Thursday, September 03, 2009

Darcy Allan Sheppard (Al)

Last night, I joined the memorial ride for Darcy Allan Sheppard, along with about 1000 other cyclists. We headed east on Bloor, rode south on Yonge to Queen Street and then headed up University Avenue. Lots of Police on bikes joined us and blocked traffic to permit the cyclists to make their way. Generally, the cars and crowd seemed tolerant, but I heard a few derisive comments from the sidelines.

In case you have no idea what happened, a couple of nights ago, Michael Bryant, the former Attorney General of Ontario, rammed into Al's bike. Al confronted the driver from the passenger side, then went round to the driver side of the car. Bryant decided to flee, so Al grabbed the car door and hung on, clearly an unwise decision. The fact that he had allegedly been drinking did not help. The amazing thing is what happened next, something that has been caught by surveillance video and witnessed by many people.

Bryant speed away at high speed on the wrong side of the street, later mounting the sidewalk in an attempt to dislodge Al from his car. He drove into mailboxes and poles before Al was finally shaken loose. In the end, his rear wheels drove over the cyclist, killing him. Al was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

It is difficult to defend the actions of an enraged cyclist who grabs onto a car, but I have to think that if I were in that situation, I would have stopped my car. What kind of a maniac makes the reckless decision to scrape the guy from his car? What was his lawyer girlfriend sitting in the passenger seat thinking about this?

Bryant was touted by some as being a future Premier of the province. This is clearly never going to happen, and I have to think that he is cursing himself for succumbing to a fit road rage. At the memorial, someone suggested that he is likely to only get 2 years. That's not enough.

As many of you know, I cycle year round in Toronto and I have had my share of run-ins with motorists. The two groups tend to hate each other, and I blame that on the lousy cycling infrastructure in this city (this view was reinforced by my recent trip to Amsterdam, which is a cycling paradise by comparison). I also blame it on distracted drivers who are always in a hurry.

Yes, there are lots of idiotic cyclists. This morning, for example, I stopped at a red light and watched as 10 cyclists passed me and proceeded through the intersection as if the light were green. This pisses me off because drivers take this as evidence that all cyclists are law breakers. I stop all all red lights. But, I may do a rolling stop at stop signs on quiet residential streets when it is safe and clear. I see nothing wrong with that.

Head over to a main street and I see cyclists with headphones, cyclists racing through red lights, cyclists peeling out of sides streets and on to main streets without looking (I often have to ring my bell at them), cyclists riding on the wrong side of the street, cyclists riding without lights, etc. Listen, my fellow cyclists, if you want respect on the roads, you must ride responsibly, even if it means waiting out 20 seconds at a traffic light when there are no cars coming the other way. To the drivers out there, please share the road. To the city, please invest in more cycling lanes and clear them in winter.


angela said...

wow, what a crazy story.

this morning as i was about to cross the street, this cyclist ran the red light and just missed crashing into a mass of morning-rush hour pedestrians. i thought, are cyclists exempt from traffic laws?

in nyc, cyclists seem to have this attitude that because they are being environmentally correct, that they are superior somehow. as a result, motorists and pedestrians often hate cyclists. it seems, at least in this city, they are constantly running red lights, going against traffic, and veering at top speed around corners - making annoyed high-pitched whistling noises at us pedestrians as though we are the ones in the way.

i for one got hit by a delivery guy going against traffic as i crossed on *my* green light (luckily he was going slowly enough to stop just as his basket hit my hand), and he had the audacity to shake his at me as though i had done something wrong.

you're right that these law breakers are giving cyclists a bad name, but what you described is really tragic.

Deodand said...

Edmonton has almost no cycling infrastructure and cyclists are killed regularly. It's everyone's fault, drivers and cyclists. I vowed to never ride in this city - not even in full body armour.

I saw a guy with no helmet riding and texting the other day!

k said...

I think the sad thing in this situation is that it's a case of two wrongs so painfully, obviously not making a right.

What's been troubling me is the deification of the cyclist by the cycling community -- perhaps martyrdom for the cause is a better way to put it?

The evident war between drivers and cyclists (fuelled on both sides by the idiots that exist in both camps, I fully believe that) isn't going to be resolved by doing that. Both individuals involved bear some responsibility for what happened -- though yes, that the cyclist ended up dead is horrendous.

I've been both -- driver and cyclist. And I try, to the best of my ability, to behave responsibly in both situations, watching out for who else is on the road (drivers, cyclists, pedestrians). I'm just as appalled by some of the drivers out there as by some of the cyclists.

But pitting "us" against "them" never results in reasonable solutions, just a continuation of the war.

tshsmom said...

What a tragic story that NEVER should have ended that way!

Welcome back, you were missed!

tweetey30 said...

I havent been on a bike since Kora was smaller. I want to say baby but that isnt right. Just smaller. I mean like 18 months old..I had one of those trailers. Sad story. I am glad you had a memorial for him by riding the bikes.. I hope they get the guy and slam him with everything they can..

Anonymous said...

New surveillance footage: Michael Bryant's recklessness enraged cyclist Sheppard


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