Another Example of Cyclists Killing Pedestrians In Crosswalks

Yield To Bikes, Skiers, Runners Sign

 

For the second time in less than a year, a pedestrian has been killed by a cyclist in San Francisco. On July 15, 2011, a cyclist ran a red light and stuck a 68-year-old woman at the intersection of Mission Street and The Embarcadero. The cyclist, Randolph Ang, was charged with vehicular manslaughter.

After pleading guilty last month, Ang was sentenced to three years of probation, as well as 500 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay restitution to the pedestrian’s family.

Last week, another bicyclist-pedestrian crash occurred in San Francisco’s Castro District. The cyclist, Chris Bucchere, was riding downhill into an intersection, possibly against a red light (the cyclist says it was yellow). He plowed into a crowd of pedestrians, striking a 71-year-old man who later died.

What’s particularly disturbing about the second accident, is that immediately afterwards, the cyclist chose to discuss the accident on an online forum, the Mission Cycling AM Riders Google group. In this post (which is no longer viewable) he spoke about his helmet, and how it had saved his life:

“[my helmet] died in heroic fashion today as my head slammed into the tarmac…. 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.”

Although the pedestrian had not died at the time of his post, his emphasis on the helmet, rather than the people involved in the accident, shows a lack of understanding of the severity of the situation. It may also reflect a certain common trait among careless cyclists of focusing on themselves, rather than other road users.

Supposedly, the post read: “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.”

His inability to stop could have been due to either riding a brakeless fixie or traveling at excessive speed. In either case, he was not prepared to yield to pedestrians, as he was required to do, by law.

When riding in a city, no cyclist should be riding so fast that he or she can’t stop in time to avoid hitting something directly in front of the bicycle. The steep San Francisco hills are no excuse. The cyclist should have been in control of his bike.

As if the first faux pas weren’t enough, it was reported that the cyclist included the following in his comments:

“I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn’t mine. I really hope he ends up OK.”

It really is strange to see this cyclist constantly referring to himself. Reporting an observation of a “river” of blood on the asphalt should not be followed by a comment expressing relief that it wasn’t his blood. Someone with compassion, or at least a recognition of the rights and value of others, would have noted the blood as belonging to the accident victim. But, this cyclist only saw the accident in terms of himself, and how he was affected. Only in the last sentence does he express any concern for the man he injured.

Among the puzzling aspects of this accident, which might have been avoided with proper bike handling and adherence to traffic laws, was the identity of the cyclist. He was not a kid, as one might have imagined, based on his conduct.

Chris Bucchere is in his mid-thirties. He is an entrepreneur, software developer and founder of the company Social Collective, Inc. Sometime after news of this accident became public, his  blog, website, and a number of his social networking accounts were deleted. This calculated move is difficult to interpret.

He may not have wanted people to associate the cyclist in this accident with his professional identity. Even so, deleting his online presence will hardly erase traces of him, especially since everything online is archived, and can be retrieved.

Unlike Ang, who was only 23 years old, Bucchere was more established, and people would expect a more mature individual to act responsibly. For this reason, he may be judged more harshly — unless he can convince people that the pedestrian’s death was an unavoidable accident.

He has already claimed not to have broken any traffic laws. Still, this won’t relieve him of the responsibility of yielding to pedestrians. And, it’s difficult to believe that a crowd of pedestrians would be in the crosswalk if Bucchere had the right-of-way.

For cyclists, seeing another incident of this type is frustrating. Cyclists tend to see cycling as a safer form of transportation, at least in terms of causing harm to others.

Compared to a vehicle weighing over a ton, a bicycle seems relatively harmless. And, ordinarily it is. But, the most benign object can become a lethal weapon when handled irresponsibly and unskillfully.

One point worth noting is that both pedestrians were older people. In the 2011 accident, the pedestrian who died was 68 years old, and in the 2012 accident, the pedestrian was 71 years old.

Perhaps cyclists should take extra care when riding around older pedestrians. Their lack of flexibility and slower reflexes may make them more susceptible to injury when startled by a bicycle trying to maneuver around them. This vulnerability is all the more reason for cyclists to stop and let pedestrians pass, rather than trying to steer around them.

More investigation into this incident is warranted. It’s important for cyclists and pedestrians alike to understand what happened in this case. Otherwise, it will be difficult to avoid similar tragedies in the future, and the image of cyclists will be further tarnished by a public who paints them as reckless pedestrian killers.

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3 Responses to Another Example of Cyclists Killing Pedestrians In Crosswalks

  1. Dan Pugatch says:

    I am appalled by the cyclist’s actions on the internet. It is quite obvious the lack of sympathy as well as the abundance of narcissism. Cyclists like that give the rest of us who do fall every rule of the road a bad reputation which in turns makes drivers, pedestrians, and the law look unfavorably on all of us. I can understand if a pedestrian runs out to cross the street not in an intersection between parked cars, Ive seen other cyclists hit that kind of pedestrian. But at a cross walk? You saw it coming with enough time to stop even with a brakeless fixed gear.

  2. Gneiss says:

    I live in San Francisco and can tell you that this event is profoundly disturbing. First, let me dispell a myth. The person who killed the elderly man in the cross walk was a roadie – not riding a fixed gear bicycle. He was returning from a ride in the Marin Headlands.

    The Mission Cycles group has disowned the person who wrote the post and indicated that he is not a member of their organization. And the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition released a statement indicating that they do not condone that kind riding and how they teach classed and advocate for making roads safer for all users.

    In addition, to add context to this tragedy, just a few days later a 17-year old driver ran off a road and killed a father and daughter riding bicycles on a sidewalk, yet no one called for the banning of all cars from city streets the way some people responded to the event with the cyclist. Let’s also remember that of the 28 traffic deaths in the city last year, only one was caused by a bicycle. The other 27 were a result of motor vehicles. So to suggest that cyclists are a ‘meance on city streets’ is ignoring the bull in the china shop – cars.

    No one condones this cyclist behavior, yet it colors all cyclists. Yet strangely when motorists kill we don’t color all motorists as irresponsible drivers. We need to recognize that the mode of transportation isn’t what killed the person walking across the street, but rather the irresponsibility of the operator and take steps accordingly.

  3. William Furr says:

    30-year old narcissistic man-child, who was clearly no more mature than Randolph Ang, despite the age difference.

    And amazing how much press this gets, compared to the thousnads of people killed by cars.

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