Cyclists mourn loss

[attach]724[/attach]Toronto’s cyclist community held a memorial Sept. 2 to mourn Darcy Allan Sheppard, 33, and to rally support for cyclists’ rights.

Hundreds of riders gathered during evening rush hour at a makeshift memorial on Bloor St. West near Avenue Rd. The memorial — a post office box and tree — marks the site Sheppard lost his life after an altercation with a driver escalated out of control.

Witnesses claim Sheppard was killed after grabbing onto the side of the car, which careened into oncoming lanes and onto the sidewalk.

Former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death in the incident.

In the days following Sheppard’s death, supporters sent flowers, cards and posted hand-written messages at the site. While many cyclists made a pilgrimage to the memorial to mourn a fellow rider, pedestrians also stopped for a moment’s pause to discuss the tragedy.

Notes on the post office box offered condolences, vented frustrations and called for dialogue.

“Deepest Regrets.”

“Driving kills.”

“Cool heads will prevail.”

By 4 p.m., the sombre tone of the memorial became energized by the arrival of hundreds of cyclists from across the city. Many carried small banners, t-shirts with pro-cyclist slogans and flags. Bicycle police were on hand to ensure the crowd remained peaceful.

As the memorial turned into a rally, many cyclists called the incident infuriating and avoidable.

“It’s unreal. It’s just so stupid,” says Sheppard’s friend Nadine. “He is … He was just starting to get his life together.”

“This isn’t one tragedy, it is two tragedies,” says Hamish Wilson, a cycling activist with Bike Lanes on Bloor.

Many cyclists expressed hope the incident will end in positive results.

“I’d hate for nothing good to come of this,” says Noah Normandin, a bike courier and acquaintance of Sheppard’s. “Even if it’s just drivers paying more attention on the road.”

A white “ghost bike” was delivered to the scene at 5 p.m. followed by a moment of silence followed by cyclists ringing their bells in unison.

Some cyclists held their bikes above their heads defiantly, while others hugged one another and exchanged stories of close calls on the road.
The cyclists formed a convoy at 5:15 p.m. and rode east along the edge of Bloor St., with police directing traffic around them.

Toronto Police have issued a statement warning cyclists heightened vigilance will be in place to ensure they obey the rules of the road in coming weeks.