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Toronto Taxi Drivers Resort To Victim Blaming 24

Toronto taxi line

Toronto taxi line – photo by Gabriel Perez

Last week a Toronto taxi driver was charged with second degree murder after 28-year-old Ralph Bissonette was killed on a longboard (a surfboard-style skateboard) in what appears to be a result of road rage.

As reported by the Toronto Star:

“What occurred is still under investigation, but surveillance video seized by police shows words being exchanged as cab and longboard wheeled along King St., neither going very fast.

The footage captured Bissonnette travelling in the curb lane, close to the passing lane, making hand gestures at the cabbie, “but not flipping the bird,” a police source said, referring to the middle finger.

Witnesses told police the taxi suddenly veered into Bissonnette’s lane and mounted the curb. At least one witness reported seeing the taxi strike Bissonnette then drive over his lower body, police said.

“Somebody lost his cool,” a police source said.

This morning the Toronto Sun newspaper is stirring the pot in an article entitled “Cabbies gripe about T.O.’s streets”.

In the article the Toronto Sun claims “drivers are sick of pedestrians, cyclists and boarders of all descriptions ignoring even the most basic road rules and putting lives in danger.”

Unfortunately the article doesn’t attribute the quote to any driver in particular, so it’s hard to say if this is a conclusion the newspaper is coming to itself or if drivers actually do believe that their lives are in danger because of pedestrians, cyclists and boarders.

The article also doesn’t mention that cyclists, pedestrians and boarders feel that their lives are in danger because virtually all drivers ignore even the most basic rules of the road (like posted speed limits for example).

No matter who made the claim, it’s preposterous to conclude that pedestrians, cyclists and skateboarders are putting drivers’ lives in danger.

Let’s remember that it was a longboarder who was killed (murdered, allegedly), not the taxi driver. It was the taxi driver who allegedly drove into Bisonnette and drove over his body before he died.

Unless Bisonnette was carrying a loaded weapon on his longboard, it would be extremely difficult to come to the conclusion that he was putting the taxi driver’s life in danger by being on the road.

The Toronto Sun article goes on to quote a taxi driver who further blames the skateboarder for his own death:

“Skateboarders should stay off the streets,” insisted Jerome Salim, a taxi driver in Toronto for seven years.

“It’s just not safe to zig-zag on your skateboard down streets filled with cars, buses, and even bicycles,” added Salim.

Indeed, it’s not safe to use a longboard on the streets if there are madmen taxi drivers who are trying to kill you for the simple reason that they don’t think you belong on the streets.

It is very disturbing that people would be willing to justify or defend a murder even if the victim wasn’t supposed to be on the street in the first place. This would be akin to a cyclist shooting a driver in the head for driving without a proper license plate.

Yet people are willing to defend road rage murders when a car is used as the weapon. Perhaps people feel empathy for the taxi driver because they too have been full of rage while sitting behind the wheel.

I suppose it’s much easier to blame the dead man for his own death instead of trying to understand what went wrong and how we can get to the root cause of the animosity on our streets.

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • Jesse Smith

    Here in Buffalo we are in the middle of a highly publicized trial of a wealthy doctor who hit and killed an 18-year-old woman who was commuting home on a longboard. He was allegedly drunk, speeding, and texting when he hit her, and then he left the scene and went home, claiming he didn’t know he hit a person. His lawyer has tried a whole slew of blame-the-victim tactics.

    For once, public opinion is almost entirely on the side of the victim, but probably only because the case is so easy to sensationalize. Run of the mill hit-and-runs typically fly below the public radar and there’s little outrage.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      That sounds like a slam dunk prosecution. Unfortunately if the driver wasn’t drunk, he would have had a good chance of getting off if he was just being negligent/careless/speeding.

      • Jesse Smith

        I would think so too, although the D.A. may have overreached in pressing manslaughter charges in this case. Reasonable doubt can be a high bar to pass (rightly so, of course).

