Tragedies remind us to pay attention and share the roads

Bicyclist Chris Bucchere struck and killed a pedestrian last year while speeding through this crowded intersection.

A pair of tragic news items involving bicyclists in San Francisco — one cyclist a victim, another a perpetrator — illustrates the need for all of us to slow down, pay attention, and safely and respectfully share the roadways of this crowded city.

The victim of yesterday’s fatal collision between a truck and bicyclist at Folsom and 6th Streets — in which the motorist turned right across the path of cyclist in a bike lane, but was inexplicably yet not surprisingly not cited by police — was today revealed to be 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac.

Meanwhile, 37-year-old cyclist Chris Bucchere was today sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service and three years probation after pleading guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter after last year trying to beat a red light at Castro and Market streets and fatally striking elderly pedestrian Sutchi Hui.

“Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists must share the road in a responsible way because there are dire consequences when traffic laws are disregarded,” District Attorney George Gascon said today after Bucchere’s sentencing.

Both of these incidents were sad for all concerned, and they should remind us to be responsible and attentive travelers, a lesson that we could all use. Everyday on my bike commute home, I see motorists running red lights or darting heedlessly around obstacles, risking people’s lives to save seconds of their days; cyclists impatiently edging their way past pedestrians; and pedestrians stepping out into traffic without looking around them, often because they’re absorbed by their smartphones.

We’re all guilty of bad behavior on the roadways at times, myself included, so I’m not going to presume to stereotype any particular group of road users (I’ll leave that to the trolls). But when we hear about terrible tragedies like these, it’s good to take a moment to reflect on our own behavior and do what we can to civilly share our civic spaces, particularly when wielding the deadly weapons of a fast-moving bicycle or an automobile moving at any speed.  


100% of cyclists who hit and kill pedestrians are prosecuted, both of them over my 24 years here. How many motorists have been prosecuted for anything other than in infraction? 1, 2? Have 100 cyclists been killed during my time here, 50?

This is a civil rights emergency.

Posted by anon on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

I think we should recognize their magnanimity in this case. They chose the path of forgiveness rather than vengeance - that's a hugely positive thing.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

That might be true, and if so is a good thing, but the DA stated that he did not think that he could secure a conviction in a SF jury. My understanding is that there was photo evidence that showed him in the intersection during the yellow phase of the signal. Like so many innocent criminal defendants, it is often wiser to cut a deal than to see one's day in court.

Posted by anon on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 5:45 pm

read your comment as farce.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 9:27 pm

Who cares?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 17, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

to respond.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

So do you

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

I was merely pointing out the ridiculousness of you --with your long history of vicious and contemptuous posts here-- writing that we should all "recognize their magnanimity in this case" and that it is "a hugely positive thing".

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

The article you linked to says this:

"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."

The 35 mph speed is laughable. It's impossible to get through that intersection at that speed without crashing because of the street car tracks which are at an angle and the extremely rough, rutted pavement. It would throw the cyclist off the bicycle at that speed. I've ridden through that intersection at nearly a fast walking-pace and have almost been thrown off my bicycle at just that speed. So whoever came up with this 35 mph is loco and has an anti-cyclist agenda. The maximum one can pedal on a bicycle is between 13-18 mph. And at that speed, that's fast and feels unstable. Not too many bicyclists can do it. So I don't believe he was going 35 mph based on my own experience. I don't believe he was going 25 mph.

Glad you mentioned the smartphones. It's the strongest addiction I've ever seen. It's a wonder that more people aren't mugged while texting and hit by a vehicle because they are oblivious to their surroundings in a major city and just blindly walk out in the street without looking. When they walk on the sidewalk (if they are not paralyzed in the middle of the sidewalk with texting), a person is responsible for not running into them because they refuse to take their eyes off their screen. There's nothing "social" (as in "social media networks") about typing to people. Talking is social. Do these textbots have any social skills at all?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

Adding to that...

