Death and Advocacy

fistI’ve been involved in community organizing for thirteen years, and I can think of many situations where an unfortunate death became the centre of gravity, around which a movement temporarily solidified and revolved.

Memorials provide a place and time for friends and family to mourn, but they can also serve to highlight a message or cause, giving voice to a marginalised community and creating meaning for an otherwise senseless loss.

My thoughts turn to Carlo Giuliani who was killed while protesting the G8 summit in Genoa, in July 2001.  I helped organise the memorial in Toronto for him, on the day of his death.  I did a live interview on CityTV, surrounded by mourners and candles, trying to explain why so many of us felt moved by his death. After participating in protests in Seattle and Quebec City, many of us felt like ‘it could have been us’.

I remember the death of Kimberly Rogers.  She died a month after Giuliani, alone, in her apartment after being cut-off welfare during the Mike Harris years.  I attended a memorial for her at Queens Park, organized by my friends Magali & Alex.  Many saw her death as further evidence (one year after Walkerton) that the ‘Common Sense Revolution’ was short-sighted and dangerous.

I think of Gustavo Benedetto, who was killed by police in Argentina, during mass protests against the government.  He was unarmed, and his death was caught on video.  I attended a vigil for him, and during the six months I spent in Argentina in 2003, I sadly saw many plaques on the streets for people who had been killed in this manner.

I remember attending a couple of the monthly memorials organized by the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee, bringing attention to all the people who have died homeless on the streets of Toronto.

And of course, I think of the many, many memorials I have attended in Toronto for fallen cyclists.  I remember standing in the middle of Queen Street at Gladstone, in 2005, together with hundreds of cyclists mourning the death of Ryan Carriere, who had been run over by a truck one week earlier.  This was one of the many gatherings organised by Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC), who have consistently organised memorials for every cyclist fatality in Toronto over the last decade.  I also remember attending a memorial for Galen Kuellmer who was also run over by a vehicle, at the underpass at Dundas and Dupont.

Each of these gatherings, to varying degrees of effectiveness and appropriateness, contributed to a movement, giving it focus and purpose, and relaying an important message to the greater public.

Obviously, I’m writing this blog post in the context of last week’s tragic death of Darcy Allan Sheppard.  Hundreds of cyclists, who feel their lives are at risk each and every day on our streets, have expressed both anger and sadness about the situation.  Two days after Sheppard’s death, a thousand cyclists gathered on Bloor street for a large peaceful event that allowed people to express their sadness.

I didn’t go to the memorial, as I had a family reunion to attend. But to be honest, I’m not sure if I would have gone if I had been available.  In a way, I felt fortunate to have an excuse not to go, as it saved me from having to make a decision that I found to be both confusing and difficult.  Now, a week later, I feel a need to explain why I was confused.

Many of my friends attended the memorial, and I can understand why.  There is so much frustration and anger inside the minds and bodies of cyclists, because of the conditions we face daily on our streets.  Whenever we hear about a cyclist injury or death, we immediately conjure images of ourselves, or our friends, in the ambulance.

The point I want to make in this blog entry, and I know it could be controversial, is that as a movement we have to be careful to not act on emotion alone.  The stakes are too high.  Many more lives are at risk, and our actions as cyclists will dictate our future successes or failures.  Our current task at hand is to build a city-wide consciousness that cycling is a viable form of transportation that deserves funding, infrastructure and respect.  It’s an uphill battle.  For many people, bicycles are a nuisance, are for children, are for parks, etc.

When Kuellmer was killed on Dupont, it was a stunning reminder for everyone that more bikelanes could save lives.  When Carriere was crushed under the wheels of a truck, it was a perfect example of why the 1998 Coroner’s Report had recommended ‘side guards’ on trucks, to prevent deaths just like his.

But last week’s death is more complicated, and pretending otherwise is a risky move that could trigger the opposite result of what cycling advocates might hope.  In fact, I would argue that continued advocacy for ‘justice’ in this case, could re-enforce undeserved negative stereotypes of cyclists as unreasonable, righteous, and perhaps a little crazy.

I don’t want to take away from the tragic death, and the mourning that it deserves.  I have visited the memorial site, and spent a moment reflecting on his painful death.  But I was there as a neighbour, a Torontonian, a fellow human.  Not a cyclist.  I also made a contribution to the trust fund that has been set-up to pay for his burial and to assist his children.

