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Memorial bike ride held in honour of fallen courier Add to ...

For some, the withdrawing of charges against Michael Bryant in May marked the end of the story that began with the deadly altercation between the former Ontario attorney general and bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard last summer.

But Toronto's couriers are determined to keep Mr. Sheppard's memory alive, paying tribute to him on Sunday, two days before the anniversary of his death.

At 1 p.m., about 50 people gathered on Bloor Street near Bay for a memorial bike ride. It was near here that Mr. Bryant struck the back wheel of Mr. Sheppard's bike, prompting the courier to grab onto the side of the car. As the car drove off, Mr. Sheppard struck a mailbox and fell to the ground. He died in hospital.

While those at the memorial acknowledged Mr. Sheppard had his troubles - drug addiction, alcoholism and a some fraud charges - they said these tell only one side of the story. Couriers remembered their fallen friend as a hard-working joker, full of frenetic energy that he invested in his demanding job and in maintaining his bike.

Mr. Sheppard's father, Allan Sheppard, travelled from Edmonton to ride his son's bike - a slim, Italian model designed for street riding, plastered with stickers, its tires worn from heavy use - in the memorial. He said he had been prepared last year to believe that his son was responsible for the altercation with Mr. Bryant, but that the couriers had persuaded him there was more to the story.

"I've gone through many crises with my son, so this wasn't the first. Unfortunately, it was the last," recalled Mr. Sheppard, his grey hair tied in a neat ponytail under a bicycle helmet. "It was the response of his friends and his courier friends, who made me take a second look at this."

In part, the memorial was about providing a counter-point to the dropping of Mr. Bryant's charges. Many had harsh words for the justice system, maintaining that a full trial was necessary to determine what exactly happened the night of Mr. Sheppard's death.

It was also about remembering Mr. Sheppard's life and the happy times he'd shared with his fellow couriers.

"He would say 'if I look good, we look good', then I'd turn around and say 'do your fly up!'" recalled Brian Harris, an 18-year veteran of the courier business, who worked with Mr. Sheppard.

For many, the memorial was a chance to highlight the dangers of cycling in the city, a shared hazard that bonds the members of the courier community, and solidifies their kinship with Mr. Sheppard.

"I was terrified for a week after [Mr. Sheppard's death]" said his friend Marli Epp, a fellow courier who organized the memorial. "Every time a horn honked, I'd be afraid that you could be run down at any moment."

His girlfriend Misty Bailey marvelled at how they had all come together for him.

"They consider him part of the family," she said. "It's hit home for them."

Follow on Twitter: @adrianmorrow

 

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