Is the killer cyclist more negligent because of past actions?

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Was Bucchere's crime about more than just this intersection?

Today's announcement by District Attorney George Gascón that he filed felony vehicular manslaughter charges against Chris Bucchere, the bicyclist who hit and killed a pedestrian at the intersection of Market and Castro streets on March 29, won't be a surprise or source of outrage to many people.

As I reported shortly thereafter, data from the cyclist training website Strava indicated that Bucchere was traveling at around 35 mph as he entered the crowded intersection on a yellow or red light. And the callous comments he made afterward to an online forum, which I also quoted, certainly cast him in an unsympathetic light.

But there is an aspect to the case that Gascon is bringing that I find vaguely unsettling: “'This tragic death caused by a bicyclist illustrates the worst case scenario when traffic laws are not obeyed,' said District Attorney Gascón. He explained that Bucchere displayed gross negligence in operating his bicycle warranting a felony vehicular manslaughter charge. His office intends to prove that there was a pattern of traffic laws being broken by Bucchere leading up to the accident.”

If he ran a couple red lights without incident before this one, does that make him more criminally liable for the bad decision he made at this intersection? Shouldn't the question of whether Bucchere was criminally negligent in causing 71-year-old Sutchi Hui's death be about his decision to plow through this intersection when it wasn't safe to do so?

Perhaps it's an issue that helps shore up the case that he was behaving in a reckless way. But this is going to be an emotional case and one likely to be trumpeted by the handful of cyclist-haters out there for whom our tendency to roll stop signs is the source of real anger and condemnation, with many blog commenters in the past wishing me a violent death for doing so, threatening to carry out the deed themselves, and saying they would feel only pride in doing so.

If one of these crazies plows into me when I'm riding legally, will I be blamed because I ran a red light a few intersections ago? Will they cite my admission in the Guardian that I often break traffic laws and say I had it coming? Would the decision that Bucchere made as he was screaming down Castro toward that fateful intersection be less negligent if he had stopped at previous intersections?

With the bitter resentments that some San Franciscans feel toward cyclists so palpable and potentially dangerous, it will be easy to lose perspective on this case and make Bucchere emblematic of all cyclists, as dishonest as that may be. And I think it's incumbent upon Gascón to try to prevent that from happening.

This is an isolated and unusual case of a young man making a tragic mistake for which he will pay a heavy price, no more and no less.

Comments

Are you trying to tell me that the laws of man should supersede the laws of physics?

What's next, declaring that sea level rise is not happening?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 18, 2012 @ 2:13 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 18, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

Never made it to voir dire.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 10:06 am

Justice is sometiems served.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 10:21 am

many that that cop was guilty at all, given the situation going on at the time.

If it's a felony rap then more than a year will involve State time, and I think that's important here because it sends a clear message that just because you're a cyclist and so considered groovy, you can't just spped, blow thru lights and not pay attention.

Perhaps 5 is too much, but I want to see 2 to 4. And hard time, not a country club.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 18, 2012 @ 2:25 pm

Don't forget it's not just the bikers running red lights and ignoring pedestrians. SF also has a horrible problem of bikers riding on sidewalks, including on Market and Valencia, two streets with bike lanes. Intelligent people think bike lanes should be enough to keep bikers riding in them and not on sidewalks congested with people walking.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 4:55 pm

Well if you've ever ridden a bicycle on the streets in SF you'd understand why cyclists ride on the sidewalk, so that tells me you've not ridden on the streets.

I ride on the sidewalk frequently because it's much safer there---less likely to be doored or hit by a self-absorbed SUV driver texting and driving---and I'm courteous to pedestrian. The other night the sidewalk was crowded with pedestrians on Market Street near Castro, so I rode in the bike lane. It was not a good experience. Because I usually ride on the sidewalk, I had no idea how terrible the streets are with bumps and potholes. I was almost shaken off my bike because of the roughness of the street near the Chevron station. I made it one block and then got back on the sidewalk. I have no idea how most cyclists ride on these terribly-rough streets without being thrown off their bike or getting a flat. I suspect the anti-cyclist troll above, doesn't even own a bicycle. Typical. That person is the self-entitled SUV driver constantly trying to "keep up with the Joneses."

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 6:30 pm

pedestrians around. If pedestrians even have to *think* that you might be a hazard to them, then *you* are out of line. Wheelchair jockeys, this second part applies to you as well. In spades.