Without getting into the details, I think it’s fair to say that the altercation between Michael Bryant and Sheppard was complicated, had external factors beyond ‘road rage’, and was not a typical case of a bike-car collision.  In fact, the police have listed the death as a ‘pedestrian-car’ fatality, and I would agree.

It’s possible that Sheppard, already in a bad mood and perhaps intoxicated, exercised incredibly poor judgment and attacked Bryant in a way that made him fear for his life.  In that case, Bryant would have every right to try to drive away.  If Sheppard at that point decided to jump onto the car and hold on, then once again he’s making a choice that put his life at risk – not as a cyclist, but as a person.  Should Bryant then have hit the brake? Maybe.  I’m not sure what I would do if I was driving a convertible and I thought someone hanging on my door was trying to attack me.  Sheppard may even have been the one who grabbed the wheel, turning the car to the left.

It’s also possible that Bryant was drunk (he didn’t take a breathaliser test), was also in a horrible mood, had an earlier argument with his wife, let all his anger out on Sheppard, responding to a mild conflict with crazed aggression.  In which case he should spend a long time in jail.

But the fact is, we don’t know, and there is no point trying to guess.  The truth likely lies somewhere between those two scenarios and it will be the judge’s difficult task to get the facts and make a decision.

As a cyclist, I can relate to people’s anger. But I’d like to reflect on a few points that might help non-cyclists understand where the anger is coming from:

1) Michael Bryant is a politician. I think on some level, this is really fuelling the collective emotion, because in our minds we actually connect each and every cyclist death to politicians.  The lack of action, by all three levels of government, to create safe space for cyclists on our streets is criminal.  Promises are made, Coroner’s Reports make recommendations, Bike Plans are adopted, but very little actually happens.  Toronto’s Bike Plan in particular is crawling at a snail’s pace.  Originally adopted in 2001, and scheduled to be complete by 2011, only a small fraction of the plan has been implemented. Recent road reconstructions on Lansdowne, Roncesvalles and Bloor (near the site of Sheppard’s death) have prioritized cars and pedestrians over cyclists, perpetuating unsafe conditions.  Cyclists are smart. As much as they get mad at drivers, they also know where the blame really lies: City Hall, Queen’s Park and Parliament Hill.  In our minds, our lives are being put at risk, daily, because of ineffective gutless politicians.  So when Michael Bryant ran over a cyclist, the emotional trigger was powerful.  I think for many cyclists, perhaps even subconsciously, the death represented tangible proof of what we’ve felt all along.  Politicians are killing cyclists.  So here, I want to encourage people to try and separate the rage you may have against politicians as a whole, when judging Michael Bryant’s actions.  The situation is complicated enough without being clouded by historical anger directed against his entire profession.

2) It happened on Bloor. Cycling advocates have been pushing for much needed east-west bikelanes on Bloor for years.  Bells on Bloor is an annual community group ride that attracts over one thousand cyclists, calling for bike lanes on Bloor. Take the Tooker is a group that has been running a campaign for bike lanes on Bloor, and proposes that the east-west bike corridor be named after the late cyling advocate (and personal friend) Tooker Gomberg.  With narrow streets, and lots of parking, Bloor can be a very frightening street to ride on, as cyclists have to navigate a very narrow strip between moving cars and opening doors.  Miraculously, there have been no deaths on Bloor in recent years… until last week.  It makes sense that advocates would jump on the chance to link Sheppard’s death to the need for better infrastructure on the street.  But we don’t know if better infrastructure would have made any difference in this case, since we don’t know the details of what actually happened to trigger the conflict.  It’s possible that a bike lane could have prevented the original collision.  But even then, it doesn’t explain the unusual escalation and the ensuing events.

3) Cyclist/Police relations aren’t always warm. There is a long history of cyclists feeling that collisions involving cyclists and drivers aren’t taken seriously by the police.  There are many examples of charges not being laid, proper witness statements not being taken, and of officers assuming the cyclist was at fault, simply for being on the road.  Bicycles are still seen by many as a frivolous waste of space, and this attitude has sadly been verbally expressed by members of the Toronto Police Force.  Relations between cyclists and the police have been improving, but there is still a significant history of cyclists feeling marginalized, and mistreated in the context of a collision.

