Published On Sun Aug 29 2010
On the night of his death, bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard was riding a white Miele road bike with curled handlebars. Friends still remember the 33-year-old’s excitement when he bought the set of wheels, which he decorated with stickers and the nickname “the weeder speeder” scrawled in orange marker across the frame.
This was the bike Sheppard was riding exactly one year ago Tuesday, when he was killed on Bloor St. during a confrontation with former Ontario attorney general, Michael Bryant. The bike, held in police custody since then, was back on the road Sunday afternoon, rolling down the same stretch of Bloor St. where Sheppard spent his dying moments.
Sporting a new tire and pedals (the old ones were damaged during Sheppard’s fatal accident), the bike also had a new rider — Sheppard’s adoptive father, Allan, who travelled from Edmonton to participate in a memorial ride commemorating his son’s death.
It was the senior Sheppard’s first time cycling in Toronto, on the same bike and road that marked his son’s final journey. But for the pragmatic 72-year-old, the ride held no deeper significance than to commemorate his son.
“I don’t see any particular symbolism there,” said Sheppard, carrying a backpack and sporting a black and white-checkered helmet. “I’m just pretty happy to be here to support my son’s friends.”
Some 50 couriers and cyclists took part in Sunday’s memorial ride, which kicked off from the spot where Sheppard died, just east of Bloor St. and Avenue Rd. A separately-planned vigil for the fallen bike messenger also took place at Bay and Bloor Sts. Sunday night.
For participants of the memorial ride, including Sheppard’s then-girlfriend, Misty Bailey, the goal was to remember a lost friend and draw attention to cyclist safety.
But many also vented their frustrations over the outcome of Bryant’s criminal charges stemming from Sheppard’s death. In May, Crown prosecutor Richard Peck withdrew Bryant’s charges after concluding there was no reasonable prospect of a conviction.
“It made me sick,” said cyclist Sonia Serba, who helped organize the event. “The outcome made me sick.”
“I’m disappointed with our legal system,” said Brian Harris, a courier and close friend of Sheppard’s. “Darcy’s been failed by the system so many times before and this has got to be the biggest failure.”
Harris, 36, brought a “ghost bike” to Sunday’s memorial, which he locked to a pole near the site of Sheppard’s death. Ghost bikes, painted white, are often placed in spots where cyclists have been killed and three have so far been made in Sheppard’s memory.
Harris said he frequently delivers packages to office buildings on Bloor St. but can no longer bring himself to cycle down that road.
“This will probably be the only time I’ve ridden along this road,” said Harris. “I’m riding along the stretch of road that my friend was dragged to death on.”
Sheppard’s father said he still remembers the moment he learned of his son’s death last August. He was taking a Greyhound bus back to Edmonton from Toronto and by the time he reached Winnipeg, there was a message waiting for him on his cell phone from one of Darcy’s friends.
Sheppard said he plans on bringing Darcy’s bike back to Alberta and giving it to his younger brother, David.
He said he is still working through some grief and is disappointed the truth behind his son’s death was never sufficiently aired in court.
“I’m prepared still to accept that he did initiate the incident. But I need a better explanation of how that happened than what we’ve got so far,” he said. “I think that the assertions that were made deserved more rigorous examination than they got.”
Sheppard said he has never spoken to Bryant and doesn’t know if he ever will. Although Sheppard feels no vitriol towards the former attorney general, he would like to see Bryant acknowledge the role he played in his son’s death — whatever that may have been.
“I do think I’d like Mr. Bryant to ‘fess up. Just to say, ‘Look, what I did, I regret having done it . . . and I’m sorry,’ ” he said. “Even that — just to admit some involvement.”