Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two incidents between cyclists and vehicles

It's heartbreaking to hear yet more incidents between cyclists and vehicles, particularly when someone dies. Both incidents lists here are reported by CP24.

First reported by CP24, is a man who died when he cut in front of a street car. They are large and can't stop on a dime. The man is reported to have " went through a red turn signal while the streetcar was proceeding through the intersection on a green light.".

The second reported by CP24, is a cyclist, specifically identified as a bike courier, who got into a fist fight with a driver. CP24 reports that the cyclist appeared to be struck by the car (obviously without much damage) and proceeded to start punching the driver through the car window. The driver was then reported to have to gotten out of the vehicle and punched the courier back.

Both incidents are disturbing and I believe the root of the problem lies with the ability to share the road, and the lack of knowledge of what is safe and reasonable to be doing on the road.

The man who died actually went through a red light right in front of a street car... there is no question that training that man to understand the rules of the road before he went out on his bike would have saved him, if he already did know the rules, he ignored them to his own final detriment. Unfortunately this is something I see happening all the time.

In the second case, I have no doubt that the bike courier felt that he had been wronged and wanted to let the driver know, but in what universe is it ok to start punching someone to get a point across? In that case, the vehicle has a licence plate for a reason and it is not safe or reasonable to start punching someone. Violence of that nature is not ok in my city.

What can be done after the fact to reduce the likelihood of those types of incidents from happening again?
  1. Make sure the drivers and cyclists are educated on how they can and should use the road. We need a better way to educate both drivers and cyclists before they get on the road.
  2. In the second case, the courier and maybe the driver should be charged with assault. Why were they not?
An accident is an accident and they can be reduced through education. Throwing punches is not accidental, it's assault and should be treated as such.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Java runs fine on Snow Leopard

Back in February I wrote a quick article that expressed my hope that Java would work properly on Snow Leopard.

After Snow Leopard was released a little while ago, my site hits skyrocketed to unprecedented levels, all from people looking for information about Java on SL. I can only assume they are all wondering if they are going to have any trouble when upgrading.

Let me assure you that in terms of Java, I have had no trouble on SL!

Just as an FYI, java -version returns:
java version
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_15-b03-219)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 14.1-b02-90, mixed mode)
... and its working just fine.

However, the pure volume of hits against my own unknown blog should also be an indicator to Apple that Java is not dead and gone as Mr. Jobs has said.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Windows Media streams on Snow Leopard

I recently upgraded my MacBook Pro to Snow Leopard along with many others.

On Leopard you used to be able to play Windows Media streams using a Microsoft plugin for QuickTime, however when I tried to fire up the CBC1 Radio steam I often listen to, I discovered it no longer works with the new QuickTime X that comes with Snow Leopard.

All is not lost however, A long time Linux app called VLC, ported to several platforms came to the rescue, once I fired it up, it worked flawlessly. In fact it's working so well I may never bother to use QuickTime for CBC1 again.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bryant & Sheppard: Security video on YouTube

There is a video on YouTube of the security video captured of the Bryant / Sheppard incident.

The footage is actually posted by someone filming his television and is not very good. The poster is also obviously biased toward the Sheppard side and gets many facts wrong when he annotates the video. However it does give is an opportunity to see some of the detail ourselves.
If you want to see it, take a look now because it's actually in violation of YouTunes terms of service (for copyright violation) and may get taken down shortly.

Here is my analyses of what I can see. I'm purposely ignoring the incorrect and biased annotations in the video. Note, there are two angles captured here.