The thing I find really sad is the many people I see walking their dogs and texting. The people are at work all day and their dog is home alone and often stuck in a dark garage. Their dog remains alone when being walked because the dog's guardian is still on the gadget and texting. The gadget is getting the love and attention that the dog is missing. Some people really should not have animals especially when the dog is being walked by a clueless textbot. The dog's tail is down and the dog looks bored or unhappy. I feel sorry for the many dogs I see in this situation. We have really created one hell of a society. Oh, is that a tech-bubble I'm hearing breaking? Let's hope so! Then maybe people can start talking again and giving much-needed affection to their dog.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

I could not agree more! I think we could all benefit from being fully present as we are going about our day. Dogs are a delight - funny, and always in the moment with you. So leave the phone in your pocket, folks, and enjoy the walk with dog, child, partner, whomever.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

My 27" wheel road bike (48 tooth chainwheel, 14 tooth smallest driven sprocket) travels .005 miles with every turn of the crank. That means when the bike is moving too fast to keep up pedaling (my top effective rate seems to be around two turns per second) I am traveling close to 34 mph.

It doesn't take super human skill to pass over tracks at an angle either. Anyone who could do a standing hop over the tracks could jump them on a bike as well. It is simply a matter of jumping up on the pedals and taking one's weight off the tires as you pass over them and keeping a firm grip on the handlebars.

There is unequal prosecution of bicyclists versus cars. The police and prosecutors have a tendency to lie to bolster their cases. All that is true, but you can't assert that Bucchere's 35 mph reported speed is "laughable." The Tour de France speed average is 25 and that includes steep terrain and distance riding.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

@Guest - The 35mph figure is supposedly from GPS fixes on his iPhone, sent to Strava. This is not a reliable source, though, and at one point the D.A. said as much. Instead they used surveillance video from the Twin Peaks Cafe to estimate a speed of 32mph. Make of it what you will ...

Posted by Jym on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

was out of control. And, worse, he showed little remorse afterwards.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

@anon - Well, I wrote "Make of it what you will." You made it into a ranting refutation of something that nobody argued. I hope that makes you feel better.

Posted by Jym on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

cyclist killing a pedestrian. Quit while you are only a little behind.

Posted by anon on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 6:23 pm

I own six bicycles and I have traveled in many countries with loaded panniers. I've only clocked myself a few times in race situations, but I know that racing speeds in time trials are always well over 20 mph.

Even an ordinary cyclist on an ordinary bicycle can easily achieve 35 mph on a downhill stretch such as southbound at the intersection of Castro and Market. I have clocked myself on a downhill (in an unpopulated area) at 48 mph. The tracks at this intersection are not that difficult, but any responsible cyclist in San Francisco knows that many of the city's streets are poorly maintained, and that 35 mph is too fast for any urban street in a densely populated area.

The real point is that there is no defensible speed for a cyclist or motorist who has hit and killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk, which is exactly where the pedestrian was supposed to be. Just riding too fast for conditions, which by definition was true in this case, is a crime that jeopardizes safety.

I am a bicycling activist and advocate, but I am disappointed that this cyclist didn't do jail time.

Howard Metzenberg
Former San Franciscan

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 9:39 am

His speed was out of control, and the collision would have been his fault even if it had not been on a crosswalk. His lack of remorse just makes it worse and screams for a custodial sentence.

The truck driver in the most recent case had as far as we know, committed no traffic violation and, moreover, the point of impact was beyond where the bike lane ended, so the situation is quite different, and SFBC shrieks for punitive action seems prejudicial and unreasonable.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 10:02 am

Why do you claim that the truck driver committed no violation? How do you know where the point of impact was? Are you the cop who bungled the investigation?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:22 am

hit the truck at the intersection. Bike lanes stop some 20 feet in front of intersections.

Posted by anon on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:52 am

This is the one who is also has become known as "Bold Lying Guest" in some circles.

The chances of some fact being folded into anon's usual deposits here has no bearing on the overall validity of such comments. This anon is a habitual, compulsive, liar.

When anon writes of "accounts of this accident that I read", anon is referring to the deposits of like-minded trolls but hopes to suggest these accounts are evidence-based accounts by journalists.

We know that a truck killed a bicyclist. We know that security camera video was available of the incident, but that the SFPD was uninterested in finding out what it revealed.

We know that this anon is a vicious lying troll.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

every poster here who signs off as "Guest", "anon" or something similar is part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. The truth is that many people here post anonymously, and that they usually speak for the silent moderate majority who have drank the progressive koolaid.

Nobody killed anyone here. There was an accident and there is no evidence that anyone was at fault. The SFBC are desperate to paint the truck driver as the villain, to the point of purloining some alleged tape, but their self-serving agenda invalidates anything that has their smell on it anyway.

