Was the cyclist who killed a pedestrian reckless?

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A cyclist struck and killed a pedestrian at this busy intersection at the bottom of a steep hill.

San Francisco's bicycling community is bracing for a backlash following the second recent case of a cyclist hitting and killing a pedestrian, particularly given a callous online posting by someone claiming to be the cyclist, whose 71-year-old victim this week died of injuries sustained a week ago at the intersection of Castro and Market streets.

The case was a hot topic at last night's monthly Carfree Happy Hour, a gathering of cyclists, transportation professionals, and alternative transportation activists, many of whom had unearthed new information about a case they're all grappling with. And the consensus opinion was that the cyclist seemed reckless and may deserve to face criminal charges.

Yet activists also sought to place this case in context, noting that an average of almost three pedestrians are hit by cars everyday in San Francisco, even though that rarely makes headlines. There were 220 pedestrians killed in San Francisco from 2000-2009, the vast majority hit by cars whose drivers rarely faced criminal charges. In fact, the same week that Sustchi Hui was killed there was another pedestrian killed by a motorist and another one by a Muni bus.

But that doesn't lessen the importance of this latest bike-vs.-pedestrian fatality, which is sure to make news precisely because it's so rare, and because it comes just weeks after 23-year-old Randolph Ang pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter for running a red light at Embarcadero and Folsom Street in July 2001, hitting a 68-year-old woman who later died from her head injury.

San Francisco Police Department won’t identify the cyclist in the latest incident unless he's charged with a crime, and its investigation is still ongoing, said SFPD spokesperson Albie Esperanza. “It's a tragic accident,” he told us, noting that the cyclist was cooperating with the investigation. Once the investigation is complete, the District Attorney's Office will decide whether to bring criminal charges against the cyclist.

Someone who identified himself as Chris Bucchere posted a note on the Mission Cycling Google group on the afternoon of the incident, March 29, describing an accident that apparently took place at the same time and place. And the description that Bucchere gave of the accident is not likely to garner much public sympathy for him (We contacted Bucchere by e-mail and telephone, we're waiting to hear back for him, and we can't independently confirm the authenticity of the message or its contents).

“I wrecked on the way home today from the bi-weekly Headlands Raid today. Short story: I'm fine. The pedestrian I clobbered? Not so much,” the message began.

The post then goes on to describe the incident, which matches the details of other reported accounts of the fatal crash: “Around 8 am I was descending Divisidero Street southbound and about to cross Market Street. The light turned yellow as I was approaching the intersection, but I was already way too committed to stop. The light turned red as I was cruising through the middle of the intersection and then, almost instantly, the southern crosswalk on Market and Castro filled up with people coming from both directions. The intersection very long and the width of Castro Street at that point is very short, so, in a nutshell, blammo.”

Another member of the Carfree Happy Hour group who is a regular competitive cyclist said that Bucchere was a member of the website strava.com, which tracks minute-by-minute data of cyclists for training purposes. And this source said he was able to use the site to determine that Bucchere was traveling through the intersection – which is at the bottom of a steep hill – at approximately 35 mph at the time of the collision.

Bucchere's message continued: “The quote/unquote 'scene of the crime' was that intersection right by the landmark Castro Theatre – it leads from a really busy MUNI station to that little plaza where The Naked Guy always hangs out. It was commuter hour and it was crowded as all getup. I couldn't see a line through the crowd and I couldn't stop, so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find.

“I don't remember the next five minutes but when I came to, I was in a neck brace being loaded into an ambulance. I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn't mine. Apparently I hit a 71-year old male pedestrian and he ended up in the ICU with pretty serious head injuries. I really hope he ends up OK.

“They asked me a bunch of stupid easy questions that I couldn't answer, so they kept me for a few hours for observation, gave me a tetanus shot and sent me on my way.

“Anyway, other than a stiff neck, a sore jaw/TMJ, a few bruises and some raspberries, I'm totally fine. I got discharged from the hospital during the lunch hour. The guy I hit was not as fortunate. I really hope he makes it.