First camera angle:
Time index 0:01
- Bryant is stopped at a red light in the left most lane (the lane closest to the oncoming traffic).
Time index 0:02
- Sheppard enters frame behind Bryant.
Time index 0:04
- Byrant begines to accelerate as the light turns green.
- Sheppard has crossed the median and is passing Bryant on his left
- Sheppard has covered approximately 10 meters in 2 seconds (about 18kmh)
Time index 0:05
- Sheppard enters Bryant's peripheral vision
- Bryant begins to break suddenly as Sheppard starts to cut in front of him.
Time index 0:06
- Bryant's car has stopped again.
- Sheppard has pulled to the right, cutting in front of Bryant.
Time index 0:07
- For some reason, Sheppard stops in front of Bryant at the green light. He does not appear to be turning left because he is not signalling a turn and would also be out of frame in the intersection.
Time index 0:10
- Sheppard is still sitting at the green light, and turns around to say something to Bryant.
* assumption: they are yelling at each other.
Time index 0:11
- Bryant jerks forward, and closes on Sheppard's back tire. Sheppard does not move and it doesn't appear that Bryant hits Sheppard's back tire as there is no movement from the bike or Sheppard, which there would be if he had been hit even a small amount.
Time index 0:12
- First car going east bound (opposite direction) is seen at bottom right of frame. This supports the time index and Bryant's first aborted movement based on how long it takes a car to move through an intersection.
- Sheppard gets off his bike, leaving it in the intersection.
Time index 0:15
- Sheppard has walked back and is parallel to Bryant's hood (just past the headlights).
* opinion: I can't see it well, but it looks like Sheppard hits the car with something.
Time index 0:17
- Bryant attempts to extricate himself and begins to accelerate. We can see from another video appended to this video (but from another angle) that he turns the car to the right in order to go around the bicycle on the road.
- We see Sheppard "move" here, but we can't see why. He is ether pushed aside by the car or is jumping on the hood which he then falls off of.

Second camera angle:
Time index 0:19
- Bryant attempts to extricate himself by moving through the intersection, but hits the bicycle which is on the road in front of his bumper where he can't see it.
Time index 0:20
- Bryant stops his car again.
- Sheppard is still on his left, standing on the median.
Time index 0:24
- Bryant backs up to clear the bicycle.
Time index 0:27
- Bryant turns to the right to go around the bicycle on the road.
Time index 0:28
- It's hard to see and i can't be sure, but it looks as if Sheppard moves toward the car as it goes by in the right hand lane (implying that he is still standing).

At this point the the security camera footage ends. Sheppards death is actually later and is not covered by this footage. It is reported that Sheppard then chased after Bryant's car and somehow hung on to the drivers side.

In my opinion based on what I can see in the video, Bryant could not see the bicycle in the road when he hit it and it was likely because Sheppard was angry over his bike being damaged by the car (the bike he left laying in the road in front of Bryant's bumper) that he chased after Bryant.
Bryant may have been able to see the bike and ran it over on purpose, but we can't actually tell from this video. It's more likely that in his haste to get away from the situation and because he couldn't see it, he forgot that Sheppard had left it there. No driver wants their car damaged and running over a bike is likely to do damage.
We can also tell that Sheppard was not on the bike when it was first hit by the car.

It's pretty clear that Sheppard was the aggressor here, there is no doubt about it.

It bothers me that some folks feel a need to bend visual evidence to fit their political agenda in such blatant and obvious ways. In fact it's those folks screaming about murder that have prompted me to write anything about this at all.

I want to ensure that bikes can use the roads safely. I demand it because my children will eventually be using them. Automatically blaming Bryant for this tragedy does not help make the roads safer and in fact is detrimental to doing so.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Darcy Sheppard may have caused his own death

Some new details have come to light in the Bryant / Sheppard altercation.
It's looking to me as if Sheppard caused his own death. The Star reports:

"According to witnesses, Bryant cut the argument short by pulling away. As he headed westbound on Bloor St., Sheppard chased the car on foot. He grabbed hold of the vehicle on the driver's side. It's not clear if he was trying to get into the car, get at the driver or merely prevent him from leaving."

"Within seconds, the westbound car had crossed over into the eastbound lanes of Bloor St. Construction workers laying pipe on the stretch of road gaped as the car swerved toward them. It was dark. Many couldn't see Sheppard clinging to the vehicle. All of them said they could hear Bryant screaming."

