By on September 2, 2009

A former Ontario Attorney General who made a career crusading for severe auto safety laws is being held after witnesses say he killed a cyclist with his Saab convertible, according to the New York Times. Onlookers say Michael Bryant hit cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard in downtown Ontario Monday evening, causing Sheppard to grab onto Bryant’s vehicle. Bryant then ran his Saab onto the sidewalk, apparently trying to knock Sheppard off by running him into streetlights and sign posts. He succeeded when Sheppard reportedly hit a mailbox and died. Bryant was best known for a 2007 law defining driving faster than 50 km/h as “street racing” with penalties including vehicle seizure. At the time, Bryant described cars as being “as dangerous as explosives.” Savor the irony.

[Thanks to TMcA for the link]

Update: According to the CBC, Sheppard may have grabbed Bryant or his car’s steering wheel and the two may have been struggling for control of the car.

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77 Comments on “Toronto Auto Safety Crusader Held for Cyclist’s Death...”


  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Fits, doesn’t it.

    Were he a yank and a tax evader, he’d be perfect to join the president’s crooked cabinet.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    So how long had the two been married? Bryant proved his point I suppose, cars are dangerous-especially cars he is driving. One more elitist politico behind bars, good riddance.

  • avatar

    Bonfire of the Vanities, Canadian style.

    And he got released? Sounds like a flight risk to me.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Like any story there is two sides here. One poor fellow is a dead.The other fellows career is
    in shambles.

    Lets not judge untill we know the whole story.

    google the Toronto Star for the facts.

    @panzerfaust or any of the B&B here is a question? Just suppose a drunk enraged guy on a bike hung on to your top down convert. Then he tried to grab the wheel,all the while yelling obcenities at you and your wife. I ask anyone of you, WTF would you do?

    Me? I’d stop and get into a fight, and at the age of 55 probably lose.

  • avatar
    improvement_needed

    not exactly the whole truth is presented here…

    There was a verbal (and possibly physical) alteraction before the cyclist [potentially] lost it on Bryant…

    cyclist should have been wearing helmet too [especially if he has kids…]

    But alas, two people had an argument, tempers flared and the result it one dead…

  • avatar
    johnthacker

    Like any story there is two sides here.

    Actually, there are other sides, like those of the two construction workers who witnessed the accident:

    The workers said that the motorist repeatedly mounted the sidewalk and drove near lampposts in what seemed to be an attempt to brush off the man hanging onto the side.

    One of the workers said the driver was “yelling pretty loud and he sounded very, very angry.” The other worker said, “He meant to knock him off.”

    Hitting a guy is one thing. Trying to scrape him off on lampposts and mailboxes is another. Robert Novak hit a guy last year, but that turned out to be his first warning sign of the brain tumor that killed him.

    Well, I suppose we all marked the passing of Ted Kennedy in our own ways.

  • avatar
    wsn

    improvement_needed :
    September 2nd, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    There was a verbal (and possibly physical) alteraction before the cyclist [potentially] lost it on Bryant…

    ——————————————

    Worse. It’s second degree murder instead of traffic accident.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I feel the need to point out that he (Bryant) had been mildly intoxicated at the time. To anyone who doesn’t think your judgment is impaired by a few drinks, here’s your counterexample. I’d also like to point out that a lot of people in power are, by their very nature, alpha-personality jackasses.

    I’d also like to point out that as someone who both used to bike in Toronto every day (commuted to and from downtown, about 30k/day) bike couriers are all, almost to a fault, dicks. I’ve seen them mow down pedestrians on the sidewalk** with nothing more than a cursory “F__k you!”, disregard traffic lights and signs***, and proceed against the flow of traffic, all with nothing less than hostility and self-righteousness. I’ve personally witnessed couriers whaling on cars with bike locks and grabbing mirrors or open windows in order to chew out the driver of the car, despite the car’s being moving.

    I actually quit ARC over the kind of attitude their members display. I’m quite interested to see what the full investigation will reveal.

    This all said, Bryant should have the his own book thrown at him for drinking, driving, and exercising fatally poor judgment. What he ought to have done is simply called the police and let them sort it out. If the courier broke traffic law and was struck, well, it might have ended differently.

    ** cyclists aren’t allowed on the sidewalk
    *** cyclists have to obey these just the same as cars do

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    This appears to be shaping up as one of those cases which both sides did not do themselves any favors, to tragic consequences.

    Toronto bike messengers (and squeegee panhandlers) are notoriously aggressive and the downtown city driving brings out the high sticking to the back of the head impulse that many Canadian secretly possess.

    No quarter given, no quarter asked.

    I’m genuinely surprised that this sort of thing does not happen more frequently around here…..

  • avatar
    CarShark

    It does fit the narrative, though, doesn’t it? That the people behind strict laws have power, prestige and popularity as chief motivators, rather than the safety of the public? It’d be a shame if the whole story was as published here.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m genuinely surprised that this sort of thing does not happen more frequently around here…..

    It does happen frequently, but the results aren’t usually fatal and don’t normally involve former Attorneys General.

  • avatar
    areaman

    Heh, maybe they’ll hold a protest in “downtown Ontario”. Right after they finish cleaning up Canada City.

  • avatar
    menno

    Obviously, Toronto is no more safe than any other big city these days.

    Alas, the last big city I enjoyed going to – why bother?