The only known troll here is you, as you have been banned from comment sites.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

The problem is everyone thinks they have the right of way in this city drivers, pedestrian, and cyclist. TRAFFIC IS NOT ENFORCED IN THIS CITY AT ALL.
CARS MAKE RIGHT TURNS INTO CYCLIST AND DOUBLE PARK ON SHARE ROADS, PEDESTRIANS CROSS ON RED AND CYCLIST OFTEN TRY AND ESCAPE DANGEROUS TRAFFIC BY GOING THROUGH STOP SIGNS. Maybe if the city started enforcing laws we could get to work safely and the open drug market that is the TL would be shut down.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 8:49 pm

LOL.....the SF bike Nazis (at least half the biking population) have ZERO RESPECT FOR STOP SIGNS 100% OF THE TIME.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 9:37 am

I don't "respect" inantimate objects -- or even laws not written with this mode of transportation in mind -- but I do respect the rights-of-way of other road users at intersections and try not to infringe upon them.

Posted by steven on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 9:55 am

This is why everyone else hates you.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 11:26 am

you personally do not happen to agree with?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

have a sense of entitlement to park their cars.

Posted by - on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 4:58 pm

that they clearly do not like, when Jones admits that he has no "respect" for the laws that he doesn't personally like.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 17, 2013 @ 2:49 pm

thinks it doesn't apply to him when he is on his bike.

Jones has an entitlement to ride around picking and choosing his way through the cities laws, drivers need more laws to correct their behavior.

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 18, 2013 @ 9:55 am

cyclists, strikers or occupiers then he fully supports their law-breaking.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2013 @ 10:39 am

When I ride up to an intersection I slow down and look both ways, if there is no one ahead of me I go, when I'm ahead of other riders I go just as if they were cars. They behavior on my part gets me almost run into by other bike riders, while car drivers are seldom a problem. They probably are thinking along the Jones line of reasoning, "me me me me"

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 18, 2013 @ 9:53 am

Steven Jones writes:
'I don't "respect" inantimate objects -- or even laws not written with this mode of transportation in mind'

But of course, laws concerning AirBNB, written 35 years before the internet, should be applied without any question.

So to summarize:

Changes in bicycling: Significant development that invalidates certain laws.

The internet: What's that? Obey existing laws without questioning them.

I'm just clarifying for those of you grappling to understand Steven.

Posted by GuestDD on Aug. 18, 2013 @ 10:58 am

While I know that being honest about how I and most other bicyclists ride causes some people's heads to explode, let me briefly address some of these criticisms (but not Matlock's, because I ride in the same way he describes, so clearly he's just trolling here).

First of all, nobody follows all the laws of the road, all the time, as I wrote in this story, so you should all get off your high horses. Momentum matters with cyclists, who can also see and hear far more at intersections than drivers, and we aren't a danger to anyone but ourselves if we're moving slowly, so it's just not a big deal if we ride through an intersection and don't take anyone's right-of-way. It's how everyone rides anyway, even police officers on bikes, and the laws in Idaho and other places have been modified to reflect that. In a perfect world, laws would be written in ways that reflect people's behaviors, thus cultivating a greater respect for the law, but oftentimes governments lag behind the will of the public (drug laws are another obvious example of this). We can all be courteous and respectful of other road users and still not follow every traffic law down to the letter.

As for the Airbnb comparison, that's just ridiculous. For one thing, the city's tax laws and last year's interpretation that the TOT applies to Airbnb does take into account how people behave. Visitors to SF choose between hotels and other options like Airbnb, so they are direct competitors and I haven't heard any good arguments for why Airbnb should be given a competitive advantage. Airbnb made its arguments, it lost, and now it is simply a scofflaw. Anyone who wants to draw a moral equivalence between the law-breaking of a billion-dollar corporation to pad its profit margins and the decision a bicyclist makes at an empty intersection is probably running afoul those drug laws that I mentioned, or maybe they're under the influence of the most powerful drug of all: money.

Posted by steven on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 11:28 am

a high density of autos, bicycles, and pedestrians, too many bicyclists are not "courteous and respectful" of pedestrians. Riding on the sidewalk is considered normal. Running stop signs and lights when pedestrians are present is commonplace.