"The car was riding right up against the sidewalk where there were trees and posts and newspaper boxes. The tires were screeching," said witness Josh Harlan.

Those quotes are not the entire article and I left parts out (please read it yourself for the other details). However they are very telling in terms seeing what happened.
  • Sheppard was clearly the aggressor, chasing down the vehicle and grabbing onto the drivers side.
  • The vehicle moved into the oncoming lane, which in North America is the side the driver sits on, and the side that Sheppard was hanging onto.
  • Shepard didn't let go of the vehicle until objects on the side of the road knocked him off.
So essentially as Bryant pulled away from the light, Sheppard ran after the vehicle and grabbed into the drivers side (the convertible's top was down). It is entirely possible that Sheppard grabbed the steering wheel of the vehicle, however until we are able to read the court documents or review the video ourselves, we don't know that. We do know that he latched onto the drivers side though, and any interference with the driver on the left side of the vehicle, would cause the driver to move away from the source of that interference and would have caused the vehicle to swerve to the left (the natural instinct of a human is to push away from something), crossing into the oncoming traffic, and eventually hitting the curb on the other side of the road.

I suspect that the angry cyclists congregating downtown may end up eating crow.
Although I do not feel that anyone deserves to die in such a way, it bothers me that the cyclist can do no wrong in the eyes of other cyclists.

Apple Trademarked Glossy Chat Bubbles?

I just read this article on TechCrunch:

You have got to be kidding... there is absolutely prior art here, I've been seeing them in in apps for years before apple released the iPhone that contains them.

This style and format belongs to other developers, some of which are under open license. There have been people doing the same thing as themes in apps for so long that I don't know how apple can get away with it.

Apple is really starting to bug me with this hocus-pocus they keep spouting.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Michael Bryant & Darcy Sheppard: Fight or Flight Reflex?

There is no doubt that the death of Darcy Sheppard was an unnecessary tragedy. It's also a tragedy that Michael Bryant now has to bare the consequences of the altercation between the two.

It will be interesting to see the rest of the facts and the outcome of the case, here are a few links that I'm getting my current info from.
Now there is not much information available, however we do have a few facts:
  1. The cyclist attached himself (grabbed on) to the vehicle.
  2. He was pulled or dragged or otherwise moved 100 meters down the road.
  3. The whole altercation spanned only 1 minute.
  4. The passenger in the vehicle called police during the incident.
  5. The driver (Bryant) accelerated after Sheppard grabbed on to the vehicle.
  6. Sheppard had dealings with police officers earlier in the day.
Based on those facts and without much else available yet, a couple of things strike me.
  1. Sheppard must have been being aggressive and/or violent earlier in the day if the police were called to remove him from a location.
  2. Sheppard demonstrated aggressiveness again when he grabbed onto Bryants vehicle during the incident.
  3. Bryants unnamed passenger felt threatened enough to call the police.
  4. Bryant showed a lack of judgement when he accelerated his vehicle down the street.
  5. In order for the bike to strike the car, Sheppard would have had to have run into the vehicle. If the opposite had happened (car striking cyclist), the weight and momentum of the vehicle would likely not have left him standing so that he could grab onto the vehicle.
All of us who drive and ride bicycles have had words with others using the roads. However its pretty clear that Sheppard was being aggressive and violent. Bryant may have also been aggressive, however it's clear the passenger felt threatened.

I'm not sure if I had been the driver, I would have done anything different than Bryant did. Imagine your in a convertible an aggressive and violet man grabs onto your car... what do you do?

Would you feel threatened enough for your fight or flight reflex to kick in?

The lives of both families will be severely impacted because of "stupidness" on the part of both Bryant and Sheppard. However I'm not sure this could have happened any other way. When physical contact starts between two opposing aggressors, one will get hurt... maybe not always dead but certainly someone is going to feel it.