Under California vehicle code, bicyclists have a right to take an entire lane when and if safety dictates, otherwise keep to a bike lane or ride on the sidewalk *real* *slowly* and avoiding proximity to pedestrians.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 9:52 am

Bicyclists have as much effective right to use the full lane as Sutchi Hui had to use the crosswalk whenever he wanted, that's why we ride on the sidewalk. That, and one-way streets that make cycling on the sidewalk, even slower, less onerous than 3 turns and three blocks.

I biked on the sidewalk on that forlorn block of 15th between Guerrero and Valencia. I was biking between the tree curb cuts and the curb. A guy in the wheelchair screamed at me "you're going to kill someone." I was 8 feet away from him and biking at less than 10mph. Clearly the media circus has had its impact on people, stoking fear and hatred of cyclists.

Good thing that paid advocates have got our backs, huh?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 10:41 am

I think you way overestimate the rightness of your sidewalk riding habits.

At 10 MPH you will travel eight feet in less than a second. Don't ride 10 MPH on a sidewalk unless there are *NO* pedestrians or wheelchair riders around. Simple? Perhaps not simple enough. *Real* simple rules like "it is fucking illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk" are necessary for people who, like you, habitually ratchet up their own domination of public spaces.

When you get to the end of the block, do you continue riding through the crosswalk? You are a fucking hazard to motorists too then.

By the way, when you are *poking* *along* on the sidewalk, don't ride near any doorways because someone can appear from one in a split second. (Again, applies to the wheelchair jockeys too.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 11:30 am

Perhaps you misunderstand relative speeds? Pedestrians are apparently standing still compared to the speed of cyclists even slow speeds on the sidewalk.

The other difference is that slow speeds mean fast stops and fast speeds mean slow stops. Cars speeding at 35mph next to bikes are much more dangerous to bikes than biking at 8mph next to a ped walking 3-5 mph.

In the case I recount above, I am more likely to clip a tree or a meter only injuring myself than I was to have hit anyone on the sidewalk.

That property of speed differential is why hardly any pedestrians are injured and there are none on the record being killed by cyclists riding on the sidewalk.

The simple answer is to make the streets safer for cyclists and provide counterflow through one way streets if they remain. The way to do this is to improve transit so that folks don't need to rely on single occupancy autos for most trips.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

nowledge that I mistook your clear "less than 10 MPH" to be 10 MPH precisely and responded in an overly harsh manner, but with these caveats:

I think 8MPH should be the *absolute* top limit for bicycling on the sidewalk and that should be for when their are basically *no* pedestrians present. At the other end of the spectrum, it is proper to dismount and walk your bike or at least slow to bare steerage until you are sure everybody knows you are there, what your intentions are, and that you are in control of your bike at walking speed. (Like at intersections? Yes.)

Otherwise, take to the street. Typically, the sidewalks in the big city (downtown area in particular are) *not* suitable places for you to learn to ride a bike, and they are *not* suitable places for you to go at your best speed when the safety of pedestrians is *in* *the* *least* comprimised.

See? It isn't about "you" (bicyclists) or your own safety. Its about the basic integrity of the space which pedestrians are limited to. It will no doubt tempt many to rationalize otherwise, but the truth is that once you were only a pedestrian (as a child, for sure) and you must realize that there are still more pedestrians than bicyclists. You cannot win this and you should not.

The downside is that there really is no place for bicyclists who insist on riding at running speed on the sidewalk and damn the comfort and safety of pedestrians. Either learn how to ride a bike really slowly -- and get used to the idea that you travel at a speed not dictated by your pedaling power, but by the presence of pedestrians -- or learn how to ride a bike fast.

Riding a bike relatively fast allows you to avoid dangerous situations when you are on the street. Try it. It's not like being a pedestrian though. Don't wear your iPod.

In between are times when you need to slow to 5, or to bare steerage.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

at 5MPH in the opposite direction that you are traveling "at less than 10" has a 15MPH relative speed. Your bike at 20MPH has a relative speed of 5MPH to same-side traffic moving at the speed limit on most city streets you need to be riding on.

When (and if) biking down major thoroughfares like Oak Street, I regularly will make a temporary right turn followed by a "u" to let the bulk of traffic go by under the theory that I'll be less likely to be hit by a driver not negotiating heavy traffic, and open lanes to my left are always a good thing in the presence of parked cars.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

Right, all pedestrians are walking towards me while all motorists are driving away from me. Nice trick.

