James Shepherd recovering from serious injuries

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James Shepherd at Mulally Skatepark in Bronx, N.Y., 1991.

BMX legend and early influential street rider James Shepherd was released from the hospital Wednesday after suffering serious injuries while riding his bike July 4 in Austin, Texas.

Shepherd, 42, was traveling via BMX bike on South Lamar Boulevard in Austin when a car veered too close to him, according to Tom Williams, a longtime friend of Shepherd's and the owner of Empire BMX, a shop in Austin. As a result, Shepherd swerved into a utility pole and was thrown from his bicycle.

Shepherd suffered serious injuries that include a fractured skull, a broken jaw, a broken neck, a broken clavicle and a torn ACL in his knee, according to medical staff at Austin's University Medical Center Brackenridge, where Shepherd was transported after the accident. He underwent five surgeries to stabilize his injuries and was released from the hospital Wednesday.

Shepherd is currently recovering at home in Austin and is expected to make a full recovery.

Shepherd's contributions to the shape, ethos and direction of early BMX street riding are countless. In the early 1990s, alongside BMX videographer Dave Parrick, Shepherd helped create Homeless Bikes, which at the time was one of very few rider-owned BMX brands. Based in Austin, Homeless arrived on the scene with two American-made BMX frames, forks, shin guards, self-sealing tubes, apparel and accessories. The team Shepherd employed was made up of a cast of various characters from the growing Austin BMX scene and beyond, including Parrick, Ruben Castillo, Lee Sultimier, Steve Orneales, Ed Koenning, Eben Krackau, Jeff Harris, Kevin Gutierrez and other riders from the United Kingdom (including Jason Davies and John Yull), California and elsewhere.

Homeless also created "Trash," one of the most seminal BMX videos in the history of street riding. Released in 1992 and self-described as "a film based loosely on the handrail," the video broke new ground on the riding of the era. Mat Hoffman may have been the first rider to figure out how to grind a handrail, but it was the Homeless crew that opened up BMX's collective eyes to the possibility of what could be done on a handrail -- something still being explored almost 20 years later.

But that wasn't the only influence that Homeless had on the BMX scene. The Homeless brand and team possessed a certain aesthetic and stylistic approach to BMX. It hired BMX artist Gregg Higgins to create the look of Homeless ads and graphics, mixing black and white 1970s-era imagery with progressive riding photos, such as tailwhips over spines, icepicks down rails and fakie peg stalls on street signs. It was a progressive mix of original, technical street riding, backlash against corporate BMX companies and subversive imagery. And it cemented the influence of Homeless on BMX for a long time to come.

All this influence, from magazine ads to progressive street riding to the rider section format still used in BMX videos, comes back to Shepherd.

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