After reading excerpts of Michael Bryant's statement to the police about his involvement with the drunk and deranged bike courier, Darcy Allan Sheppard, I'm surprised the Ontario government isn't demanding a recall and inspection of all Saab convertibles.
First, it apparently stalled very easily when Bryant, inching his way through the stop and go construction traffic on Bloor last August, was forced to slam on the brakes when Mr. Sheppard decided to abruptly park his bike in front of the Saab. Second, according to Mr. Bryant, these Saabs apparently accelerate dangerously when you try to restart them, such that it lurched forward and bumped Mr. Sheppard's bike, sending him from just belligerent into a rage.
Of course, Mr. Bryant will never be cross-examined about this story since the charges have been dropped, and rumors that he honked his horn at Mr. Sheppard will also never be heard by a judge.
What Mr. Bryant did say in his statement to the press yesterday was that it could have happened to anyone. "There but by the grace of God go I," he said many friends had told him, and he's right. The defense was able to find a video of Mr. Sheppard assaulting another car a few weeks earlier in a very similar manner, reaching through the driver's window to clutch the steering wheel while standing on the running board of the SUV.
That driver must have been a cool cucumber though, because not only did he not accelerate wildly and smash Mr. Sheppard off on a fire hydrant, but he didn't even feel a need to call the police at the time. He must have found some other way to deal with the situation that didn't involve anyone dying.
Yet another example of bike road rage occurred few weeks after Mr. Sheppard's attack on Mr. Bryant. Once again a bike courier attacked a driver (of a nice Benz as I recall) downtown. In fact it seemed like the bike courier was a copycat of Mr. Sheppard, reaching through the open driver's window to assault. This driver wisely exited his car from the passenger side to get away from the courier, and then came around the front of the car on his feet so that he could face the courier mano a mano. Fisticuffs ensued, but by the time the police got there both driver and bike courier refused to press charges on one another. Apparently they felt they'd clearly settled this little bit of road rage all by themselves.
I saw the photo of Mr. Bryant the day of his arrest, sitting in the back of the police cruiser, and I saw his press conference the next morning when he was wearing that crisp suit the police had brought him in jail. What struck me was how lucky he was that Mr. Sheppard, although reaching through the driver's side of the convertible and pumped up on booze and rage, didn't put a scratch or a bruise on Mr. Bryant's face.
Perhaps it was because Mr. Sheppard was too focused on the steering wheel and hanging onto the side of the speeding car to consider punching the driver. After all that was all he could hope to control of the car. Mr. Bryant had sole control of the break pedal and the gas pedal.
Of the four + minutes of Mr. Bryant's press conference this Tuesday that I saw on the Toronto Star's website, he spent two minutes thanking friends and his wife for their support. He spent over a minute defending the justice system. He spent 20 seconds saying it was a tragedy that a young man had died and on condolences to the Sheppard family, telling us that he had "grieved that loss." He spent 45 seconds lecturing us all that this was not a morality play about bikes versus cars or rich vs poor.
What I didn't hear from Mr. Bryant was an admission that he'd behaved badly
or acted unwisely. What I didn't hear was a conscious recognition of the fact that no matter how you slice it, Mr. Bryant's actions, his foot on the accelerator, had resulted in Mr. Sheppard's death.
Mr. Bryant did state at yesterday's news conference that he was terrified throughout the incident. I wonder how Mr. Sheppard felt, clinging to the side of a speeding car going the wrong way down Bloor? Did he feel terror? Did he think that maybe he'd made a big mistake? Was he hoping Mr. Bryant would stop?
I once heard that the British like their heroes dead, and Canada still has a lot of Great Britain running through its veins. Mr. Sheppard is certainly no hero, but he's dead and his corpse is rotting in a coffin.
Mr. Bryant is still alive.