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What to do if you’re pulled over by police while cycling

The Biking Lawyer runs down your rights

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What do you do if you are pulled over by police while riding your bike? With the many ticketing blitzes in places like High Park, a Toronto lawyer created a guide for riders. David Shellnutt, a.k.a. The Biking Lawyer says that it’s important to know what you do and don’t have to do.

Can police stop you on your bike?

Yes, Shellnutt says. If authorities believe that you have violated the Highway Traffic Act (HTA), they can. Things like not having a bell, not stopping or riding on the sidewalk can result in being pulled over.

Do I have to provide ID to Police?

No, he says. But there’s something to remember. “You must stop and identify yourself to police but providing a driver’s licence (or other ID) is not required when you are on your bike,” Shellnutt says. Instead, he advises you to simply give them your name and address, truthfully, pursuant to section 218(3) of the HTA.

If you fail to do that, it could result in arrest and/or stiffer penalties, he adds. There have been times that his firm has seen cyclists who provide their drivers license and get demerit point tickets, “and while flimsy at best, fighting these takes time and money.”

The difference between being detained and arrested

Once you’ve identified yourself, simple ask the office if you are free to go, he says. “If you are being detained for the purposes of issuing an HTA ticket, remain calm and silent,” the lawyer advises. “Do not debate the officer(s) or try to justify your choice of safety over an antiquated law, they don’t care.”
Then, take your ticket and ask if you are free to go. Shellnutt says that if you are arrested, ask to speak to a lawyer and say nothing more until you do.

Help other cyclists by being a witness

When this happens, Shellnutt says it’s key to bear witness.
“Always request bystanders to observe the interaction,” he says. Furthermore, protect other cyclists. “If you see a person being ticketed, witness it. Interacting with police can be incredibly intimidating for some, get off your bike and from a safe distance keep calm, observe, and support your fellow cyclist,” he adds.

If you have a cell phone, Shellnutt says that a criminal lawyer friend has confirmed that filming police from a safe distance that doesn’t obstruct police activity is not an offence. “It could form important evidence of the interaction.”

Can police search me?

Another important bit of advice to know as a cyclist is whether or not police can search you.“Unless you’re under arrest, they cannot search you,” Shellnutt says. “If you are arrested do not resist the search but state you do not consent and ask to speak to a lawyer. They may not arrest you and search you anyways. Do not resist. Say you don’t consent and report it to a lawyer after you’re safely away.”

What to do when it’s over

Once the police interaction is over, he says to leave the scene and get safe. “Contact a loved one or friend to check in and advise them what happened. If necessary, contact a lawyer.”

To learn more about your rights, check out TheBikingLawyer.ca