A “sad anniversary”?

Just now, I heard the normally sane & rational Jill Dempsey announce on CBC Radio One (motto: “Making you feel like crap, all day, every day”) that today is the “sad anniversary” of bike courier Darcy Sheppard’s death.

For those of you who don’t remember, Sheppard, who was drunk & wigged out on drugs, pounced on a car driven by former Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant as the latter was heading home from an anniversary dinner with his wife.

Bryant, who was stone-cold sober at the time, had the misfortune to be driving on Bloor Street in downtown Toronto that evening at the same time as Sheppard, who was known for fun stunts like cutting off cars, shouting at drivers and bashing his fist on their vehicles, and who was apparently looking for a punching bag after a drunken fight with his girlfriend.

He found it in the form of Mr Bryant, who had the even worse luck to be driving a convertible — meaning that Sheppard, enraged at allegedly being  “cut off” by Mr Bryant, was suddenly more or less in the vehicle with Bryant and his wife, trying to grab the steering wheel and screaming in Bryant’s face.

Understandably (to me, anyway), Bryant panicked and tried to speed away from his attacker, and the whole mess ultimately ended with Sheppard’s death moments later as he came unhitched from his prey and fell against the curb.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if some drunken, raving lunatic suddenly launched himself through the car window at me and tried to grab my steering wheel, I can’t say with any degree of certainty that I wouldn’t panic and romp on the accelerator as well, probably after ripping out a good hunk of the guy’s hair and maybe breaking his nose.

Although this didn’t stop any of the CBC’s usual tsk-tsk crowd from huffily pillorying Mr Bryant for his actions. Incredibly, a female caller-in to one of the CBC’s talkback shows not long afterwards had the temerity to suggest that Mr Bryant should have pulled over and listened to Mr Sheppard’s viewpoints. I suggest that the next time this lady is set upon by a meth-head in the subway system, say, she try soliciting his viewpoints and see how that goes. Good luck to her; let me know where to send the flowers.

Anyway, maybe I do have a bit of a bias because I’m female — and indeed, I imagine the story would have taken on a very different nuance had Sheppard pounced on a female driver, or even an elderly male driver, or a Filipino nanny piloting a car-full of kids in soccer uniforms.

And for an extra twist, just reverse the roles: put Mr Bryant on the bike and Mr Sheppard in a car. Make it an expensive bike, and make the car a rusted-out Ford Focus. Guess who’s the bad guy again?

Dare I say that had any of these scenarios been the case, there would have been no story at all, or at best another “inquiry” into aggressive, entitled cyclists who disobey the law.

To me, the only “sad anniversary” today is that of Mr Bryant and his wife. It may not be PC in this day & age to defend a motorist, especially a white male motorist in a tie & a nice-ish car. But as both a cyclist and a driver, it sickens me to see scary, rage-filled,  lawbreaking louts like Mr Sheppard being memorialized as martyrs and victims simply because they were on two wheels instead of four, or had sad childhoods.

And it nauseates me to hear our national broadcaster perpetuating this weak-kneed brand of “After-School Special”  irrationality, despite mountains of evidence that the only “crimes” Mr Bryant committed were being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and not taking the “Pa Ingalls” approach of gently reasoning (cough) with a raving nutbar.

I guess the sad lesson to be learned here is that if you want people to hold tearful, candlelit vigils in your memory, you’d best make sure that the people whose lives you destroy are higher up the food chain than you are.

Disgusted Smiter out.

Darcy Sheppard the wrong kind of hero for bike advocates,” Marcus Gee, The Globe and Mail.


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