“The cops took my bike. Hopefully they'll give it back.

“In closing, I want to dedicate this story to my late helmet. She died in heroic fashion today as my head slammed into the tarmac. Like the Secret Service would do for a president, she took some serious pavement today, cracking through-and-through in five places and getting completely mauled by the ragged asphalt. May she die knowing that because she committed the ultimate sacrifice, her rider can live on and ride on. Can I get an amen?

“Amen.

“The moral of this little story is: WYFH”

Several members of the newsgroup took issue with the lesson Bucchere claims to have learned : WYFH, or “Wear Your Fucking Helmet.” One poster wrote, “I'm not sure that's the moral of the story,” to which several others agreed. Another poster wrote: “What were you thinking ? As a 15 year sf resident and a 10 year cyclist and a pedestrian at that intersection every weekday .. I'm kind of embarrassed to wear my mc kit anywhere nearby now. I truly hope you've learned your lesson but I'd have to say this is not the end of the story for you, and yes you should get yourself a lawyer.”

Recent studies have shown that San Francisco is a dangerous city for pedestrians, but not as dangerous as many other cities on a per capita basis given our density and high pedestrian populations. A study released in January by the Alliance for Biking & Walking concludes San Francisco has the third highest biking and walking levels among major US cities, but ranks eighth in bicycle and pedestrian fatality rates.

A 2011 study by the group Transportation for America, “Dangerous by Design,” analyzed factors associated with pedestrian deaths – some of which seem to be at play in this case – and concluded, “Especially when combined with unsafe street and road design, vehicle speed presents a deadly threat to pedestrians.”

Comments

Everybody here has a point and a right to make it, and here's another one that hasn't been brought up. Whether it's a driver or a bike rider, it's a person who behaves well or badly. The vehicle is just the vehicle. The vehicle doesn't become part of the person, doesn't take over. I'm guessing the guy Chris B. isn't a considerate driver, either.
IN GENERAL---and holy god, don't twist this around on me---but IN GENERAL, a given person with a given amount of (fill it in yourself: disregard for others/narcissism/self absorption/__________) is less dangerous with a smaller weapon than with a bigger one. But a weapon is a weapon. Had he been in a car, he'd have done even more damage. This in no way diminishes the tragedy of the lost life. It is sad all around, isn't it?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 14, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

Amazing that this guy dedicates the blog post to his helmet when he killed a man. Even though he didn't know that he had killed that pedestrian at the time he wrote, he did know he'd given the man severe head injuries and that his victim was still in the hospital. One would expect he'd be humbled and repentant, not oh-well-what-the-hell-shit-happens. This arrogance is what gives cyclists such a bad reputation.

Posted by Wildride on Apr. 15, 2012 @ 11:24 am

Safe cyclists, and reckless cyclists. Make them buy some form of insurance! Make them register their bikes! If they involved in an accident with a pedestrian make sure local law enforcement writes a detailed accident report. They don't do accident reports for this type of thing in Wisconsin, and officers admit they'd have no clue how to write one. They are not trained.

I cyclist can be under the influence, and I'm not aware they even have to blow for a blood alcohol test. I've seen many riding without any lighting at dusk. They take a hill into a populated area at too fast a speed, and don't really care about pedestrian safety.

I spent days in an ICU after a bicycle hit me. I was not at the crosswalk, and didn't see her coming down a steep hill at dusk. If a bicycle hits you going 20 MPH or more you'll be thrown up into the air, and perhaps into an oncoming car. Nobody asked why there were no lights on the bike, or why the rider asked somebody if they thought it was okay if she left before the ambulance, or police came. I was hoping this woman saw me coming she said, but since there was no eye contact from her I figured she probably didn't. I saw her cross over 100 feet away, but didn't bother to slow down. I thought my screaming for her to get out of my way, or to stop would save the day! I realize now I had plenty of room to continue on without a crash. I guess I misjudged whether that person would change course and go back to the curb! I testified that there was a car coming in the other lane, but I don't really know if that's true. Again, I did brake when I hit her, but not before. I was just hoping for a speedy ride back home after work! If a car can travel 30 mph in the conjested area, I should be able to go 20 or better even if it's busy.