Of course, many bicyclists ride appropriately. But all too many have a self-righteous attitude that because they ride bikes (and because motorists behave badly towards them), they can ride however they want vis-a-vis pedestrians. Dodging bicyclists at intersections is almost a daily occurrence for many pedestrians.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 11:55 am

they are some of the most aggressive and inconsiderate road users out there.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

It was momentum that carried that cyclists into a pedestrian and killed him at Castro and Market. All vehicles have momentum but that doesn't mean we should have different laws for them.

Yes, it's a PITA to accelerate after stopping but then if you choose to bike, you accept it takes a lot of physical effort.

And the AirBnB analogy holds too. You are happy for bikes to break the law because you like bikes. You are not happy for AirBnB to break the law (not that I agree that they are, but you clearly think so) because you don't like AirBnB.

Likewise you want zero tolerance for landlords who break the law but if an Occupier does that then somehow that is justified in your hopelessly baised mind.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

Than you, Steven, for your honesty and clarity about how and why most bicyclists actually ride through stop sign posted intersections without coming to a complete stop. I agree completely that yielding to others' rights of way, being considerate, and making safety the first priority are what's important and what the Idaho stop law reflects. I hope eventually we will change our Calif vehicle code to reflect this reality of cycling. In this respect, riding a bike is much more like walking. Everybody wants pedestrians to look both ways before crossing and not enter a stop signed intersection that already has a vehicle in it, but the idea of having to come to a standstill at each corner of an empty intersection would be absurd. The bicycle riding police do what nearly all other riders do at stop signed intersections -- coast through empty ones or ones the are clearly at long before other users -- because it reflects common sense. Looking forward to wen,not if, we change our laws to reflect this common sense practice.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

typically use in California, for much the same reasons?

That said, I'm not so concerned with cyclists rolling through stop signs and lights since usually when they do, it is their life that is on the line and not those of others.

I am much more at a loss to understand why cyclists in SF do things like go the wrong way down a one-way street, ride on the sidewalks, and weave through pedestrians crossing at speed.

It seems unlikely that cyclists will feel the love as long as they act entitled and dismissive of the law.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

"Guest" -- ah, the beloved moniker of every troll at the bay guardian comments section! Yes, "Guest", you lie in wait of each and every comment that supports bicyclist safety or good sense, then pounce within minutes to make some specious comparison between riding a bike and driving a car. Then you finish with some aside about law-breaking cyclists in SF, how obnoxious their attitudes,etc. Do you know how predictable you are? And how predictably your untraceable anonymity leads to a spiraling down of discussion into demagoguery? More importantly, how little impact you have as Bay Areans and Americans go about slowly changing their cities and roads to accommodate and keep safe all users? Your hatred for a subset of road users -- those who ride bikes for some of their outings -- is no substitute for intellectual honesty in figuring out the best ways to reform our roadways to meet all users' needs.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

You are as anonymous as anyone else here, and yet you pretend that you are not just because you adopt the moniker of a philosopher's concubine?

If you are serious about advancing the rights and safety of cyclists as a group, why not start with an acknowledgment of the current situation, which is that many residents of this city see cyclists as a (mostly white and young) group of arrogant lawbreakers with a self-absorbed sense of entitlement?

Then work from there to how you can improve your polish. and that could start with resisting crying out "Troll" every time someone refutes you in public.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 20, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

I use the same pen name on every post across various local and national papers so that people can respond to me and keep track of whatever I'm discussing on a particular article. (I don't imagine anyone "follows" anyone on Internet forums, just on particular threads.). I chose that pen name to be easily recognizable and to take responsibility for my views. It keeps me from engaging in profanity, etc. it also seemed kind of funny and self-deprecating. Afterwards I found out Voltaire did have a mistress, the wife of a nobleman. Voltaire and she were both writers, lived together, kept a salon for intellectuals, etc. So I guess she turned out to be a more serious and respectable person than I had first imagined when I chose the pen name for a laugh. I don't sign my legal name, because I do not want to have deal with difficulties with employers or hassles from unstable individuals. I think you would benefit self and fellow readers if you chose a consistent Internet presence/name too, maybe register with Disqus, etc. I think it makes for more civil and intense discussions.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

could be anyone.

Moreover, anyone can post as anyone here so there is no persistence or uniqueness to any of your posts.