      • Jesse Smith

        And just to follow up, the driver was acquitted of manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, tampering with evidence, and leaving the scene, and found guilty only of a misdemeanor DWI. Tragic, but not entirely surprising. The best justice money can buy!

        http://www.buffalonews.com/topics/dr-james-corasanti-trial/article879349.ece

  • Jesse Smith

    Here in Buffalo we are in the middle of a highly publicized trial of a wealthy doctor who hit and killed an 18-year-old woman who was commuting home on a longboard. He was allegedly drunk, speeding, and texting when he hit her, and then he left the scene and went home, claiming he didn’t know he hit a person. His lawyer has tried a whole slew of blame-the-victim tactics.

    For once, public opinion is almost entirely on the side of the victim, but probably only because the case is so easy to sensationalize. Run of the mill hit-and-runs typically fly below the public radar and there’s little outrage.

  • Tkeen

    “Perhaps people feel empathy for the taxi driver because they too have been full of rage while sitting behind the wheel.”

    Actually, the opposite is true… if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, you grow to despise everyone else around you.

    Hold your nose if you read the comments after the Sun article online… they trash cabbies and skateboarders both, but cabbies get the worst of it, and the inevitable racist slurs are not long in coming.

  • Tkeen

    “Perhaps people feel empathy for the taxi driver because they too have been full of rage while sitting behind the wheel.”

    Actually, the opposite is true… if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, you grow to despise everyone else around you.

    Hold your nose if you read the comments after the Sun article online… they trash cabbies and skateboarders both, but cabbies get the worst of it, and the inevitable racist slurs are not long in coming.

  • http://www.fullfat.ca Octavian

    “In the article the Toronto Sun claims “drivers are sick of pedestrians, cyclists and boarders of all descriptions ignoring even the most basic road rules and putting lives in danger.””

    To be fair, you’re assuming they mean driver’s lives, even though the quote just says lives. The way I read it, the cabbies are “concerned” that pedestrians, cyclists, and boarders are putting their own lives in danger by daring to think they can share public spaces with cab drivers.

    Personally, I couldn’t agree more; cab drivers are a menace to society. I would feel much safer on the roads if taxis were outlawed. I love that they claim other road users don’t obey the same rules cab drivers break all the time (no signaling, speeding, cutting in front of others, parking illegally, talking on the phone, checking their info system, etc).

    PS the whole “outlawing taxis” thing is a bit tongue in cheek

  • http://www.fullfat.ca/ Octavian

    “In the article the Toronto Sun claims “drivers are sick of pedestrians, cyclists and boarders of all descriptions ignoring even the most basic road rules and putting lives in danger.””

    To be fair, you’re assuming they mean driver’s lives, even though the quote just says lives. The way I read it, the cabbies are “concerned” that pedestrians, cyclists, and boarders are putting their own lives in danger by daring to think they can share public spaces with cab drivers.

    Personally, I couldn’t agree more; cab drivers are a menace to society. I would feel much safer on the roads if taxis were outlawed. I love that they claim other road users don’t obey the same rules cab drivers break all the time (no signaling, speeding, cutting in front of others, parking illegally, talking on the phone, checking their info system, etc).

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    That sounds like a slam dunk prosecution. Unfortunately if the driver wasn’t drunk, he would have had a good chance of getting off if he was just being negligent/careless/speeding.

  • Jesse Smith

    I would think so too, although the D.A. may have overreached in pressing manslaughter charges in this case. Reasonable doubt can be a high bar to pass (rightly so, of course).

  • http://bicyclestc.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    This makes me further appreciate the taxi drivers in St. Catharines. No matter which cab company I find all the drivers extremely respectful (to me at least).

  • http://bicyclestc.tumblr.com/ Ryan

    This makes me further appreciate the taxi drivers in St. Catharines. No matter which cab company I find all the drivers extremely respectful (to me at least).

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/U2BFNK5E5JP3L73AWOQSD6HWYE ipin

    I found your post is really helpful for me.. thanks.. keep posting good articles..