    I enjoyed the one visit I managed to get.

    Screw big cities. I’ll stay away, thanks.

    Too bad we can’t get away from the Alpha personality type control freaks who run for office, as well, though.

  • avatar

    CarShark noted:

    “That the people behind strict laws have power, prestige and popularity as chief motivators, rather than the safety of the public?”

    The beauty of the U.S. Constitution is that it assumed this would always be the case. Governments designed around the assumption of altruistic leaders inevitably fail. People who are always complaining about this leader or that one–Madison et. al. would not have been surprised by any of them.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    menno> I’m on board with ya. Just moved out of a city of 3M to a city of 27k :) Much much better all around!

    Agree with the alpha personalties as well — I can’t stand them!

    My other thoughts:

    I think the main problem with bicyclists is that they really don’t have any liability nor do the police/other drivers have a way to track them short of arrest. They don’t have registrations, they don’t have plates, they aren’t required to carry insurance, etc.

    If you piss off some bicyclist and he dents your car with his bike or breaks your window as he drives by & then drives off, what recourse do you have? You are instantly out your insurance deductible if you file a claim and your insurance goes up.

    I think most bicyclists (can’t speak for toronto, but I can speak for the midwest) that drive in the street have no fear of cars or the law as they are rarely if ever punished no matter who is at fault in an encounter. IMHO this really needs to change and what happened in this incidence might have been entirely avoided. Look at “critical mass” as a good example of lack of enforcement of road rules against bicyclists.

    On the other hand, what this driver did was plain wrong. Outside of self defense, I can’t see any reason this motorist shouldn’t be in jail!

  • avatar
    geeber

    Fortunately, most cyclists are courteous around here, and they stay off of the sidewalk.

    But a friend of mine in another city got hit by a bicyclist, and ended up with a fractured pelvis and a broken wrist. The cyclist was never caught.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Geeber>

    Last night in downtown chicago, I had a friend carrying his 2 year old across the street, on a green in a crosswalk. A lancearmstrong wanabe cuts him off zipping by at ~ 20’ish mph making a left turn and almost hits them both when he should be yielding…

    Unfortunately that kind of behavior IMHO is the rule not the exception.

  • avatar
    Bigsby

    There is a very good law in Ontario that covers the bike/car and horse/car and motorised wheelchair/car interaction. It is called the Highway Traffic Act. It states that when a vehicle encounters slower moving traffic that vehicle must slow down until it is safe to pass. For the slower moving vehicles, bicycles included, the rule is to drive as far to the right as is safe.

    In the stories I read in The Globe and Mail (Toronto) the bike guy was clinging to the driver’s side view mirror which means that he had been in front of the ex-politco’s car. Offhand I would say that Bryant grew impatient and tried to push his way past the bike guy on a road where there was no room to pass. Violation of Highway Traffic Act.

    Patience is the first thing to go in traffic as elsewhere in our modern lives.

    As for big cities being dangerous, I do my recreational cycling in the countryside and have had more than a few hairy encounters with big trucks and cars as the cows watched.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    @psarhjinian

    My experience with cyclists exactly…only in San Fran.

    Hey, I’m all for cycling, and have done a fair amount myself. But some cyclists, and bike messengers in particular, are major asshats. They want to have it both ways: they want the same respect afforded to them as to cars, yet the don’t want to follow the same laws as cars. (Hint to all cyclists reading this: a red light or stop sign means STOP. Yes, just like a car.)

    Then there’s the obnoxious and often hypocritical attitude to boot. One time I saw a cyclist stop to give a condescending lecture to someone who opened their car door in front of him without checking. The cyclist had every right to do it, too…except–get this–he wasn’t wearing a helmet. Dude, don’t go lecturing people about bike safety if you can’t take the most basic, common-sense step to avoid becoming an organ donor.

    Okay, sorry, just venting.

    The worst thing, though, is that I feel the amount of road-rage being stoked up by these guys will one day be taken out on me.

  • avatar
    Crusty007

    Well, living in the Netherlands, bicycle-walhalla, I can say that usually it’s much safer here. On the one hand, both car drivers and Cyclists are used to each other from birth. On the other hand, we don’t really have bike couriers here. We have car couriers and motorized bicycle-couriers (Pizza’s usually), and the delivery guys are required to wear helmets and fluorescent jackets.

    Also, you have to take into account our better minimum wage laws here, which require that these people are paid enough not to drive themselves to death as in your country. My guess is, bike couriers get paid per package and not per hour, which in countries with piss-poor driving skills all-over garantuees accidents.

    And of course, over here bicycles have their own driving lanes.

  • avatar
    xyzzy

    The hypocrisy of bicycles and traffic laws was amply shown in a Top Gear episode I recently watched. The hosts were racing different methods of transportation across London. The one on the bike fumed that he had to stop at stoplights, beause he was being filmed (wink wink, as a bunch of other bicyclists zoom past him stopped at a light).

    Btw, despite that inconvenience he still won the race over a car (which came in dead last), a speedboat on the Thames (which came in 2nd), and public transit (which came in third).

  • avatar
    wsn

    # Michael Karesh :
    September 2nd, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    The beauty of the U.S. Constitution is that it assumed this would always be the case. Governments designed around the assumption of altruistic leaders inevitably fail.