The hype scares pedestrians more than normal while the numbers show no real public health threat to peds from bikes on the sidewalk.

The orders of magnitude more weight of the auto and higher speeds relative to cyclists still mean an orders of magnitude greater danger for cyclists from cars than to peds from cyclists.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

completely full of shit.

1) Traffic *is* moving the same direction as bicyclists when both are following traffic laws. (Were you really ignorant of legal requirements for bicycle users of California roadways?)

2) Bicyclist *do* present a greater danger to pedestrians than other pedestrians. They typically move much more quickly, and unlike runners, can approach without making any sound.

3) Get it through you head. It is *not* about you. Your safety is *not* paramount. Do not ride on the sidewalk. (There. you did it. I actually believe people ought to be able to ride on the sidewalks (within the limitations I've stated), but you are apparently one of the jerks who make it impossible to allow such.)

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

Yes, my safety is paramount to me. And when the streets are dangerous, then I'm going to ride on the sidewalk and I am going to do so as a guest on the sidewalk, as the lowest priority sidewalk user, got it?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 9:40 am

but when I read the text of your comment, I saw that we are not far from each other. (Were you posting earlier on this thread as "guest?")

That said, I think you might want to revise and amend your statement. Although I sometimes ride on the sidewalk, I would tend to put my own safety *below* doing something really "embarassing" like bumping into a mother with her newborn, or even mildly frightening an obviously pregnant woman.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 10:03 am

as long as he first dismounts and walks his bike.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 10:20 am

And let's get real here, you're trying to say that we're going to coerce cyclists to put ourselves in harm's way by fining activity that is inherently safer in many cases for cyclist and by the numbers safe for pedestrians?

How high would you need to make the fine so that cyclists would be sensitive to it, and do you propose to put cyclists who ride on the sidewalk in debtors prison if they can't pay?

Posted by marcos on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 10:08 am

you wouldn't want a bike in a pedestrian lane either.

Or do you want a double standard?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 10:23 am

Of course, the moment that the SFPD enforces the laws against motorists and keeps the streets safe for cyclists, I'm off the sidewalk during those rare times that it is safer to ride on the sidewalk than in the street.

That can't happen soon enough but the amount of progress being made towards that is imperceptible compared to the amount of effort being expended to make the sidewalks no safer for peds, by the numbers, by enforcing against cyclists.

The truth is that there is no concerted municipal effort to make anything safer for anyone, just a government with contempt for its residents and taxpayers figuring out ways to divide and conquer those folks in order to keep its Good Thing Going.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 11:25 am

I'd adopt some fairly aggressive defensive manoevers if a bike came too close to me on a sidewalk. You can act all brave with a disabled guy in a wheelchair but you'll get unlucky one day.

A bike is a vehicle. Use the road and obey the rules.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 11:35 am

for "taking the whole lane", that's a problem and for two reasons.

First the law demands that slower trafic keep right. Bikes aren't always slower in cities, of course, but where they are, they shouldn't hold up traffic. And in fact the law says that if there are vehicles stacked up behind you, you should pull over.

Second, it's dangerous. As a driver, if a vehicle coming the other way veers into my path, I'm going to swing right. The more a bike is to the left, the more likely I will have to sacrifice him to prevent a head-on collision.

Be careful out there.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 11:39 am

Wow, intentionally kill a third person to keep yourself from being killed by a second person? That's pretty fucking cold.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

a truck is heading right for you. do you hit the truck at a combined speed of maybe 60mph or sideswipe a cyclist? Either way, someone dies, but this way only one person does.

Actually it doesn't matter how you answer that because it's not a logical deliberation - your instincts would take over and you'd avoid the truck at all costs, and I mean all costs.

And luckily the solution is easy. Keep right.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

but it must have gotten lost in the ether. As you are passing a bicyclist and concurrently eyeing some menacing oncoming traffic, is that what's going through you mind? That you can just cream the person on the bike? Siko.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

law requires slower traffic to do, and keeping right and risking being sideswiped in a number of possible situations.

The "slower traffic keep right" rule is there for a reason.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

prudence of keeping out of the flow of faster, heavier traffic.

It's a potentially like-saving

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

but drivers should damn well be inculcatated with the idea of that solid line is an impenetrable wall.

