By-law officers were out in full force in downtown Toronto Tuesday making sure pedestrians stayed on the ‘right side’ of the law as temperatures dropped to dangerous lows. Wind chills close to -30 Celsius meant many Torontonians who took to the streets to get around town also had piping hot coffees or hot chocolates in their hands to fend off the bitter cold.
A little-known city by-law requires pedestrians to hold their hot beverages in their right hand when temperatures dip below -20 Celsius in order to prevent accidental burns should pedestrians passing to the right bump into each other.
“This by-law has been on the books since 1964 when Tim Horton’s first opened up in Hamilton and take-out coffee beverages exploded,” said city by-law enforcement officer Frank Doublecream. “More and more people walking in the freezing cold were having pedestrian-related accidents with their beverages. The city stepped in and created this law. They thought it was better to make a law than to call in the army for help.”
According to archived Toronto Star stories from the day, University of Toronto student George ‘Lefty’ Cruller was the first person charged with the by-law infraction in February 1964. Cruller’s left-handed beverage incident occurred as he was leaving a Young Liberals meeting near Bloor and St. George streets on campus with his fiancee Honey. According to reports, ‘Lefty’ Cruller spilled his Double-Double on the jacket of a passing pedestrian causing burns and fabric damage.
According to police reports, charges against ‘Lefty’ were dismissed in court when it was revealed his nickname was not a result of his political ties but because he didn’t have a right arm.
The law, however, has remained all these years.
“It’s really a Canadian thing, eh,” said Doublecream. “Montreal has a similar law for cigarette smokers.”