Which is why I slapped you down for claiming that I was more anonymous than you. It's a myth and, if you do not believe me, I will post from now on as voltairesmistress just to prove you wrong.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

Oh, and p.s.: I called whoever the multiple "guests" are a troll, because I watched how he/she answered a serious post within seconds and added only unsubstantiated aspersions on people who ride bikes. So predictable. He/she provided no refutation, just invective, per usual.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

voltairesmistress is?

That's very clever of you.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

The answer is obvious - he wasn't guilty of a crime. Accidents are exactly that - they only rise to the level of a crime is the collision was deliberate i.e. vehicular homicide like road rage, or gross negligence like being drunk.

The cyclist who was charged was riding at excessive speed in a pedestrian-heavy area. Probation for that is hardly onerous. But nobody is suggested that the truck driver here had criminal intent even if, technically, his insurance company may accept blame.

What we don't know here is how culpable the cyclist was. She was young, perhaps in a hurry to get to work, and may not have rode cautiously. Cyclists have gotten a bad rep for their aggressive and often illegal riding habits, and that bites them in the butt when they need our support and sympathy.

Posted by Guesty on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 8:53 am

While it's true that we don't know all the facts of the incident where the motorist killed the cyclist, it's also true that the motorists routinely escape punishment when they kill cyclists or pedestrians through negligence and inattention, as the Bay Citizen investigation that I linked to shows. Prosecutors and juries rarely even suspend driving privileges even in extreme cases, under the preposterous argument that driving is a necessity in modern society.

I have condemned Bucchere's actions (even though he clearly didn't have criminal intent either) and I believe that he deserved to be punished, but so do drivers who kill and maim through their own inattention or bad decisions. Cyclists have a right to their space on the roadways, and if a motorist crosses that bicyclist's right-of-way when making a right turn and there is a collision then, barring some extenuating circumstance I'm not aware of, that driver is to blame and should at the very least be cited. It sends a terrible message when a driver can run over someone and end her life and then nothing happens.

Posted by steven on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 10:07 am

I don't know what SF's track record is with prosecuting criminally negligent/reckless drivers, though I could ask my friend who is a SF DA. But, I do know in Santa Clara County where my spouse is a DA, criminally culpable drivers are routinely prosecuted and often convicted and sentenced to substantial jail time. Of course, while getting a conviction in Santa Clara County is difficult, it is not the nearly impossible task it is in SF. True, Santa Clara County has plenty of guilt-ridden "limousine liberals" (i.e. pretend liberals who are completely out-of-touch) who will acquit DV offenders, rapists, and reckless drivers, but at least almost half the time they act sensibly. But, SF is known for generally having completely crazy juries (I served on one and saw it hang when most jurors, except for me and two others, voted to acquit a jackass driver who hit a pedestrian leaving him with permanent severe brain damage) and a very lenient DA's office (because that is what the community wants).

Ultimately, local residents determine community values and what message is sent about them. So, if SF drivers get away with recklessly killing pedestrians or cyclists, then the blame rests not just with the individual drivers, but also with the entire community.

Posted by Chris on Aug. 18, 2013 @ 1:28 am

Does anyone here think the driver intended to kill the cyclist? Or was drunk? Or left the scene of the accident? No.

There are only three reasons to try and convict:

1) Rehabilitation of the offender. Nobody is suggesting this driver is a habitual criminal. Or

2) Punitive sense of revenge. Hardly noble or appropriate here. Or

3) To deter other drivers from killing cyclists. But does any driver refrain from crashing into cyclists only because they might go to prison? Of course not.

Civil liability for an accident is much easier to prove to a jury than criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 18, 2013 @ 8:09 am

It's really horrible to suggest that some cyclists riding recklessly lessens the tragedy of cyclists dying on the road. Would you also say that reckless driving - texting, speeding, tailgaiting, drunk driving - lessens your sympathy for car crash victims because some drivers give all drivers a bad name? Both are equally reprehensible suggestions, but because most people are drivers, they sympathize with the driver's mistake rather than the cyclist's right to be on the road safely.

I drive more often than I bike, and because I've biked extensively in the city, I can sympathize with both sides. Some cyclists break laws, and it's easy to forget to look in your right mirror or check before opening your door. But ultimately, drivers must be held accountable for "faultless" collisions, because our small mistakes end lives.

Posted by helsabot on Aug. 16, 2013 @ 10:09 am

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