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Judge Punishes Man for Blocking Bike Lane Removal By Allowing Him to Volunteer With Cycle Toronto

Tomislav Svoboda won't face further consequences if he completes 50 community service hours in the next two months.

Dr. Tomislav Svoboda (he's the one in the black blazer) poses with family and friends at the College Park provinclal court yesterday.

When Dr. Tomislav Svoboda used his body to block the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes last November, he knew his act of civil disobedience would result in criminal charges. Yesterday afternoon, a judge agreed to drop those charges—namely, mischief and obstructing a peace officer—if Svoboda completes 50 hours of community service and writes a letter explaining his actions to the court within two months. Appropriately, Svoboda has chosen to do his community service hours with Cycle Toronto, a local bike advocacy group.

The agreement, formally known as “direct accountability,” means that for the next two years, the Toronto physician will be on record as having gone through a court diversion program. As long as he stays out of trouble during that time, he’ll walk away with no further record.

About two dozen of Svoboda’s supporters, including family, friends, and cycling advocates, showed up. They were too numerous to fit into the modest courtroom. To the astonishment of the crowd, the judge exchanged barely two sentences with Svoboda’s lawyer, Peter Rosenthal, before the deal was reached. His bewildered entourage shuffled loudly out of the courtroom, as court security officers scolded them.

In a brief statement released yesterday, Svoboda remarked that although his decision to block the lane was an easy one for him, it wasn’t entirely comfortable. “It was also a difficult feeling to be at odds with the law even in an unjust system and feeling completely justified in action,” he said. He acknowledged his allies, many of them unknown to him before his ordeal, “who showered me with love and support.”

Health care professionals and active transportation advocates have seized on Svoboda’s arrest to condemn the removal of the Jarvis lanes and call on city council to speed up the implementation of bike thoroughfares across the city.

Jared Kolb, Cycle Toronto’s director, told us in an e-mail that he’s excited that Tomislav has chosen to serve out his sentence with the organization. “We plan to explore some exciting new directions for the organization,” said Kolb.

Photo by Desmond Cole/Torontoist.

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