    ————————————————

    That’s how it was supposed to work. But unfortunately, a lot of Americans believe in their altruistic cure-all leader. And a number of constitutional terms are bent to clear the way for “the one.”

  • avatar
    radimus

    “Bryant was best known for a 2007 law which deemed that anyone driving faster than 30 mph over the speed limit was racing and could have their vehicle seized. At the time, Bryant described cars as being “as dangerous as explosives.” Savor the irony.”

    Sounds like a classic case of emotional projection if you ask me. Kind of like he knew he couldn’t be trusted behind the wheel of a car so obviously no one else can be either.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I think the main problem with bicyclists is that they really don’t have any liability nor do the police/other drivers have a way to track them short of arrest.

    In Toronto, this isn’t the case. I recall some members of ARC getting very, very self-righteous (wah, wah, cars are evil so what right do you have to criticize us?) when the police blitzed cyclists. I witnessed a particularly amusing case a while back where a bike cop busted a courier for running a red at a three way. The courier wasn’t aware he was being tailed until the cop caught him at his delivery.

    I used to be pretty snotty a cyclist myself before a courier ran into me at on the sidewalk. I smartened up after that.

    As for big cities being dangerous, I do my recreational cycling in the countryside and have had more than a few hairy encounters with big trucks and cars as the cows watched.

    Agreed. City streets are much, much safer to pedal. Traffic isn’t going too quickly and drivers are more aware of roadside traffic. On rural roads they’re going often more than twice as fast and aren’t looking at all.

    In the stories I read in The Globe and Mail (Toronto) the bike guy was clinging to the driver’s side view mirror which means that he had been in front of the ex-politco’s car.

    It’s very hard to accidentally get stuck to a car and not fall off the bike. I suspect the cyclist was hanging on, initially, in an effort to intimidate or berate him and Bryant sped away and tried to shake him off (again, there’s the booze-impaired judgment on Bryant’s part). Had both parties not been anger-fueled dicks about it things would have been different.

    As a cyclist, I learned never, ever try to get physical with a car. You will never win. Blocking them, grabbing them, hitting them. It’s not worth it. Always assume you’ll get hurt.

    As a driver, I give cyclists a wide berth because they truly are vulnerable. This means always checking your mirrors, even when you stop. (I once did some real damage to a Mercedes S-Class when the driver opened the door in front of me; I got pretty scraped, too).

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    mikey said: “Like any story there is two sides here. One poor fellow is a dead. The other fellows career is in shambles. Lets not judge untill we know the whole story.”

    Are you serious?

  • avatar
    plee

    A cyclist who had been riding in a bike lane here in the Nashville area suddenly decided to cut across lanes of traffic in a 40 mph zone without slowing or looking. I braked hard just missing him, then when I blew the horn and asked what was he thinking, he let go with a barrage of four letter words. There was definitely an attitude problem there as if his helmet and tights gave him permission to disregard common sense. Man am I glad I did not hit him.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Robstar:

    The ironic part is that she was walking to visit her boyfriend in the hospital – a cyclist who had been hit by a car!

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    mikey:
    Like any story there is two sides here. One poor fellow is a dead.The other fellows career is
    in shambles.

    Mr Bryant, the automobile driver, effectively used deadly force when confronted by (a probable) jerk.

    The problem is, jerks should be ignored until they become a threat to you or another innocent. He should have stopped – left the car – and phoned a cop.

    MikeInCanada:
    Toronto bike messengers (and squeegee panhandlers) are notoriously aggressive and the downtown city driving brings out the high sticking to the back of the head impulse that many Canadian secretly possess.

    No quarter given, no quarter asked.

    As a NYer, I like visiting Canada and Toronto, but there are subtle positives south of the border in Concealed Carry Permit Land the US. To paraphrase: “The Armed Society is the More Polite Society.”

  • avatar
    Becomethemedia

    IMHO there is always going to be self righteous idiots in cars and on bikes convinced their mode of transport trumps the other guy and clashes are going to occur.
    This incident just shows how fast your life can change when making the wrong decision.
    Truth is we need to accommodate those who’re biking and realize they are the ones most vulnerable in a collision. But some bikers also need to accept it goes both ways, especially when riding in downtown “Ontario”:)
    Having been in Amsterdam and Berlin I can see we have a long way to go in NA when it comes to sharing the road but it’s coming, albeit slowly.

    Note to xyzzy – I may be wrong but I think The Stig won that race to Heathrow Airport using public transport, and I think second went to Richard on the bike, then Jeremy on the boat followed by Captain Slow in the Merc ML.

  • avatar
    Omoikane

    Let’s set the record straight:
    On one side we have one violent drunk cyclist, with a long criminal record, from a family with a long criminal record (his brother is in prison), who already had an encounter with the police just a few hours before.
    Other side, a successful CEO, former minister and attorney general, Harvard Law School Magna Cum Laudae, Fulbright fellow….

    The drunken felon cyclist and the lawyer in the convertible get into an argument. The felon jumps on to the car and tries to hit and strangle the lawyer. While the lawyer tries to get rid of the attacker, his female companion in the car desperately calls 911.

    What would you do?
    Do nothing, wait for the police to show-up and in meantime get beaten and maybe killed by the drunk in front of your wife/girlfriend?

  • avatar
    Jeff Niman

    psarhjinian :
    September 2nd, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I feel the need to point out that he (Bryant) had been mildly intoxicated at the time.