Another interesting element here that could be fueling the tension, is that charges have been laid only against Bryant, and not against Sheppard.  This may give the false impression that there was only one aggressor in the conflict.  But the one-sided charge may actually only be a result of the fact that Sheppard died, and thus couldn’t be charged with anything.  Based on what we know, it’s quite possible that had Sheppard been injured, and not killed, that he may have been charged with assault, in addition to whatever charges Bryant would have received.  Both would deserve fair trials, and Sheppard may have been found completely innocent.  Sadly, he’ll never have his chance to explain his side of the story.  But the fact that he wasn’t charged shouldn’t let people think that this is as straightforward as it may appear.

I don’t want to be critical of the memorials that have happened or the anger that has been expressed.  In many ways, it’s the natural reaction to a gruesome and tragic death.  The solidarity and emotion that was illustrated by friends and cyclists is a testament to the existence of a community of people who feel threatened and scared for their own safety.  And while the discussion in the media has been often divisive, it has also lead to some good reflections and balanced, thoughtful journalism on an important topic.

So let’s not look backwards.  But I do want to raise a concern about where we go from here, as the trial approaches.  I think at this point, more rallies, protests or demands for justice, in the context of all the information we have, could be counterproductive.  Language like “this is another example of what cyclists face” or “this could have happened to any of us” needs to be challenged.  Do you really think that any of us would have been run down by Michael Bryant on that evening? I have trouble thinking that I would have ended up hanging off his car, as Bryant tried to knock me off.

Personally, I want to fight for people’s right to ride a bike on our streets and not get killed.  It’s not a lot to ask for.  I’m not prepared to fight for people’s right to get into fights, escalate conflict, make risky decisions, create an unsafe situation, and not get hurt.

Focusing on this case, and holding it up as an example of what “we all face on the streets” only distracts attention away from what we actually all face on the streets, and from the cases where cyclists are being run over, by accident, due to poor signage, inadequate road markings, insufficient driver education and a lack of infrastructure.  Those are the cases we need to highlight.  My fear on the streets is about being accidentally knocked over by an opening car door and run over by a truck without sideguards.  I’m not scared of being chased down intentionally by a driver.

If we rally around every incident that involves a cyclist, even when there are other factors that seem to imply that the interaction had little to do with cycling issues, we risk losing credibility and distracting people away from our real cause.

Let’s allow the trial happen, and not pass judgment until it ends.  At that point, let’s respond with an informed reaction that takes into account all the evidence.  Bryant may spend the rest of his life behind bars.  And he also might be found not guilty on either charge.   Based on the facts I’ve heard at that point, I might be content or angered by either outcome.  Either way, I’m unlikely to relate it back to the cycling issues that I’m passionate about.  I’m also unlikely to attend the trial, or organize around it, or comment on it while it’s in progress.

However, if Michael Bryant were charged with being complicit in a government that puts cyclists’ lives at risk through negligence and lack of action, now that’s a trial that I would attend religiously, and I would organize rallies that demand justice.

In the meantime, I want to continue to fight for cyclists’ right to travel safely on our streets without fear.  That means providing safe space for cyclists, and incorporating our needs into every single re-design and road construction project.  I want to work against negative stereotypes that paint cyclists unfairly, and I want to work against the notion that bicycles aren’t a viable form of transportation.

And along the way, I’ll do my best not to let the angry emotions that fill me, dictate my actions.  Let’s all remember what we’re fighting for, and try to make sure that we’re always moving towards a goal.  This week’s outpouring of emotion shows that we have a strong movement of passionate people.  People who are angry and thirsty for change.  If we can focus that energy, we can build the streets we want.

Links:
Join the Toronto Cyclists Union
Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists
Donate to Darcy Allan Sheppard trust fund
Darcy Allan Sheppard Fundraiser  (facebook RSVP)

43 responses to “Death and Advocacy

  1. That was perfect. Thanks.

  2. Poetic ‘Justice’ . . .

    Michael Bryant ending up as Igor Kenk’s cell mate.

  3. Thanks, Dave, for disentangling the issues of providing proper cycling infrastructure, the high profile of the driver, and the adoption of one case where the full details are still being uncovered.

    It’s worth noting that nobody, except for annotations on the video, mentioned the condition of Bloor Street which has been under construction with much narrowed driving space for everyone.

  4. Wow. Amazing article. You’ve put to words a lot of the things I’ve been feeling since all this happened.

  5. Well said, Mez. I have noticed a change on the roads since this tragedy occurred: motorists are being a little more patient with me when I ride.

    I completely agree that the accident is not about cycling, but a negative interaction between a cyclist and a motorist is, indisputably, how this all began.

