1 of 6
2 of 6
3 of 6
4 of 6
5 of 6
6 of 6
Tomislav Svoboda, a Toronto physician and cycling advocate, was arrested on Jarvis Street, near Shuter at 11:03 am this morning, following a sit-in protesting the scheduled removal of the Jarvis bike lanes.
Yesterday evening, Svoboda sent an e-mail to Toronto City Councillors Adam Vaughn and Kristyn Wong-Tam stating that he intended "to sit on the Jarvis St. bike land until either their removal stops or I am arrested." Svoboda said he was protesting on behalf of the Jarvis Emergency Taskforce.
"I was thrilled to hear that the removals were stopped yesterday," Svoboda told us this morning, referring to the handful of cyclists who sat in the lanes to obstruct the planned removals.
"As a family and public health physician, I'm very concerned about the safety, the lack of public consultation and the misuse of taxpayer money," Svoboda explained. "This is the only major North American city that is removing bicycle lanes. There's going to be a net loss of one bicycle lane this year. And that's a national disgrace."
Though Svoboda, and other activists and reporters, initially congregated around Jarvis and Wellesley around 10 am, they quickly headed down Jarvis to Queen, after word-of-mouth reports that the lane-removal truck would be inching north up Jarvis. Minutes later, Svoboda was repositioned in the Jarvis bike lane between Queen and Shuter, his bike at his side.
A few other cyclists and activists, including former courier Wayne Scott, rallied around Svoboda, offering their support. "I've got a five-year old granddaughter and I want her to live in a better city than we live in," said Scott. "Our mayor is hurtling along the Gardiner, reading, giving people the finger when they ask him to put his cell phone down. It's just bizarre. Our mayor is the poster boy for all that hurts mobility in developed urban centres...In Rob Ford's transportation vision, the cars still have fins! It's ridiculous!"
Three bike-mounted Toronto Police officers patrolled the scene, encouraging Svoboda to take his peaceful protest to the sidewalk. "In a roundabout way, you've accomplished a lot today," officer Kevin Cummings told Svoboda. "But at the end of the day, these lanes are getting taken out." Cummings said that in addition to ticket, Svoboda may face criminal charges for public mischief or obstructing a police officer.
After several consultations, Cummings offered Svoboda an ultimatum (see video below): it was either the sidewalk or the back seat of a police cruiser that had arrived on the scene. "It's a lot warmer out here," Cummings said. "Trust me."
Undaunted, Svoboda held the line. He was arrested, handcuffed, and loaded into the police car shortly after 11 am. Asked if he had any "last words," Svoboda said that he was, "Proud of Torontonians for supporting public consultation, safety, and proper use of taxpayer money."
We'll keep you apprised of updates, as they become available.