    Quite the opposite. From the reports in the Globe and Mail (and others) it was Sheppard (the cyclist) who was intoxicated. Bryant’s sobriety test showed he had no alcohol in his system whereas earlier that night Sheppard’s girlfriend called the police because he (Sheppard) was drunk and unruly. No arrest was made but police were called nonetheless.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    psarhjinian>

    That was my point exactly. The police can blitz & arrest bicyclists. What can the common person do?

    If someone hits & runs me in a car, I can get a plate/description of the vehicle, at least! (Assuming I’m not hurt). Most likely if there are any witnesses, they’d help me out.

    What happens when a bicycle gets pissed off and vandalizes my car? Do I give the police a description of the bicycle & bicyclist ? Do you think they’d actually act on it or laugh at me ? If a bicyclist gets into a confrontation with me, he can take my plate & my police will have a registered address to pick me up at. Assuming the cops one day become serious about chasing someone down who hit/almost hit me on a bicycle, they couldn’t do anything anyhow.

    My own method of dealing with it is sticking to highways (never seen a bicyclist on one) and to the suburbs just north of my work which have “no bicycles on street” signs posted on the major road I take. I also park in a public garage where bicycles have no reason to go.

    So far I’ve been lucky….in my few encounters with bicyclists, I ALWAYS yield, no matter what, since they never (ok, less than 10% of the time) stop at stop signs and I have been fortunate enough not to hit one when I had a green light (although a cop in a car has blown a red & t-boned me before).

  • avatar
    92golf

    The latest news is that the cyclist may have grabbed the steering wheel (emphasis on the “may”). It certainly is a tragedy. No one deserves to die because of a little incident.
    Lets not judge until the facts are out. In fact, lets not judge at all. It could have been anyone. Condolences to all.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Re – ihatetrees:

    Having grown up in US, since moving to Canada I have seen public displays of ‘road rage’ that have resulted in a spot on the evening news back in Texas…. Here, it’s just another typical commute to work day.

    I think that you may have a very politically incorrect point.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Were talking about Ontario’s own Bryant, for God’s sake: He WILL get out of this one without a scratch.

    The only things left scratched will be the Saab’s door, the Mailbox and the the cyclist’s reputation.

    Just wait and see.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    OK!

    I teach cycling safety for a living (as it were) and I ride – a lot – both in the City and in the country.

    My experience is that motorists are nervous around cyclists because cyclists – in the main – are unpredictable. Here in Rhode Island, cyclists have the same rights to the road as motorists – though they don’t know how to use them. They also have the same responsibilities – which they often forget.

    If cyclists were more communicative as to their “directional” intentions and respectful of traffic laws things would be better for both parties. They should also learn that “rights” don’t mean sh!# when you have been run over by a 4,000 pound vehicle and are lying, dead on the tarmac.

    Motorists need to realize that they will be having increased opportunity to share the road with cyclists…particularly as the earth warms, America fails to responsibly tap its known oil reserves and the Tesla deathwatch progresses (Volt death being so foregone a conclusion as to no-longer merit a death watch).

    Note to self: Put Saabs on the list with Buicks as cars to shy away from while riding.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    p: I feel the need to point out that he (Bryant) had been mildly intoxicated at the time.

    Quite the opposite. From the reports in the Globe and Mail (and others) it was Sheppard (the cyclist) who was intoxicated

    I stand corrected. The original reports I was listening to yesterday evening weren’t clear on who was intoxicated.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    To paraphrase: “The Armed Society is the More Polite Society.”

    I have a Texan colleague (who moved to Canada) who said something similar, if logically inverted: “People are so nice here. When they’re angry you don’t have to worry that they’re going to shoot you.”

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    That was my point exactly. The police can blitz & arrest bicyclists. What can the common person do?

    You know, the camera-equipped cellphone is, in my opinion, one of the most important technological advancements in the field of rights-equalization.

    Within moments of being harassed by another person (say, a cyclist) or even an official or officer of the law, you can record and upload the whole escapade to YouTube or such and let the public decide. It’s amazing how polite people suddenly become when they know they’re being filmed, and when the film is being streamed to the Internet.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    psarhjinian> I am anti car+cellphone. Any other ideas? Also: is that going to cover my $500 deductible?

    btw: most of the videos on youtube look like utter crap.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    psarhjinian :
    I have a Texan colleague (who moved to Canada) who said something similar, if logically inverted: “People are so nice here. When they’re angry you don’t have to worry that they’re going to shoot you.”

    Yes. My point regarding rudeness was directed toward aggressive panhandlers and squeegee people. They are a much smaller problem in the states. (Although, my Canadian experience doesn’t include any Alberta visits, so my sample may be flawed.)

    I’ll concede that the average Canadian is more polite than the average Texan. However, the average small town Texan is more polite than the average small town Canadian. (Extremes being a Texan specialty)

  • avatar
    jckirlan

    “According to the CBC, Sheppard may have grabbed Bryant or his car’s steering wheel and the two may have been struggling for control of the car.”

    That may be but there was no struggling for control of the brake. Let’s see if the law is applied to the lawmakers equally as the citizens.

    Mickey said: “Like any story there is two sides here. One poor fellow is a dead.The other fellows career is
    in shambles.

    Lets not judge untill we know the whole story.”

