“When I went to police college for social media training, they told me to find your voice, find your community and be part of it. And I thought what better way to bring light to the issue, jumping into the conversation and helping out a community, and bringing the Police service forward.” And that is exactly what Kyle Ashley @TPS_parking on Twitter did.
Imagine if there was a Toronto Parking Enforcement Officer patrolling on a bicycle that truly understood what it is like for pedestrians and cyclists to dart around vehicles parked in pedestrian crossings and bike lanes. Someone that understood that getting around by bike was the right thing to do, and was media savvy enough to know the power of posting the transgressors on Twitter to educate others how to deport themselves when near the most vulnerable users of the transportation network. And Kyle has a YouTube video to show what he does.
In a City like Toronto that is pretty conservative and deeply in the throes of motordom, Kyle Ashley’s outspoken and passionate way of getting the job done obviously irked some folks. As reported to the Toronto Star Ashley has been told his Twitter account is suspended “while investigating the “appropriateness” of some of his tweets amid “numerous” complaints from people they won’t name.” You can’t make this stuff up.
“Ashley said two of his managers arrived at his home Friday, while he was off sick, and “lambasted me regarding my Twitter performance, in front of my spouse.” He said he deactivated his popular @TPS_ParkingPal account when they demanded he turn control of it over to them.”
“Ashley, a vocal advocate for cyclist and pedestrian safety, said: “You can silence my Twitter account but you can’t silence me, the person. I will continue to work with Friends and Families for Safe Streets and other organizations but, as for me on Twitter and social media, that’s up to Toronto police.”
During the day Kyle Ashley tickets vehicles in bike lanes and often “shames” the offenders while handing out ticket fines of $150.00. While he is not suspended and plans to go back to work on Monday, there will be no more tweets from TPS_parking. In fairness, Mr. Ashley has also made some comments about a Toronto member of provincial parliament that was introducing a distracted walking piece of legislation to stop the supposed road violence occurring from pedestrian distraction. Mr. Ashley had tweeted “Let’s continue to victim blame. Because walking across the street, your 160 lb body at 3 km/h can do some SERIOUS damage. This is dribble.”
How refreshing, and how wonderful for Toronto to have a cycling and pedestrian advocate in their parking enforcement fleet. Reinstate Mr. Ashley’s Twitter account and give him the keys to the city. This guy is clearly putting road violence on the shoulders of the true perpetrators-the motorists. It’s a message that the City of Toronto needs to advocate, and it will encourage more walking and cycling through education and through championing active transportation.