Tomislav Svobod, seated, occupying the Jarvis bike lane on November 13.
When Tomislav Svoboda goes to court next Thursday, he's unlikely to show any remorse for the charges he's facing.
The Toronto physician was arrested November 13 for blocking the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes, the final dramatic act in a sixteen-month battle over the cycle paths. After spending more than seven hours in custody, he was charged with mischief and obstructing a peace officer.
By the time Svoboda made his stand, it was too late for the Jarvis lanes - their fate had already been sealed by a council vote in October. And while getting arrested for a lost cause may seem extreme to some, he doesn't see it that way.
"What we were doing as a city was extreme," he explains. "In this day and age when we have catastrophic climate change happening... and world class cities are building dozens of kilometres of bike lanes every year, to be removing a bike lane seems shocking."
The arrest was his first, but Svoboda is no stranger to living according to his ethical principles. Aside from working at the Seaton House men's shelter and as a research scientist at St. Michael's Hospital, for the past several years he and the environmentally-conscious housemates he shares a St. George Street co-op with have been trying to rid their lives of plastic products.
He's also on a "carbon strike" to reduce his personal emissions footprint, and claims he hasn't ridden in a car or airplane for six years. (This must not include his recent ride in the back of a Toronto Police Service's cruiser following his arrest.)
The Jarvis issue inflamed both his passion for environmental causes and his doctor's concern for public safety. "They'll be undoubtedly an increase in collisions on that street" now that the lanes are gone, he says.
Since his arrest, Svoboda has received an outpouring of support from friends, colleagues, and his employers. His case caught the attention of celebrated social justice lawyer Peter Rosenthal, who agreed to take his case pro bono.
"I think what he did deserves support," says Rosenthal. The pair is planning to hold a press conference outside the College St. courthouse on Wednesday morning, the day before Svoboda's hearing.
The two charges Svoboda is facing carry a maximum penalty of a few years in jail, but Rosenthal says most people get off with a small fine. Rosenthal is negotiating with the Crown to allow Svoboda to enter a court-sanctioned direct accountability program, however, which would allow him to avoid a criminal record.
If the prosecutor agrees, Svoboda will be found neither guilty nor not guilty, and instead will be subject to 50 hours of community service.
Svoboda sees that as a fair way to take responsibility for his protest, which he acknowledges may have inconvenienced the city and some residents.
"I think that the protesting that we did, that I was engaged in, was the right thing to do. But it has impacts," he says, "and I'm taking responsibility for the impact that my action may have had."
As part of the negotiation with the Crown, Svoboda will have a chance to suggest what kind of community service he'd like to carry out.
His choice? Volunteering to do cycling advocacy. But in a legal way this time, he says.