    I am sure you are not equating a moral equivalence of one man’s career to another man’s life.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    If the cyclist was trying to gain control of the car, I would say the driver was fully within his rights to try to dislodge the cyclist by any means necessary.

    I someone is breaking into your home, and in the process of defending your home and yourself you kill them, it is self defense (in most states anyway). If someone is trying to carjack you (which is effectively what the cyclist was doing if he was grabbing the wheel) and potentially trying to assault you, is it not still self defense if you defend yourself and they end up dead?

    I don’t particularly agree with Bryant’s politics – I don’t believe the government should have the right to sieze legally purchased goods in any circumstance, but if I were driving down the road and a drunk (or sober for that matter) pedestrian or cyclist grabbed onto my vehicle and started trying to grab the steering wheel from my control I would have done everything under my power to remove him from my vehicle as well.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I used to work in buildings throughout Boston’s financial district. The streets and sidewalks are infested with bike couriers. To have one wiped out as a result of shenanigans with a car is strikes me as no great loss after witnessing some of these guys in action. Sorta like the rocket surgeon in CA who brake checked a motor home whilst riding a motor cycle.

  • avatar
    llcarlos

    Finally a site that allows comments on this story. I side with Bryant in that I don’t think he should be punished severely as the guy killed was a bad character and contributed to the event in a big way. Bryant may have been scared for his life and made a bad choice.

  • avatar
    llcarlos

    The story as I read in the Globe and Mail is that Bryant honked at and then bumped into an unmoving bicycle that was stopped in front of him. The cyclist then left his bike and slammed his backpack on the car hood. There was more swearing and stuff from both parties. Then the cyclist grabbed the side of the car as Bryant drove off.

  • avatar
    chris724

    I rode my bike to the train this morning, without a helmet, occasionally on the sidewalk (slowly), and disobeyed one stoplight. Probably the big city dwellers on here consider me a menace to society who should be locked up, based on their unpleasant daily experiences surrounded by type As. But everywhere is not exactly like your urban hellhole. I live in a sleepy suburb, and the sidewalks are practically deserted, since everyone drives everywhere. I do not try to race like Lance Armstrong, or wear multicolored spandex. I ride my bike like I did when I was 10. I also don’t consider myself a “cyclist” – those guys are usually assholes.

  • avatar
    pariah

    I guess I’m the only one who thought it was funny how they referred to a Saab 9-3 as a “luxury convertible.”

  • avatar
    urS4red

    I’m surprised there has been no sexual preference discussion based on the fact that the car involved is a Saab convertible.

  • avatar
    Patrickj

    It’s less of a stretch than you’d think to say that cars are as dangerous as explosives.

    http://community.discovery.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/9741919888/m/6711985839

  • avatar
    mikey

    Yes I stand by my comment. Right, the bike dude paid a huge price for his mistake. The dude was master of his own misfortune.

    To put it in blue collar terms. Play with fire and you might burn your fingers. Or f–k with the bull you MIGHT taste the horn.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    As a former holier than thou bike messenger and still rider on city streets (and frequent violator of traffic laws while riding) I fully agree that the biker bears responsibility for his demise. Still, no matter what the situation, I find it hard to leave Bryant blameless. The biker was in the more vulnerable position. Bryant could have taken any number of other paths than the use of deadly force.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    I’m a Torontonian, and I’m currently between cars. I own several excellent bikes in perfect repair. My work is about 3 km from home, and the weather’s great lately. But I don’t ride any of those bikes, I walk 3 blocks and take the subway instead. There is absolutely zero bike infrastructure here, and he gambles with his life who joins traffic on a bicycle. Every time there’s a bike/car incident — and there are many — reciprocal fingerpointing flares up between motorists and cyclists, with high-handed jeremiads sent to the editors and printed in the various newspapers. Both groups are intent on proclaiming their divine righteousness and blaming the other group; the arguments proffered are beyond ridiculous. Fact is, roadway safety is everyone’s job who uses the roads, whether on two or four wheels or none at all. For some strange reason, that completely obvious point gets no ink nor airtime.

    (Oh, and by the way, I’m also an American + Canadian dual citizen, and as such I must say I’m amused at the attempts to use this incident as a platform to advance particular views on guns with reference to particular perspectives on cultural differences between Americans and Canadians.)

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Re: chris724 –

    I certinally don’t condsider your casual bicycle use as being a “menace to society”, but I do want to thank you for not wearing spandex!

    Let’s face it, it’s not the Tour de France, rather the Tour de going to Work on a Wednesday.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    @jcKirlan,

    ““According to the CBC, Sheppard may have grabbed Bryant or his car’s steering wheel and the two may have been struggling for control of the car.”

    That may be but there was no struggling for control of the brake. “

    Brilliant!

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Re:Daniel J. Stern-

    I think you are absolutely correct –
    “roadway safety is everyone’s job who uses the roads”

    However, in some situations and conditions riding a bike is inherently dangerous.

    If you ride a bike in the city (like Toronto) one has to accept the fact that there is a diminished margin of safety. No amount of consideration from others is going to change that.

  • avatar
    dgduris

    “Michael James Bryant, 43 years of age, of Toronto, is now charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death,” said Toronto police Sgt. Tim Burrows at an impromptu news conference outside the headquarters of the force’s traffic division.