I guess you can severely injure a pedestrian with no consequences. Even if you're in a very congested, small tourist town when people gather to see a sunset, you can just zip on through and hope all goes well! You mostly have to hope that the pedestrian traffic always makes use of crosswalks even if you know they rarely do.

Posted by Guest Betty on Apr. 22, 2012 @ 10:08 am

I think it ought to be emphasized that Cyclists hitting Pedestrians is RARE, as this article states. Cars hitting pedestrian is the most common but The National Traffic Administration claims that In 2009, "630 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles and 51,000 were injured. These numbers represent approximately 2 percent of the total number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes. In 2000, the number of fatalities dipped below the 700 mark for the first time in the past decade."

I'm assuming the numbers have probably increased somewhat since that report.

However, as an avid cyclists, I'm tired of seeing so many untrained people on a bicycle who do not know their hand signals! And what's worse, DRIVERS OF VEHICLES often don't know bicycling hand gestures either! There ought to be a required Bicycle Safety course for every bicycle rider over the age of 12 who wants to ride a bicycle on the street, and IMHO a bicycling license ought to be REQUIRED for every person over the age of 12 who wants to ride the bicycle on the street. Every state has different laws regarding Bicycle Requirements, yet in this case, the Bicycle Licence would be National. I know that sounds harsh, when we live in a world that makes unprofessional and unsafe bicycles for children to ride on and just have fun with, and while a law like this would take time to really take effect, it would be small step to bicycle safety. Secondarily, it ought to be required that a Vehicular Licensed Driver take and resume a course in Bicycle Safety as well, perhaps anually!

And if you drive a car, and are passing a bicylist, SLOW DOWN! While I am used to people speeding past me, some newer cyclists aren't, and speeding past them can cause an accident. Secondarily, don't try to get a rush by shouting at them, or barking at them (yes, a person barked at me like a dog... some strange people in this world!) While I am able to ignore that type of idiocy, some newer cyclists aren't accustomed to that, nor should they be. THAT ought to be against the law too, but it would be too hard to enforce, so I suppose I'll have to live with it for now.

Posted by Guest Chado on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 8:54 am

Last Thursday, biking up 9th to Market, I was fixing to turn right to head towards downtown. As I approach the intersection, I hit the crosswalk as the countdown was at 2 and the light was green. As I entered the crosswalk, pedestrians streamed across and almost cut me off. I veered to the center stripe to avoid them and said "WAIT!" One of them replied, "No, YOU wait!"

Of course I was slowing for the turn but had to speed up to make the clear slot, otherwise I would have hit the pedestrians who were illegally in the crosswalk because their recklessness offered no lead time.

What we've got here is a circumstance where pedestrians are given complete and total latitude to ignore the law, and cyclists are expected to bike as if the unforseeable is going to happen at any moment. There are no consequences for pedestrians violating the law, but the moment that a cyclist fails to anticipate illegal and reckless conduct, the pedestrian gets a pass and the cyclist gets blamed.

The fact is that pedestrians are required to obey the law, and if a cyclist is riding safely, not recklessly, and a pedestrian recklessly disobeys the law, the pedestrian has no legal recourse. The simple answer is to look both ways before crossing.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 9:54 am

Do cyclists ever receive tickets for failure to yield? I doubt it. But to protect the public, which seems to be the goal, law enforcement needs to be trained so they can write a comprehensive accident report. If somebody is injured by a motorized vehicle it is mandatory. Without an accident report, who could ever tell if a bicyclist was reckless.

It's important to get the details. Maybe we also need uninsured bicyclist insurance.

I don't think vehicles can really have the right to injure pedestrians outside the crosswalk, jaywalking. Sometimes you just have to crawl through a conjested area, and stop frequently so you don't hurt a driver getting out of the passenger door, or a child who runs into the street. To just continue through, honking your horn, would be aggressive and dangerous.