    It shouldn’t take a bizarre, high profile incident like this to create some goodwill between motorists and cyclists, but that has been my observation since Sheppard’s tragedy. There are a few less motorists and drivers on the streets, and a few more human beings.

    I can’t remember ever feeling that way, and I hope we can all leverage that goodwill and turn it into something more habitual.

  6. Brilliantly put, Mes. Thanks. peace, Clare

  7. Thanks, Mes. Excellent. Clare

  8. Thanks for writing this Mez.

    There was no bike involved in the major altercation and the case has very little to do with the rights of cyclists or the need for pr0per bike lanes etc.

    Andrew

  9. Excellent article mez and i agree with a lot of what you say, especially from your position as a cycling advocate. I feel your need to separate the cycling issues from the other issue, but 3 points that do not sit well with me:

    1) “I’m not scared of being chased down intentionally by a driver.” Sadly this is a reality many cyclist have dealt with… The negative vibe between some drivers and some cyclists some of the time is a disease – and when it is in full swing it is a VERY dangerous issue – an angry person in a car using their car as a weapon is very scary. In my case, the driver did not want to kill me, but he was angered with me and wanted to scare/intimidate me. Another friend was chased down by a car and broke his leg badly and had his bike trashed. Their are lots of stories, all with 2 sides, sure, but a person on a bike is always more vulnerable than a person in a car! This recent unknown altercation is extreme and bizarre and strangely well documented and with lots of witnesses. I have not heard one report of Bryant yelling in fear or for help, with all those people around surely that would make more sense than driving away. Yet we really do not know what happened, and probably never will. But by trying to seperate this from being a cycling issue i feel you are forgetting that one of the things we are combating in this issue is the respect on the road. Respect in planning, respect in etiquette by drivers showing their understanding of our vulnerability, respect for our sustainability etc… I believe that whatever action Darcy Allan Sheppard took on that tragic night was in defense of his vulnerability as a cyclist and in the hope of instilling some respect for bicycles on the road….

    2) Not just is Bryant a politician, he is also a man of privilege. And he clearly has used his privilege to navigate this scenario to his best interests. “It’s also possible that Bryant was drunk (he didn’t take a breathaliser test)” He avoided that test, he avoided the hit and run charges, he hired a company to manage his public image and deal with helping him to spin this story. Immediately after the the incident the reports were sensational and brutally honest, on the scene interviews and people really pointing at Bryant as the mad man. But as the media doctors from the spin company got a hold of the story, suddenly Sheppard was being vilified a s a drunk, and angry man riding away from a romantic quarrel in an dangerous mood. I know better than to believe the media, i know better to think the truth will come out in a trial when one of the parties in the trial is a rich connected politician. But i do know that as cyclists, we need to make sure not to get caught up in some decision of whether we think Sheppard did bad on cyclists by making bad choices, and focus on the fact that some guy in a car drove it in a dangerous way and some guy got killed… AND what makes me the most mad is the way that a person of privilege and connections can manipulate the media, the courts, the police and the public.

    3) We are being distracted by so much of the main point here … any point Bryant could have hit the brakes. got out of his car and called the police, asked for help from the construction workers. Instead so much of the issue people seem to be focused on it the order of events and who might have escalated things etc. Was Bryant hurt, had he been assaulted? Sure looked ok in the news. Yet he claims to be the victim. While maybe if we were in that situation things might have gone differently, you never know how you might react when your life is on the line. I really want to know what happened, and i really want to make sure if Michael Bryant is really guilty he pays for what he has done, including the effort his PR firm has made to defame Darcy Allan Sheppard!

    Thanks for raising these issues and helping me to flush out these thought that have been stewing in my head since this episode.

  10. Thanks Mez. I was going to say “you put into words so much of what I was thinking,” but then others put that into words before me too! :-)

  11. Pingback: Julien Lamarche » Dave Meslin shares thoughts about cyclist’s death in Toronto

  12. Mez – i’m with zuma blue on this one. The obvious media smear campaign that followed the event was disgraceful, and made me feel as though i was living in a Communist country where media propaganda reigned (that, or in the USA with Fox News on the megaphone).

    As soon as i heard the news, i immediately understood what would possess a cyclist – drunk, gamling-addicted, debt-laden, common-law or otherwise – to grab on to a car to prevent it from leaving the scene of an accident, after the driver had crushed his bike tire. Imagine if drivers faced hit-and-run collisions with the frequency that cyclists do: your car’s wheel is obliterated, and you can’t drive your vehicle, and the person responsible predictably speeds away from the scene.