    Max sentence here is life.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    I know one thing: If you are an ex-Attorney General and drive a Saab convertible, you ARE guilty of being a 1st degree douchebag…

  • avatar

    Boy, this really brought out the bike haters.

    I think most bicyclists (can’t speak for toronto, but I can speak for the midwest) that drive in the street have no fear of cars or the law as they are rarely if ever punished no matter who is at fault in an encounter. IMHO this really needs to change and what happened in this incidence might have been entirely avoided. Look at “critical mass” as a good example of lack of enforcement of road rules against bicyclists.

    Cyclists know better than most how dangerous it is to ride on streets with motorists.

    Most serious cyclists regard Critical Massholes as making our riding more dangerous because they intentionally piss of motorists.

    As for not being punished, I’ve been hassled by cops more than once on my bike, though I was doing nothing illegal, and once when I was hit by a motorist who turned into my path, the cop wrote up the report to make it look like my fault. Once on a group ride with a bike club, some motorist took exception to us riding on a road he thought belonged to him, though we were in a single pace line right along the shoulder. He called 911 and they sent out some idiot cop who, driving in the opposite direction from our path, cut across a traffic lane to diagonally block our path, requiring us all to make a panic stop onto a gravel shoulder.

    I’ve been hit by cars three times. All three of them involved violations by the motorist (though one was pretty much my fault in terms of if I was prudent there wouldn’t have been a collision) including the most common way that cyclists get killed – a driver making a right turn into the cyclist’s path. You may resent it when I decide to blow a traffic light on my bike but it’s actually safer for me to cross against the light when there’s no traffic than to cross with the light when there’s traffic present.

    Ask any cyclist or motorcyclist. Drivers don’t look for two-wheelers.

    And no, I don’t ride out in traffic. I ride a safe distance from the curb – about 18″. Far enough from the curb to avoid glass and other debris, far enough so I won’t strike a pedal on the curb, but definitely not in the traffic lane.

    Oh, and the multicolored spandex has a purpose. One, lycra shorts keep you from chafing your privates. Two, bright clothing makes it easier to be seen.

  • avatar
    pariah

    All opinions on the politics, causes, and bearers of responsibility in this incident aside:

    Here’s a thought concerning those who choose to make derogatory comments about cyclists such as “wanna-be Lance Armstrongs” and “the Tour de going to Work on a Wednesday.”

    Do you have a hobby? Is it something you love to do, and at which you strive to better yourself? I have a good friend, a couple relatives, and many acquaintances, who are avid cyclists and who each own thousands of dollars worth of bikes, gear, and training equipment. None of them wish they were [Famous Cyclist], nor do they wish to, or ever expect to, compete in the Tour de France or any major international cycling event. They’re simply people who love to cycle and enjoy challenging/improving themselves physically. In short, they are cycling enthusiasts.

    You’re likely here because you’re automotive enthusiasts. Do you insult and degrade yourselves for being “wanna-be Schumachers” or for driving the “Grand Prix of going to work on Wednesday?”

    Let’s hear about some of your hobbies, so we can all make stereotypical, uninformed judgement calls regarding the identities and aspirations of people about whom we know practically nothing.

  • avatar
    AlexD

    This is less an issue about cycling in the city than it is a story about a totally pissed guy on a bike. He was so drunk that the cops showed up at his girlfriend’s place to see what the fighting was about just prior to the incident.

    I’m not feeling much empathy here. I just can’t dismiss the notion that if some drunken d-bag put me in a headlock while I was in my car, I’d damn well drag that motherf. a block or two.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Ronnie –

    Here my conundrum….

    “Ask any cyclist or motorcyclist. Drivers don’t look for two-wheelers.” Agreed.

    “it’s actually safer for me to cross against the light when there’s no traffic than to cross with the light when there’s traffic present.”

    Then is must be super safe for me to run the same light…in my car.

  • avatar
    AlexD

    Oh yes, and kudos to Farago and TTAC for posting this story. All the Canadian papers (online) have locked their comments like a chastity belt. You’d think it was an editorial on the Mid-east.

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    Not a big booster of Bryant or his attention-grabbing antics when he was an elected politician (he went on a pit bull crusade as well), but I have to admit that since the original story (which totally villainized him) broke , every additional fact that has come out has, in fact, been favourable to him.

    urS4red wrote:

    I’m surprised there has been no sexual preference discussion based on the fact that the car involved is a Saab convertible.

    FWIW he was on his way home from a 12th anniversary dinner with his wife (where contrary to expectations he hadn’t consumed any alcohol).

    klossfam wrote:

    If you are an ex-Attorney General and drive a Saab convertible, you ARE guilty of being a 1st degree douchebag…

    That is probably true. But despite his ambition and typical politician demeanour, none of the folks who know him seem to have ever witnessed him being abusive or even hot-headed. His behaviour was far more consistent with someone trying to protect himself and/or his wife from what may have appeared to be a rather deranged fellow. A lot of the shops on that section of Bloor have video surveillance cameras … and the footage from them will undoubtedly be the most valuable evidence at trial.

  • avatar

    I’ve logged tens of thousands of city miles on a bicycle–mostly in Wash. DC, some in Berkeley in the ’70s, and some in the Boston area. I NEVER ride without a helmet, and almost never ride without one of those eye-bouncing lime green jerseys. When there’s traffic behind me on a narrow street where it’s difficult to pass me, I pull to the right whenever there are no parked cars, and signal aggressively for the cars to pass me.

