What we can learn from fatal incident that left Darcy Sheppard dead
We need to slow down as we share the road
By Kris Scheuer
(Column originally published in Town Crier Sept. 8)
The recent collision on Bloor St. that resulted in the death of cyclist
Darcy Allan Sheppard has me thinking more about safety for everyone on our roads.
I’m not focusing on the high profile nature of this fatal crash that resulted in former midtown politician Michael Bryant being charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death. My colleague Brian Baker is covering that news story for the Town Crier.
But I feel it’s important to look at how we share the streets.
If you left your home today, you used the road to get where you were going. Whether you travelled by bike, transit, car or crossed the street on your feet. You had to navigate streets to get from point A to B.
My perspective is mainly as a pedestrian, daily transit user and occasional summertime cyclist. I have driven less than 40 times in my life when I took driving lessons, but never took a road test to get my licence.
I have witnessed many cyclists without a helmets travelling at night with no lights on their bike. They may not realize how hard it is for drivers to see them. I wear a helmet every time I ride a bike. I have been very lucky so far and not gotten into any collisions and have decided not to test fate. I also have a very bright light on the front of my bike, a flashing red light for the back and bell to let others know I am on the road when they aren’t paying attention. I’d love to see every cyclist do the same.
I take various modes of transit daily including streetcars. Unlike buses that let riders off in the curb lane, streetcars stop in the middle lane. So each time I exit a streetcar, I always pause to make sure cars have stopped before I step into what could be moving traffic.
Several times a week I see cars zoom by the open streetcar doors as I, and others, are about to step forth onto the road. It makes me quite mad. But I take my safety seriously, so I am willing to take responsibility for checking first before I exit.
As a pedestrian, I admit that I jaywalk pretty much daily. I do not run haphazardly into traffic. I wait for traffic to stop in the lanes closest to me and then wait in the middle for an opening to continue. But I do remember one incident on June 29, 2006 when I endangered myself because I was in a hurry.
I stepped off the curb, mid-block to jaywalk across Queen St. East near Jarvis St. on my way to St. Lawrence Market. As a car pulled out of a parking spot, I stepped onto the road into the vacant space. Just then the driver, not seeing me behind him, decided to back up to do a three-point turn and head into traffic.
In a flash I decided not to step back onto the sidewalk, but quickly sidestep behind this moving vehicle. As the handsome man driving the car veered into traffic, he noticed I was there and said, “I nearly killed you.”
I just rolled my eyes at him and crossed the street. But almost instantly I knew he was right. Why had I been in such a hurry to shave 30 seconds off my travel time, that I took chances with my safety?
If I did not get the message to slow down from that incident, another lesson came later that same night.
As I headed back from the funeral of a friend’s grandpa, I tripped as I got on the Bathurst bus to head home. I fell flat on my face and banged up my knee and the top of my high-heeled foot. No one stopped to help me. They just glared at me although the bus driver and one passenger inquired if I was all right.
Embarrassed, I sat down quietly with my foot stinging with pain. Five weeks later my left foot was still bruised and sore.
I can not speak for drivers, but I do see times when they don’t look at people or cyclists before they make a turn. Or they speed through a yellow or red light. And certainly people are distracted by changing the radio, text messaging on their Blackberry or talking on their cell phone leaving one less hand on the wheel.
And all of the lack of attention by drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and transit users can have grave consequences.
According to 2006 city stats, someone is killed in a traffic collision on the city’s streets every 6.4 days. A person is injured every 30.2 minutes in a traffic collision. I was lucky not to be one of them.
So next time you use our road in any shape or form, I ask that you pay attention, slow down and consider your own life and those of everyone around you.