    It doesn’t matter if Sheppard was drunk. Or angry. Or addicted to gambling. Or involved in a dog-fighting ring. Or a pedophile. Or an opium magnate. Or a comic book super-villain. Or the Antichrist. Or whatever the media wants to dig up and/or fabricate about his character. If a person outside your vehicle grabs on to your vehicle, you DON’T DRIVE YOUR VEHICLE. There are precious few exceptions to this rule, and the second-degree murder of Darcy Allan Sheppard by the untouchable Michael Bryant certainly isn’t one of them.

  13. Fabulous article Mez, nicely balanced. However, the events were only off of the bicycle for seconds before his death. The first interaction between the two was bike/car, before during and after Bryant struck the victim with his vehicle, from a stopped position.

    It was definitely car/bike as the altercation was sparked by a car/bike collision which really can’t be called an accident at this point.

    What makes me uncomfortable is that Bryant could see what he was doing even as he super accelerated the guys body into things that will not move for a body hitting them. He still didn’t stop even though he could see what he was doing to the guy. That’s just creepy.

  14. I do agree it has nothing to do with bikelanes. Some of the advocates being quoted in the stories about this tragedy, it’s just weird that many times the advocate doesn’t make reference to this incident while being interviewed because of it.

    • Hi Hope,
      I’m one of the advocates that was oft interviewed/quoted because of the media attention catalysed by this incident. Given that we did/do not have all the facts, i was in no position last week to comment on this specific case. Is that weird, or reasoned?

      Instead, i answered the questions posed by reporters about the wider, and ongoing, issues that cyclists face daily, and the tensions that most of us would agree are often felt between motorists and cyclists. You can see a piece I was asked to write here – http://www.cbc.ca/news/citizenbytes/2009/09/tension_on_roads_toronto_cycli.html.

      And now for my personal view: Regardless of what words may or may not have been exchanged, there is no justifiable reason for someone to aggressively use their car as a weapon against someone on a bicycle, or on foot, who has their back turned to you. Had i been in Sheppard’s position, I may not have opted to take hold of the car as it tried to flee the scene, but I can certainly understand the urge to try and stop someone who’d just driven into me on purpose, with total disregard for my life or my vehicle, from taking off.

      As per Andrew Cash’s piece in today’s Now Magazine – ” This… isn’t really just about competing modes of transportation. It’s a contest between top-down and bottom-up power, one that, as in the altercation between Sheppard and former provincial attorney general Michael Bryant, sometimes ends in tragedy. ” … ” But what’s really at stake are competing visions of the future of cities and democracy itself.” http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=171194

  15. Sgt. Tim Burrows

    Dave, thanks for letting me know about this blog entry. It is an excellent perspective that you have added to a complex and emotional event.

    Thank you for taking the time to express yourself with these words. The courage you have shown writing this, knowing it may be neither popular nor acceptable, lends credit your leadership.

    I very much look forward to our continued efforts of establishing the strong future of the relations.

    Tim

  16. Thanks for writing this, Mez.

  17. I too feel you have put into words well what I was thinking about this event both Mez and Zumba Blue.

    I have been threatened by cars while on the road on my bicycle (for instance some people don’t like it when you bang on their car to indicate they could have killed you – in fact it makes some of them want to kill you. But I think those people probably had problem to start with).

    The only answer I ever have to the number of examples of bad car driving and deliberate threatening of cyclists by cars is to carry a video camera with me and compile a big long list of grievances. It’s not a fun way to imagine spending a day, but perhaps it is necessary.

    I’d also like to say they are many excellent to just mediocre drivers who never knowingly cause problems for cyclists on the the road. The roads as you say Mez are not well set up – and I don’t think it is clear to a great many drivers that bikes are legitimate transportation vehicles – that are actually helping slow down the destruction of our atmosphere.

    I think some people who drive cars also caught believe that if they can go fast they should. This means they consistently drive fast for short 2 block bursts before coming to a stop light along Bloor. Taxis especially love to sneak into the right lane at stop light so they can zoom ahead of the car in the middle lane. This little lane changing antic wastes everyone’s energy it seems to me, the taxi seldom gets far ahead of the car pack, and the cyclists are always having to avoid the roaring swerving car as we try to keep our wheels rolling forward in a straight line.

    I’ve ranged a bit from the original topic here, but I do strongly agree the roads are not really that safe for cyclists and there is much that could be done at a cultural teaching level and road design level to increase safety levels for all people who use the roads no matter their mode of transportation.