    As a driver, I give cyclists as much room as possible, partly because they are vulnerable, and partly just so they will feel safer. I NEVER honk at them, because I know, as a cyclist, that a sudden loud horn can be extremely frightening, and could probably (and does probably) cause accidents. If I’m annoyed with a cyclist (which has happened on occasion) I rev the engine.
    Additionally, if I’m waiting from a feeder to turn onto a main road, or if I’m parked and waiting to exit, I will wave cyclists to pass me so that they know I’m not going to move into their path–again, in an effort to avoid scaring them.

    In general, as a cyclist, I had little trouble with cars in Washington and Berkeley (none in Berkeley, really), and I have had a bit in Boston. There seem to be a surplus of angry people around here. As a driver, I haven’t been attacked by cyclists.

    Riding across the continent, the only real trouble I had was in Ontario, where a woman passed me and then immediately turned right, into — I forget what as this was 35 years ago — forcing me onto the shoulder, and forcing me to brake hard. I yelled at her for about five minutes, or so it seems in hindsight. A stupid, but not malicious move on her part.

    It is definitely possible to coexist. Or it was. I’m now afraid to do a lot of cycling because of text messagers.

  • avatar

    I just did a bunch of googling of Canadian news sources. Any contact between the Bryant Saab and the bicycle was very minor. What is clear is that there was some sort of road rage between the two parties, though not clear to me who started it, or why. Then, Sheppard, the cyclist grabbed onto the driver side of Bryant’s car, not because he needed to, in order to save himself, because he had not been in any danger from the car before he affixed himself to it, but because he was behaving aggressively towards Bryant. My guess is that Sheppard was seriously scaring Bryant, which would have been why Bryant was driving at high speed the wrong way down a one way street, and why he was trying to brush against poles, etc., to knock Sheppard off of his car.

    Sheppard has a bit of non-violent criminal history, and he had apparently been drunk earlier in the day, and was probably still drunk. According to one eye witness account, when he had left his ex-girlfriend’s house not much earlier in the day, he had fallen off of his bicycle as he pedaled away.

  • avatar
    pigherder

    Americans apparently do not understand that Canada has not had a criminal justice system for several decades. For example, 10 years ago I stopped at a stop sign, a dangerous act as no one else does, not even the pork chops outside the pig-pen. The fellow behind me rear-ended me, threatened me with death, and drove away. So I practiced the quaint American custom suggested by several readers here – call a cop. He (R.C.M.P.) ran the plate, stated the perp had a record and asked “Do really want to follow up on this i.e. we cops do not lay charges – the
    Crown does, based on probability of conviction/workload, for a charge that will be plea-bargained down, re-scheduled several times (assuming the Crown continues its efforts), to positively identify the perp, whom you only had a fleeting glimpse of, in court in about 10 months(we are presently setting dates for 10 months ahead, not counting the delays/rescheduling, including “judge shopping”), for a guy that will, at worst, perhaps be condemned to a curfew of 10 PM – 6 AM, apart from pressing “family/medical/work matters”, for a couple weeks? I replied No. Now, of course, that possible sentence would be considered harsh. One of the Yanks even suggested locking him up until the Court could have a chat with the fellow. Our perps love the idea as they get double time for “time served” in custody before trial i.e. “I sentence you to 12 months for carving your initials on your wife with a jigsaw. (Plea-bargained down – the Sawz-All 4 inch blade he started with kept hitting bone – “mitigating circumstances”). You have been in custody for 2 months (after not appearing for a few trials, no charges filed on that though), times two = 4 months. 12 minus 4 = 8 months. Parole starts at one third of your sentence, 4 months, and is automatic full out of prison after two thirds, 8 months. You are sentenced to time served and thus free to go”. So we no longer lock them up. Even years ago a gangster murderer, left free to roam the streets, instead spent his time productively by banging one of the jurors (she was, in addition, also an R.C.M.P. sub-contractor – Victim Services if you can believe it), then walked. Should be on Google somewhere: Gillian Guess/Bindy Johal. Bindy’s competitors were old school though – gunned him down maybe a year later.

  • avatar
    menno

    I have to say that here in Traverse City, Michigan, I find that bicycle riders simply don’t bother obeying ANY road rules. Ever. Stop sign? Four way stop? Shooom, right through. Cars be damned. Idiots, complete imbeciles. Obviously subconsciously trying for the Darwin Award (i.e. being run over by a Hummer H2).

    Unfortunately, when you combine that fact with the fact that car drivers simply don’t bother stopping at side streets but simply cruise around the corner (ignoring that big red octogon with STOP on it), you have a recipe for disaster.

    Add to that, bicyclists riding on sidewalks and you can see that mayhem can easily result.

    As for this incident, it’s very sad. But you put a drunken alpha personality idiot biker and an alpha personality holier-than-thou politician into a momentary “mine’s bigger than yours” competition and someone’s going to get hurt, or in this case, dead. Worst case scenario.

    Let the courts and jury sort it out. (Changed from semi-seriouis to tongue in cheek, after reading the above post).

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    My guess is that Sheppard was seriously scaring Bryant, which would have been why Bryant was driving at high speed the wrong way down a one way street, and why he was trying to brush against poles, etc., to knock Sheppard off of his car.

