Update on Toronto Cyclist's Death : It Gets Complicated
Darcy Allan Sheppard who died in an "altercation" with former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant." via Facebook
The story of Darcy Allan Sheppard's death after being dragged 300 feet by former Attorney General Michael Bryant's Saab is dominating news in Canada. Yesterday I wrote:
It is too early to say what caused Bryant to do this; it always seems laughable when drivers say they were terrorized by a crazed cyclist, but we have heard it before.
And that is what is playing out in the news today.
Cyclists protesting Sheppard's death by blocking Bloor Street in Toronto- Toronto Star
Friends describe Sheppard as at "total sweetheart." Outraged cyclists are holding protest rallies.
But this is Ontario, and the establishment sticks together to support one of their own and blame the victim. Today Darcy Sheppard is being described in the Star as a "troubled spirit," who "variously battled his drinking problem, drug addiction and other troubles."
Even his girlfriend is quoted as noting his behavior that evening was pretty normal:
We all have our demons to deal with and I'm not saying anything was out of place ... he was angry at the world, at everything."
He also had words with police an hour before he died. The Star describes the scene:
"He had a relapse," said [roommate Jordana] Maxwell, 30. "He came to us, because we're his family. I said, `Let him come back upstairs.' The officer said, `No, he needs to go home.' I said, `He can't make it home, he's intoxicated. He cannot ride a bike.' We begged them. They said, `He will not go back upstairs.' And they put him on the road."
So now everyone is feeling sorry for Michael Bryant, the guy who dragged Sheppard 300
yards feet along the wrong side of the road against lamp-posts and fire hydrants and mailboxes. Former Premier David Peterson says:
"This is right out of (novelist) Ian McEwan. That one event, that you can't anticipate, can totally change your life."
Former BC Premier Ujjal Dosanjh feels as sorry for Bryant as for the victim.
"My heart goes out, of course, to the family of the deceased and to Mr. Bryant and his family. I don't know the circumstances. I don't know what he was doing, what he was thinking."
Darcy Allan Shepard's partner Misty at the Memorial- Toronto Star
I am an urban cyclist. I have sometimes become extremely angry at drivers who act like jerks and almost run me over on right turns while they talk on the phone. I have wanted to pound a few cars in my time on the road. I have also seen bike couriers do some crazy and irresponsible things and would like to yell at them for giving cyclists a bad name, but don't want to get pounded by someone a lot younger and stronger than me. A lot of people in Toronto, both cyclists and drivers, are quoting John Bradford today: "There, but for the grace of God, go I".
But where does that put Michael Bryant? I don't usually agree with the Globe and Mail's Christie Blachford, but she says he should have sucked it up:
Even if it turns out that the man attempted to choke Mr. Bryant, as some witness accounts suggest, and that Mr. Bryant called 911 – and this is the most benign scenario the former politician can hope for – it isn't good enough.
The mismatch between car and bicycle is sufficiently enormous that the cyclist is inherently always right....
Thus, it is the motorist who has the greater responsibility – not just because he is the only party licensed by society to drive, by which I mean granted the privilege of driving – but because on some level, all of us understand the rules, one of which is that behind the wheel, we are driving a potential weapon. The burden of sucking up the insult, the raised finger, even the punch, and acting like a grown up is always and forever with us.
In the end, whether Darcy Sheppard was a little hot-headed or drunk is completely irrelevant. Michael Bryant used his car as a weapon and killed a man. He then left the scene. Now everyone feels sorry for him. But surely, on a busy midtown Bloor Street with people and cars everywhere, he had other options than this.