But if your point was that some people would intentially steer for a young person on her bicycle instead of doing a header into a heavy SUV, and that they commit such an act with forethought -- thinking exactly of such an possible outlet as they passed the bike and watched an uncoming vehicle with trepidation -- then I see your point. There are people like that.

I don't care for them.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

It's a matter of self-preservation. You either hit an oncoming vehicle weighing two tons traveling at a combined speed of 60mph, or you instinctively swerve and possibly hit something that can't hurt you.

By the same argument, a car might even mount a sidewalk rather that hit a ten-wheeler head on, and risk hitting a person.

Or of course you may get hit by the other vehicle and rebound into the bike anyway.

It's not a moral decision, a logical determination or a rational act. It's an instict to survive which we all have. And there are accidents like this so, as a cyclist, you need to be aware that the further to the left you ride, the more likely you are to be accidentally sideswiped.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

Your fantasy should be seeing the menacing truck in advance and slowing to not pass the bicyclist. I wish you well in achieving the peace of mind for you to advance.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

If you have to take evasive action, it's better if other traffic is keeping right, especially the vulnerable type.

Hey, ride wherever and however you like, he's just explaining the risk factors to you.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 17, 2012 @ 5:54 am

Do you also oppose wheel chairs on the sidewalk? Why not a whine about them? They can move quite fast and they are 2 wheels as well. And aren't you Michael P. "the flag guy" who was on here awhile back whining about cyclists on the sidewalks on those same streets?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 6:39 pm

Sprinkle a couple of handfuls in the most problematic areas and you solve the problem of entitled cyclists on the sidewalk. Also works wonders where cyclists disobey stop lights and signs.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 6:47 pm

Tim, Steven or Marke,

Doesn't the above comment fall under the Assholism category?

Thank you.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

What an idiot. What would stop pedestrians from walking on tacks? Did you not think of that? Duh. And isn't this called terrorism? There's nothing stopping cyclists from also using tacks at motorists, idiot. Don't start something that you can't even begin to "win." Car tires are a lot more expensive than bicycle tires.

Troll II/Lucretia Snapples = The Terrorist

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

That's hilarious - bring charges against me under the PATRIOT act then!

Tacks do not penetrate through shoe soles. They're perfect for stopping bikes riding illegally on the sidewalks and blowing through stop signs and lights though. Don't want a tack? Get off the sidewalk.

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 8:11 pm

You do realize that throwing tacks in the road would puncture the tires of a bike rider who stops and proceeds through legally, or someone walking their bike on the sidewalk no differently than someone riding illegally, right?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 10:01 pm

should be asking themselves whether their self-advocacy is on the right track when a "critical mass" of SF residents are thinking along these lines.

If SFBF's mission is to win hearts and minds, they're failing, even without the second killing of a pedestrian by a bike in the last few months.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 14, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

"Can we try and be more harmonious?

This is not at all helpful to productive conversation.

Let's share. Let's be reasonable."

Multiple personalities?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2012 @ 10:04 pm

as well as Troll II's comment. I often do that.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 10:47 pm

GPS fixes from iPhones are crude. Please stop treating the 35 mph figure as fact. The video is a more likely source for determining Bucchere's speed.

Posted by The Satellites Over Your Head on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 12:09 am

Steven, this turns on the issue of what is admissible in court and for what purpose.

Legally, you cannot prove someone committed a crime based solely on their prior acts. In other words, I cannot charge you with theft and then go to court and argue, "Steven has a history of theft; therefore, he stole the watch from the store at issue in this case."

However, I CAN certainly admit your prior misdeeds for other purposes. For example, I can, under certain circumstances, admit your prior thefts to show (a) lack of mistake on your part in the current case, (b) establish a certain modus operandi that I can then establish was present in the theft at issue, (c) impeach your credibility as a witness, etc.

In other words, this is how our legal system works, and it is entirely proper and reasonable what the DA said in his statement. Mr. Bucchere will be convicted or exonerated based on what he did on the day of the incident in question, not on whether he had a history of being either an asshole and/or a bad bicyclist.

Mr. Gascon's job, his only job, is to prosecute individuals for whom he reasonably believes there is sufficient evidence establishing that they committed a criminal offense. It is not incumbent on him or any DA to worry about the image of cyclists in the city or engage in transportation policy matters--that is not the job of Mr. Gascon or any DA.

