Rebecca Murray
Abbie Little
Paul B, co-chair
Mark Anderson, co-chair
Chris Ritsma
Cara Sanelli
Matthieu Payette

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