  18. A lot more would get accomplished if more politicians, activists and citizens in general analyzed and discussed issues in the pragmatic, sensible way you do Mez.

  19. Mez,
    Not sure how I feel about what you’ve written. ARC stands up for cyclists and Sheppard was on his bike when he was hit. That much could happen to any one of us. It appears Bryant then tried to leave the scene of this “minor” accident. That much could happen to any of us. Sheppard appears to have gone after Bryant, to effect a citizen’s arrest. That much takes courage beyond what most of us possess, but it’s a principled stand, well tested in law. Bryant’s acts subsequent to this remain to be judged by trial, but the least you can say is the man who he killed was a cyclist. Please don’t try to take that away from him.

  20. And who ordered the fire hydrant repainted?

    http://allderdice.ca/?p=540

  21. Pingback: the ALLDERBLOB » Blog Archive » More than words spilt on Bloor St

  22. I am sorry Mez I disagree with you. This was indeed a collision between a cyclist and a driver. The police can classify it as a pedestrian/automobile accident, but it involved a cuclist. I worry all the time about getting hit from behind. Regardless of what happened before between the two men its quite plain to see what happened. Mr. Bryant was fleeing the scene of a crime. Under the HTA a person has a right to make a citizen’s arrest if in a collision one driver is trying to leave an accident without calling the police. Mr. Sheppard was trying to stop the cowardly Mr. Bryant from fleeing the scene of a crime. Unfortunatly as we know things ended horribly. The only differance between this incident and so many that happen every day is that the driver had a high profile and there was a death involved.

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  24. I totally disagree with what you are saying here Mez. You can’t split up the events into parts and say it was a pedestrian versus car incident, it was a sequence of events starting with the car hitting the bike. Then you are speculating about so many things, introducing that perhaps Bryant was arguing with his wife – first time I heard that one, and that Sheppard may have been intoxicated – well, the police released Sheppard and said that if he was intoxicated they would have kept him in jail overnight – so the police did not consider Sheppard drunk and surely they will testify to that in court. Yes, Sheppard should not have grabbed on to the car, but also Bryant should not have tried to flee the scene – a hit and run. I’m sorry but the hit and run is a worse move than Sheppard hanging on – so it’s clear that it was Bryant’s fault. We have video evidence of the hit and run – it is indisputeable. Sheppard was not a carjacker or some wacko that decided to approach and hang onto Bryant’s car – he was hit by the car and then made the bad choice to hang on. He was justified in trying to stop the car. I have a question for Mr. Bryant – why did you try and flee the scene of an accident? If I did that, should I able to get away with it? If I hit a car in front of me and saw the guy angrily coming towards me, am I allowed to drive away because I fear for my life? Or do I need to call the police and remain at the scene? Can I run him over with my car and kill him because I am afraid he will punch me? You know, that is an extreme form of self defense. A trained boxer should be able to handle himself better.

  25. I know videos don’t tell the whole truth but, lets not rewrite history here so cyclists can all just move on. The various surveillance videos show Bryant deliberately running down a cyclist. Yes, the Toronto police have split the event into two incidents, the first incident involved a cyclist and the second involved a pedestrian(cyclist bashed off his bike). Why are we glossing over the first incident – it clearly precipitated the latter. It’s like claiming an assault didn’t involve a man in a wheelchair if one first dumps him out of the wheelchair before beating him. At best this is inaccurate.

    Mez, you can’t tell me a driver hasn’t lunged/menaced their car at you while waiting at a light? I’m pretty sure it’s a universal experience for road cyclists and that is just so sad. The whole “It would never happen to me, I would never hang off speeding car trying to make the driver stop – I’m far too civilized and reserved” stuff is such naive ego stroking. You weren’t in that man’s shoes. You weren’t there, the closest you could possibly get is the surveillance tape. Watching it from the comfort of your couch and vacuously pondering “what if” is meaningless.

    What does it even mean when you ask us not to support cyclists who have been hit when there are other factors involved. As if you can tell me you know exactly which factors might be acceptable and how powerfully they should play their roles. Play politics by picking and choosing which dead cyclist to support, I find that distasteful.

    So, another kick in the gut to cycling in Toronto and it came from the highest level of our government, directly(don’t bother telling me because he was our Attorney General it doesn’t matter). It appears like you’re trying to vivisect what happened and make it seem like it’s no big deal. By the time you’re done compartmentalizing there will be nothing left to analyze and then you can conclude nothing happened at all. Sorry but, that is plain dishonesty.