  • Sheenagh

    Just finished reading a blog by the Incidental Cyclist along similar lines… she was talking about a slew of cyclist injuries in the course of one morning in Ottawa. Frankly, I find the cabbies here in Toronto NUTS… I’ve had MANY issues with them as a cyclist, pedestrian and even DRIVER (including one nutbar one who harassed me for four city blocks, nudging my bumper, speeding and then getting in front and slamming on his brakes, etc because I refused to allow him to push in front of me!). What a joke that they are complaining about people not following the rules – they are the WORST offenders! they are ALWAYS parked in cycling lanes and will change lanes with no warning, swerve and generally are a hazard.

  • Sheenagh

    Just finished reading a blog by the Incidental Cyclist along similar lines… she was talking about a slew of cyclist injuries in the course of one morning in Ottawa. Frankly, I find the cabbies here in Toronto NUTS… I’ve had MANY issues with them as a cyclist, pedestrian and even DRIVER (including one nutbar one who harassed me for four city blocks, nudging my bumper, speeding and then getting in front and slamming on his brakes, etc because I refused to allow him to push in front of me!). What a joke that they are complaining about people not following the rules – they are the WORST offenders! they are ALWAYS parked in cycling lanes and will change lanes with no warning, swerve and generally are a hazard.

  • Ines Alveano

    If two drunk people start to fight, but one has a sharp pencil as a potential weapon, and the other carries a gun… Which one of them is in more risk of dying in the hands of the other? Cars should be consider weapons, as they kill lots of people every day around the world: 2 people DIE from car accident every minute.

  • Ines Alveano

    If two drunk people start to fight, but one has a sharp pencil as a potential weapon, and the other carries a gun… Which one of them is in more risk of dying in the hands of the other? Cars should be consider weapons, as they kill lots of people every day around the world: 2 people DIE from car accident every minute.

  • KayakingPaddles

    I agree with you, cars should see themselves as a more destructive means, especially in road rage murders. Not to mention cab drivers who are hogging the streets and always just keeping an eye on getting all the passengers. How defenseless would a boy in a long board be to a speeding cabbie?

  • KayakingPaddles

    I agree with you, cars should see themselves as a more destructive means, especially in road rage murders. Not to mention cab drivers who are hogging the streets and always just keeping an eye on getting all the passengers. How defenseless would a boy in a long board be to a speeding cabbie?

  • Jesse Smith

    And just to follow up, the driver was acquitted of manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, tampering with evidence, and leaving the scene, and found guilty only of a misdemeanor DWI. Tragic, but not entirely surprising. The best justice money can buy!

    http://www.buffalonews.com/topics/dr-james-corasanti-trial/article879349.ece

  • Paul

    I understand that people blame cabbies for driving erratically. Because of some of them out there do. However lets not generalize. We should blame the city of Toronto if we wanted to point fingers. They have issued up to 6000 limousines and taxi licenses, without anticipating the need for taxi stands. Cab drivers have choice to but to drive around since they cannot stand. The police also harass cab drivers on a regular basis. Its not easy driving a cab, your daily costs for operating the cab are $127 dollars a day plus $40 for gas before you collect even a single fare. It is truly unfortunate that a citizen has died, but lets not point fingers at the cab driver. At the end of the day, hes struggling out their with all the racism, abuse, and harassment just so that he can feed his family.

  • Paul

    I understand that people blame cabbies for driving erratically. Because of some of them out there do. However lets not generalize. We should blame the city of Toronto if we wanted to point fingers. They have issued up to 6000 limousines and taxi licenses, without anticipating the need for taxi stands. Cab drivers have choice to but to drive around since they cannot stand. The police also harass cab drivers on a regular basis. Its not easy driving a cab, your daily costs for operating the cab are $127 dollars a day plus $40 for gas before you collect even a single fare. It is truly unfortunate that a citizen has died, but lets not point fingers at the cab driver. At the end of the day, hes struggling out their with all the racism, abuse, and harassment just so that he can feed his family.

  • Paul Martin

    A bus wiped me out, Easigo sorted everything, cash for repairs, a replacement minicab, and a very good compensation deal – I would recommend them to anyone.