Posted by Chris on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 9:59 am

If someone from another planet were to read these comments, I suspect they would say, "Don't go anywhere near that planet. Extinction is near. Those people are going to kill each other one way or another. They are determined to do so. They can't get along on anything. They are determined to be dysfunctional and some of them like to act big, tough-bully and violent-sounding."

I appreciate Steven's article, but in the future I will read just the article he writes and make a point of not reading the comments because I know that future comments on this topic will be a repeat of these comments. Because these comments (their content) are a repeat of past comments on this topic---the very same nasty arguments over and over---and they are the same type of comments that one reads routinely on most articles having to do with cyclists (and motorists and pedestrians) in the States. One of the major modus operandi of the U.S. and many (most?) of its people is spreading endless hate.

Insanity.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

critical assessment of the quality of anything written here.

Most post here are "ra ra" for our side.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

Guest, I am not quite sure how you make the logical leap to claim the sole purpose of the U.S. and its people is to spread "endless hate" based on a few people bickering on the public web forum of a local alternative news site?

Read the comments posted on any of the web forums of prominent UK, German, French, etc. newspapers, and you will see many people getting into heated arguments over issues both large and small, and some of them behaving in quite a petty and mean-spirited manner in the process. However, I would never presume to state that such behavior is representative of these nations as a whole or of their people.

I would also question the implication in your remarks that you are on higher moral ground than those you criticize. Generally, an individual does not need to take much time to determine if they are offended or outraged by what they are reading, and individuals who truly feel this way cease reading whatever is causing them such offense or outrage and move on with their lives. They certainly do not read comment after supposedly offensive comment working themselves into a froth before releasing their false indignation in a self-righteous post.

In other words, it seems to me you liked what you read just a little more than you should if it truly bothered you.

Posted by Chris on Jun. 16, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

DISCLAIMER: and I ride around the city every day. I moved to San Francisco from the number 2 bicycle commute city in the country. I've spent a lot of time in the number 1. I've biked for transportation for years, and I don't drive. I never learned to drive because I feel that it's not necessary.

That being said, in response to your attitude about cyclists in general in SF.

I see at least 5-7 people running red lights every morning and just as many on my commute home. Most of these incidences involve said people running more than one light. I saw a man fly into an intersection on Haight St against a red and almost get creamed by a corporate shuttle two weekends ago. He wasn't phased at all. A lot of people don't wear helmets (don't tell me it's fine and okay here. California drivers are insane and cars hurt. I know this from experience). A lot of people ride with headphones in, which is not only dangerous, but illegal. A ton of folks pass on the right in bike lanes, which is not only rude, but dangerous.

I hate to say it, but yes, a lot of SF cyclists do have an entitlement problem. I'd always said drivers are wrong when they say that - until I moved to San Francisco.

So yeah, if this dude didn't feel like he could run red lights and generally be a dick on a bike, he probably wouldn't have killed someone. The laws and regulations and just general common courtesy associated with using a road are there for a reason.

Is this case blown way out of proportion? Sure. Drivers that kill people on all roads should be charged with a felony without a doubt. Everyone should be able to wait for 25 seconds for a light to change without a doubt. This guy deserves a felony conviction without a doubt. He killed someone. Yes, drivers need to be held accountable for their deadly actions, but that doesn't mean this guy doesn't deserve everything he's getting. Jerks be jerks, whether behind a wheel or on saddle.

Okay, sorry. Ranting is over. Feel free to try to tell me why it's okay for you to break the law on your bike now, and I'll totally ignore it, because I'd rather be safe/aware than get someone (mayyyyybe) a tiny bit sooner.

Posted by oiseau on Jun. 20, 2012 @ 11:58 am

His decision to go so fast cost a senior citizen his life. Whether or not this was an isolated incident or not, he still kill someone. Does that mean anything in this city or if you're riding a bike are you automatically excused from crimes because if so, I have a few banks to rob

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 9:11 am

No, the excuses are reserved for miscreant motorists who regularly mow down pedestrian and cyclist alike yet are rarely if ever prosecuted by suburban commuter cops.

But, hey, its always better to play weaker public space users off against one another, because that distracts attention from the real dangers.

There has not been any evidence introduced at trial yet that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the cyclist was speeding. All you've got is the Chronicle.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 9:43 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2012 @ 10:19 am