  26. Mez, you are wrong in regards to Mr. Sheppard’s motives. After watching the video of Mr. Bryant knocking Sheppard off his bike and the ensuing conflict leading to murder. Mr. Bryant’s actions are no less than pre-meditated from my point of view. From what witnesses have said this all started at Sherbourne and the dual ended badly for Mr. Sheppard.

    The majority of conflicts with automobiles regardless if there are cyclist or pedestrians is speed. If the police were to take this seriously by having real safety blitz involving grids or something like that we could reduce unnecessary collisions.

    I remember when I use to drive transport trucks down to the USA. One state you dare not speed in was OHIO, they had police like every couple of miles to bust you.

    Again, I believe this issue can be solved by police doing their job right and going after the real killers on the road.

  27. Mez,

    I’ve read through your article & the comments and felt that I wanted to post a response as well. In my mind, I see two major problems with what happened here:

    1) Darcy should not have grabbed onto Michael’s car. There’s no excuse for his behaviour doing this. Period. End of story. It doesn’t matter what the altercation was about, who hit who, anything like that. I honestly believe that no one would be up-in-arms over the death of a pedestrian had they’d grabbed onto the side of a car and been dragged down the street.

    Having said that…

    2) Michael Bryant should have stopped pressing the accelerator on his car as soon as Darcy grabbed hold. There’s no ifs, ands or buts around this. It’s insane to think there’s justification for Michael’s reaction to an angry person hanging off the side of his car.

    Everything in between those really are where the grey areas are. The court case will be left to decide who did and to to provide the sentencing (if there is any).

    I’m both a driver and a cyclist and have become a better road user because of it. There’s no use pointing fingers in one direction or the other; everyone using the road (including pedestrians) do stupid things. It’s not until everyone starts to be more aware that we’ll have safer streets.

  28. “I honestly believe that no one would be up-in-arms over the death of a pedestrian had they’d grabbed onto the side of a car and been dragged down the street.”

    Really? i can’t agree with you there. Grabbing onto a car is not a wise idea. i’m not sure whether it’s a criminal act (maybe Sgt. Tim can enlighten us?)

    But flooring your gas pedal WHILE someone is grabbing on to your car? That takes us from “unwise” to “criminal”. Again, Sgt. Tim – please enlighten us in the most general terms possible.

    If the news story was simply about a pedestrian who had been dragged down the street, slammed into a mailbox and run over after grabbing onto a car, i don’t believe many people would side with the driver in that case.

    – Ryan

  29. Ryan, my point is that had it been a pedestrian, there would not be this massive debate over whether it was the driver’s fault or the pedestrian’s. The fault would lay where it belongs, in the two places that I laid out.

    Ultimately, had Darcy not grabbed onto the car, he’d be alive. Had Michael not accelerated, he’s be alive. It’s up to the courts to decide the punishment, but this all this hoopla around this incident isn’t going to win the cycling community any favours from drivers; especially not next spring when they’ll have forgotten all about it.

  30. David – agreed. Had it been a pedestrian, there would not have been this massive debate over fault. It would have clearly been the driver’s fault.

    Only the man who committed the *illegal* action should be tried and punished. Our legal system does not generally govern questions of decorum (“drunk and disorderly” is the closest thing i think we’ve got).

    What you’re proposing is that if you grab on to a car, you risk being slammed against a mailbox and run over by the driver. Lesson: don’t grab on to cars.

    You’re implying that Sheppard received a just (and even expected) punishment for grabbing the car. i find that very distasteful.

  31. Ryan,

    If you read an implication that I feel Darcy received a just punishment, I apologize for that, as I’m not suggesting that at all. I would much prefer to see a debate over an asshole driver who broke Darcy’s car and rallies around that… with Darcy at the lead.

    Michael has been charged appropriately, and based on what we know at this point, should be found guilty of the charges. He not only put Darcy’s life in danger but also everyone on the sidewalks on the south side of Bloor and the oncoming traffic head eastbound.

    Still, that does not negate the fact that Darcy would be alive if he hadn’t grabbed onto Michael’s car.

  32. David – here’s where we reach a point that has deeply disturbed me about this whole incident: WAS Michael Bryant charged appropriately? i am very curious to know why the charge was “dangerous driving causing death”, and not manslaughter.

