It’s fair to say that most people in Toronto have at this point at least heard of the Michael Bryant thing. If you haven’t, allow me to catch you up.
Basically, Bryant was driving his car down Bloor Street on Monday when something – no one’s quite sure exactly what — happened between him and a bike courier. Probably a collision of some sort, but obviously not serious because the courier got up. Then he leapt onto Bryant’s Saab convertible. The female passenger (his wife?) called police while Bryant hit the gas.
He swerved into oncoming traffic and drove up on the opposite sidewalk, purposefully running his car up against trees and mailboxes to try to get the courier off, screaming the whole way. Eventually, he succeeded. But the courier got bashed to death in the process. Possibly driven over. Guess all those wonderfully gory details will come out in the trial.
But it gets better!
Michael Bryant was the attorney general for Ontario. I believe that title means pretty much the same in most places; he was the legal bigwig of Ontario.
Also, the courier had been drinking. A lot. In fact, he had had a long history of unhappy addiction, and had about an hour earlier been stopped by police for trying to enter into a former girlfriend’s place wasted. Perhaps to visit with one of his kids?
The biker had been sober for about eight days, but the day of the incident, well, let’s just say he had indulged. The police are taking flak for telling him to go home from his girlfriend’s instead of letting him to stay. He shouldn’t have been sent home by the cops to ride drunk, they’re saying. Yeah, I say; he should’ve been walking his bike home. And in retrospect, the cops had the situation pegged; not a good time for a family visit.
Anyway, the whole thing quickly turned into a two-ring circus with all sorts of people sticking their causes to the event:
This morning, bikers got together in the spot where the courier died and staged a demonstration. Or protest. Or something. Some of them shouted out “murderer”, referring to Bryant, but made some strange remarks in a quieter voice (I was within earshot), “Yeah, if murderer means crusher of dreams, you back-peddling son of a bitch.” And so forth.
How come that kind of thing never makes the evening news? Ah, but that’s okay. I don’t think we should give the gathering too much credence. Most of the messages of condolence stuck to the spot mentioned, in one form or another, how this death was a just another demonstration of Toronto’s anti-bike streets. There was also plenty of promotion for United Messengers‘ Bloor bike lanes campaign. Guess they figured, if that bandwagon’s coming, might as well hang off the back:
So if the purpose of the gathering was to remind us about bike safety, I’d say absolutely! We could probably start by educating some of the bikers, huh?
I did an impromptu tally of helmets on cyclists for about six walking city blocks (major intersections). I counted only cyclists who were riding and on the road. Out of a total of 263 bikers, only about 45% were wearing helmets. I would like to do a follow-up study on how many also have earphones stuck in/on their ears. And coast through intersections on reds without a peek to either side.
I wouldn’t go so far as to totally let drivers off the hook either, but their infractions haven’t been as audacious as some of the stunts I’ve seen bikers pull. The only attempt at an explanation I’ve heard so far is, “We’re more vulnerable.” Umm … is that it? That’s why you don’t have to obey the rules of the road? Because you’re more vulnerable? Okay. Yeah.
I’ve been known to go out without my helmet now and again. Sometimes I also leave behind my lunch and name tag, the one that people can use to help me find my home again. But I usually get back from my walk okay because I always look both ways before I cross the street. There still seem to be so many bikers out there on whom this lesson is lost.
Oh, and the lesson about not getting pissed out of your gourd and picking a fight with a moving vehicle. Also an important lesson.