On Monday night we were at a party celebrating the launch of issue number three of Dandyhorse magazine. As our loyal readers will know, we share in the glory of our former Urban Design Expert (sorry about calling you a cascade of detritus in a previous post, Jake. You know we don’t mean it and we wish you every success), who has a short piece (cribbed from these pages) in the issue on the subject of bikelanes along Bloor Danforth. In a nutshell Allderdice claims bikelanes are in order on the street, but that whatever happens it’s imperative the city not destroy the part of the highway that already works well for all road users: the stretch of Danforth from Pape Ave to Broadview. In fact he advocates (and we at the ALLDERBLOB back him on this) an extension of the road-striping east of Pape all the way to Victoria Park Ave, a simple move that would turn all the Danforth into a safe and pleasant “mall” for all: cyclists, drivers and shoppers on foot.
Huzzah. Hooray for Jake. Hooray for the ALLDERBLOB. Hooray for Dandyhorse. Great party, Tammy and Arlene.
Meanwhile that same night, another cyclist was murdered in Toronto. On Bloor Street.
At around 9:45 pm, on Monday August 31, Darcy Allan Sheppard, age 33, father of four, a bike messenger, was killed in a most brutal way in front of many witnesses. The murder has claimed the attention of the nation. You can read stories about it in the Toronto Globe and Mail and Car Advertiser, in the Toronto Star and Car Advertiser, in the National Post and Car Advertiser, as well as in the New York Times and Car Advertiser, as well as most other papers in Canada. It’s front page stuff around the world in fact: try The Times and Car Advertiser of India, for example.
What makes the story shocking is the cold-blooded ruthlessness of the murder, as well as the fact that now under arrest and charged with “criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death” is Michael Bryant, the Harvard-educated former Attorney General of Ontario, former Member of Provincial Parliament, father of two and a stalwart foe of “stunt driving.” He is quoted in the New York Times article saying:
Among his targets were street-racing motorists. In 2007 he gave the police the power to seize and destroy cars modified for racing even if no charges were lodged against their owners.
After describing such cars as being as dangerous as explosives, he said, “We will crush your car, we will crush the parts.”
Later that year the province passed a bill to deem any vehicle traveling more than 50 kilometers an hour, or 31 miles an hour, faster than the speed limit to be racing. The legislation, under which more than 10,000 charges have been brought, allows the police to immediately seize vehicles and suspend licenses.
Note that the “explosive” in this case [our emphasis] was not a souped up street racing machine, but a normal old luxury vehicle, a Saab convertable.
A couple weeks ago we published an ARC press release on the murder of cyclist Tevane Sean Lennon, which said, in part:
We speak of “gunning the engine,” and the cowardice implicit in the gunning down of this man is a demonstration of a power relationship, just as much as if he had been driven into and run over.
How much more clear can this power relationship be than when the former attorney general of Ontario, in his Saab convertable, drives over an off-duty bike messenger?
Okay, it’s a sad day for Bryant too. It’s likely a career-killer. Regardless of the results of the impending trial and regardless of the valient efforts already underway to smear the dead cyclist (read here how Sheppard had outstanding warrants from Alberta for writing cheques to himself, and watch this to learn that according to one witness, Sheppard escalated the violence), Bryant will forever have this death on his hands, his own personal Chappaquiddick.
He’s trying. He’ll have the best legal council money can buy, and it does not take a cynic to imagine a future where he walks free, acquitted of all charges. If convicted, Bryant could receive a sentence of about two years. In the meantime he’s issued a self-serving statement, in a few terse words, expressing “sincere condolences” for the family of his victim.
There’s only one way this most powerful individual will ever be able truly redeem himself–that is if he abandons his car-worship and joins with ARC and others in the call for better bicycle infrastructure across all of Toronto. He could start by pushing his fellow Harvard crony at City Hall, Mayor David Miller, to demand a bikelane be built across the spine of Toronto, along the very street where Darcy Allan Sheppard was killed: Bloor-Danforth.
We will wait to hear if Michael Bryant ever utters the words “Take the Tooker” to judge the “sincerity” of his “condolences” to Darcy Allan Sheppard’s family.
UPDATE: ARC calls for police to be removed from the Bryant case: See TorontoCranks for more.
UPDATE 2: Dave Meslin, founder of Toronto Cyclist Union, agrees with Toronto Police Sheppard was not a cyclist but a pedestrian. See Mez dispenser for more.