Posted by Guest Betty on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 5:55 am

Nobody has the "right" to injure anyone. What we're talking about is what happens when one party is in violation of the law, is engaging in conduct that is not reasonably foreseeable, such as being in the crosswalk against the signal, intersects with another provision of the law, that operators of vehicles must maintain control of their vehicles at all times, as in not colliding with anything else.

The answer to this is for everyone to pay attention and conduct themselves safely through the shared space. But that falls apart when one party is in violation of the rules and then gets upset when others do not accommodate their violations.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 24, 2012 @ 6:40 am

I've been on a cruise to Stockholm and I loved it (I'm from Estonia). Now i'm planning a longer stay and i was wondering if any of you guys know any hotels to recommend. Or maybe you've stayed somewhere outside the Stockholm and loved the place- i'd love to hear about that as well!.

Posted by Sammie Beyale on May. 06, 2012 @ 11:47 am

i wanna know if there is a way to drive to Stockholm without going through france germany ect... i heard there a ferry from Newcastle that goes to gothenburge is it true if not any other way ?.

Posted by Andrea Torruellas on May. 06, 2012 @ 11:47 am

What idiot claimed that bicyclists have little to seize in the case of an accident? Most cyclists do not ride a bike because we are poor and unable to afford a car. That might apply to the Critical Mass folks but not the majority of us. Most cyclists own cars and are already licensed and insured. Some of us own homes and other substantial assets. Remember the idea is to get people out of their cars. Asking someone to obtain a special license or additional insurance is counter-productive. Remember as a licensed driver I am permitted to drive a car, truck or motorcycle. Now some idiots want me to get a license to RIDE A BIKE? Check it out. There is no country in the world that requires a license to ride a bike. Only a stupid American would think of such a thing.

Posted by Guest Terry Rolleri on May. 19, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

The decision to charge a bicyclist with negligent manslaughter has to have a LOT supporting evidence behind it, meaning that this cyclist should get ready for some bad times to come. Already we here biking supporters reiterating "but CARS kill more people than...". The point is not "this kills more than". The point is that a man was killed in a rather glaring manner by someone who seemingly has no sense and fewer morals. But his action is just a more visible example of the attitude that far too many cyclists have: That they are not subject to traffic laws, in particular stop signs and stop lights. In 40 years of driving in SF I have personally seen only a handful, that is 4 or 5 times, where a bicyclist actually stopped at stop signs or lights, signaled a turn or waited for their turn to go through an intersection. I have had cyclist blow through on my right when I was making a right turn, with my car covering the lane and actually in motion. How that person got through I haven't a clue but it could only be God's grace that kept me from hitting him. I have had cyclist pass me in the middle of a left turn; blow through stop signs and then give me the single digit salute; narrowly miss pedestrians, sometimes on the sidewalk. I have just one question: since bicyclists have demanded and have received lanes reserved only for their use and other considerations on the road, then why aren't bicyclists paying their share for the upkeep of roads and bridges and highway. As any car owner will tell you every time a car is registered the state levies a road use charge, which can be a very substantial piece of change. It obviously time to start requiring licensing and insurance for bicyclists and collecting registration and road use fees on their bikes. If they are going to use the road, they must pay for their share of the road and be financially responsible for accidents and injuries, just as all other vehicle owners are required to do. Come look Gov. Brown, a NEW funding source for the state!

Posted by 762x51nato on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 8:03 pm

This is one sad but timely reminder that no matter what the mode of transport is - bike or car, the driver needs to be very alert. The cause of accidens are usually human errors, and accidents can be prevented if people just drove or rode safely. There should be a speed limit imposed on busy streets.

Posted by Thomas on Jun. 24, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

Pedestrians have the right of way, period..!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2012 @ 11:05 am

Pedestrians have the right of way, period..!

Posted by Guest on Oct. 19, 2012 @ 11:13 am

obviously the law is not strict enough to prevent people from doing stupid things.

Posted by Jeff on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 11:33 am