    It’s as if there’s a different set of rules when a car is involved. If two men get in an argument, and one man hits the other over the head with a lead pipe and kills him, is he charged with “dangerously swinging a pipe around causing death” ? Doubtful. It’s a murder-2 charge. A crime of passion.

    Did the police/crown not think that they could successfully win a manslaughter case against Bryant? My understanding of the law is probably shoddy here, but my armchair quarterback instincts cry foul. It mystifies me that the charge was not murder.

    – Ryan

  33. If I was in Mr. Sheppard’s position I would probably have done the same. As a messenger, your bike is your life. Having it damaged would anger any courier. Seeing the driver responsible run it over again and then try and drive away would send them into a frenzy. Of course Darcy Sheppard tried to grab onto the side of the car, because he was trying to stop the man responsible for the destruction of his livelihood. No one seems to consider this. Michael Bryant was leaving the scene of an accident and Mr. Sheppard was trying to stop him. Unfortunately it led to Darcy’s death.

  34. Ryan,

    I’m not a legal expert by any means, but if you drive drunk and kill someone, you’re charged with DUI causing death, not manslaughter. I’d use the same logic to answer your question, although if Sgt. Tim responds again, hopefully he can clarify.

    David

  35. Christie Blatchford wrote a great article in the Globe and Mail with a very sensible point of view. She summarizes by saying “For as the cyclist will always physically lose in any contest with a car, so the driver of a car always will yield the high ground to the cyclist. In any modern version of the Biblical parable of David and Goliath, including this one, Goliath doesn’t get to say, “Well, he used his slingshot first” or “David started it.” She goes on to say that “The mismatch between car and bicycle is sufficiently enormous that the cyclist is inherently always right.”
    I may get ticked off that a cyclist has cut me off or is slowing me down, but I’ll drive around the cyclist carefully, not plow him out of my way.

    Darcy, R.I.P.

  36. There have been many things written regarding this issue that range from laughable to right on.
    I truly wish that I could address them all, but because the case is now in the court arena, it would not be prudent to do so.

    Having said that, I would welcome anyone to research the charges that were laid;
    Criminal Negligence Causing Death Section 219 Criminal Code (punishment section 220)
    Dangerous Operation Causing Death Section 249(1)(a) Criminal Code (punishment 249(4).
    You will find that the appropriate charges were laid with all the information that was available.

    The best advice I can give is allow this event to progress through the courts and allow our justice system to do it’s job.

    Comments made based on ill-informed opinion do nothing for the process. In some instances inuendo and false statements may damage the prospect of justice.

    It is sad to see statements made that are done so only to ignite debate or controversy that have no truth or are based without information, or worse are made knowing they are false.

  37. Mez, There is no edit or delete function on this blog to allow me to edit or delete my posts dated Sept 12 and Sept 15. I gave my opinions during an emotional time and would state things a little differently today. Since I cannot do this myself, can you please delete my posts. Thanking you in advance.

  38. Feldwebel Wolfenstool

    Sheppard charged with Asssault? Defending himself from a wack-job wielding a 4,000lb. CAR? F.U., and the horse you rode in on. Sucking dick for a crony job or whaT?

  39. Can you message me with a few hints on how you made your site look this good , Id be appreciative!

    • Really? I think the site looks terrible. I keep hoping I’ll meet a WordPress expert who can make it look better. ; p

  40. “It’s possible that Sheppard…attacked Bryant… Sheppard may even have been the one who grabbed the wheel, turning the car to the left.”

    Apparently not Mez, at least not according to the Conclusions of the Toronto Police Service in their Collision Reconstruction Report:

    “There was no physical evidence, or independent witness statements suggesting Mr. SHEPPARD affected the steering of the Saab, or anything to suggest he physically attacked Mr. BRYANT.”

    https://darcyallansheppard.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/das-tps-collision-reconstruction-report.pdf

    All Ontario cyclists have been damaged by what remains this province’s most controversial vehicular homicide, as it underscores the second-class level of citizenry to which we are so often relegated.

    And furthermore, all Ontarians, regardless of preferred personal mobility option, have been harmed by certainly the appearance – and possibly the confirmation – of our rumoured two-tiered justice system, as evidenced by the special prosecutor’s opaque handling of this case.

    HOOF&CYCLE has been working with the father of the dead man for the past five years to unearth what documents were available, after most were buried when all charges against the former accused were dropped, pretrial.

    We hope to share publicly all that what we have found by May 25th, 2015. We ask that all, even those who have already reached a personal verdict as to what happened, will try to keep an open mind.

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