Viral video forces Torontonians to confront the realities of road safety.
The collision happens in a matter of seconds. A courier cyclist riding north on Bay Street motions at a taxi driver, and bangs on his window. Then the driver veers right into the cyclist, and knocks him onto the sidewalk, bending his front wheel.
It’s a scene few outside of Toronto would know about had it not been filmed and shared with the world by a famous YouTuber.
Roman Atwood, an Ohio-based YouTube star known best for his prank videos and vlogs, captured the collision during a trip to Toronto this week. The video later shows Atwood rushing to the aid of the 31-year-old cyclist, who claimed he was okay, while a group of bystanders converges.
So far, the video has amassed more than three million views—and now, Toronto Police are seeking witnesses from the video.
The fact that an internet celebrity put a spotlight on this incident makes all the difference. Thanks to the video, action is being taken to further investigate the collision. The cyclist was working for food delivery service Favour at the time; a spokesperson told CBC the company is in close contact with the cyclist and are “extremely concerned” about the situation. Meanwhile, Toronto Police say that the taxi driver having his licence revoked is “one possible outcome,” should an investigation point to wrongdoing on his part.
The cyclist only sustained minor injuries. But the injustice—that a biker can be knocked flat to the ground by a motorist in a city full of regular cyclists—cuts deep. Toronto bike enthusiasts have long lobbied for safer roads, and those calls for action can often get lost in a cacophony of voices, between activists, politicians, and the general public. But seeing a man rammed onto a sidewalk by a motorist has a lasting effect—it’s harder to rationalize the need for safer streets, and the need to protect cyclists, when faced with the implications directly.
It’s not the first time YouTubers have used their platform to raise their concerns about road safety. In 2011, Casey Neistat filmed himself riding into obstructions in New York City bike lanes after he was ticketed for riding outside of them to avoid them. The video has more than 17 million views, and sent a strong message to the New York Police Department: motorists who clog up bike lanes should be ticketed, not cyclists. Neistat also received a great deal of media acclaim, giving him a platform to further strengthen his argument.
While Atwood’s vlog wasn’t created with the sole purpose of championing cyclists’ causes, his deliberate inclusion of this incident in Toronto has had the same effect as Neistat’s short film: across the city, people are talking about road safety and the relationship between cyclists and motorists in a way we ought to be.
Shortly after the collision, Atwood met up with his friends and recounted the scene. “It was just crazy that I happened to film that,” Atwood says. We should be thankful that he did.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that the incident in question was not, in fact, an accident, but a collision. Torontoist regrets the error.