    I heard an interview this morning with another courier. It’s a not-uncommon practice among couriers to reach in and try to grab either the wheel or the keys of a car “they feel threatened by”. The theory is they’re trying to get a car “that is a danger to cyclists” (quoting verbatim) off the road by taking the keys and throwing them. That the person felt this was justified, or even reasonable, was amazing; in a more armed society this would get you shot.

    Personally, I’ve seen a courier attempt this once on a cabbie on Dundas St at Bay and it almost ended in a brawl. This is why I’ll generally support cyclists’ rights(eg, they really do need more space), but draw the line at these guys. Courier work is hard and the pay is not good. It attracts, I think, a certain kind of person.**

    On an interesting side note, I wonder how much of this was because Bryant’s car was a Saab? Anyone reaching in for the keys of a 9-3 is going to be in for a surprise, because they’re nowhere near where they’re expected to be.

    ** eg, you have to be slightly crazy.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    David Holtzman:
    My guess is that Sheppard was seriously scaring Bryant, which would have been why Bryant was driving at high speed the wrong way down a one way street, and why he was trying to brush against poles, etc., to knock Sheppard off of his car.

    Sheppard actions were,at best, borderline understandable, but hardly legal. Especially when the option of running away hadn’t been tried.

    Next time I’m visiting TO and get stopped by a sqeegee meltdown who ‘seriously scares’ me, I’ll just bug splat ’em between my Maxima grill and a lampost.

  • avatar
    M1EK

    You may resent it when I decide to blow a traffic light on my bike but it’s actually safer for me to cross against the light when there’s no traffic than to cross with the light when there’s traffic present.

    No, it’s not any safer, and you make it a lot harder for guys like me to fight for the rights of cyclists on the road every time you do it.

    If you don’t mind being forced on to the sidewalk someday down the road, keep on doing what you’re doing.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    It is definitely possible to coexist. Or it was. I’m now afraid to do a lot of cycling because of text messagers.

    If you want to me impressed, and not in a good way, watch the number of bike couriers who use iDEN BlackBerries for dispatch and confirmation. There’s few things that make me go go “huh?” as much as watching someone with an uneven load on his/her back, riding a bike through six-lane urban traffic typing one-handed on a BlackBerry.

    Helmet? What helmet?

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    @M1EK:
    If you don’t mind being forced on to the sidewalk someday down the road

    Oh, absolutely not. It’s called a sidewalk because it’s for walking. When I am using sidewalks, I very deliberately do not yield to bicyclists no matter how insistently they may ring their bells, click their brakes, or otherwise announce themselves. Bicyclists don’t belong on the sidewalk unless they are dismounted and walking their bikes — that’s the law, and it’s also reality.

  • avatar

    psarhj,

    I see almost no bike messengers in my daily drives (betw Cambridge and Lexington). But it does sound impressive (in a bad way).

    ihatetrees; it’s H-o-l-(no “t”, just coffee please)-z-m-a-n

  • avatar
    ZekeToronto

    I’m forced to drive a lot in downtown Toronto and my biggest nightmares are caused by cyclists and bike messengers. To give an example of the kind of stunts they pull … the night before this incident I was driving down a six-lane street in moderately heavy traffic. I was in the far right lane, preparing to make a right turn at the next intersection. A cyclist was in the lane to my left going straight. As we approached the intersection the light turned amber. I was already slowing down to stop when I had to go full force on the brakes because the cyclist cut straight in front of me … so he too could make a right turn (this about a car length from the now-red light).

    When I followed him around the turn he was riding close to the gutter on my right, but just as I went to shift into second gear he cut across in front of me again (this time to the left) and I had to hit the binders hard again (and look in my rearview to see if someone was going to plow into me!). He continued swerving to the left, cutting off two cars coming the opposite way, both of whom had to also brake in an emergency fashion. The cyclist then completed his U-turn, ending up back at the intersection, whereupon he proceeded to make another right turn. In other words, all that–a right turn, a u-turn and another right turn, just so he wouldn’t have to wait through a red light with the rest of the traffic. He nearly caused at least three accidents, all the while seemingly oblivious to the consequences of his actions. The entire time he had earphones in his ears, never once looked over his shoulder before changing lanes (there was no mirror on the bike) and of course he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

    On the other hand, I find Toronto has the most polite panhandlers I’ve ever encountered in a large city :-)

  • avatar
    frizzlefry

    The courier’s bike was not damaged; by all accounts the courier himself was not harmed before he went for a ride with the car. So he was not hit, but cut off perhaps. If it were car vs car there may have been a middle finger displayed accompanied by a honk. But because bike couriers tend to be psychopaths, the cyclist went for him. Easy to do given that the guy was driving a convertible. The driver was instantly over-taken with fear and the fight or flight response took over. He flew. Not his fault the courier was trying to grab at him and held onto the car while he tried to get away. Should he have stopped? Yes. But the risk, and I dare say inevitability, of the courier assaulting him once he stopped compelled him to freak out and try to get him off the car.
    This is why I always drive with my doors locked and windows closed.

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    bike couriers tend to be psychopaths

    Yes, and it sort of makes me wonder what might happen if a bike courier were to get in an altercation with Jack Baruth. Would the both of them just disappear in a blinding blue flash and puff of smoke, or…?

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