San Bruno resident Sutchi Hui, 71, was visiting San Francisco when Death found him-–just before 8 a.m. on March 29, 2012.
No doubt he felt safe before he died. After all, he was walking through a crosswalk in the affluent Castro District, one of the city’s safest areas.
And it was there that bicyclist Chris Bucchere plowed into him.
Bucchere, a software engineer, was also hospitalized for injuries in the crash. Later that day, he posted his thoughts about the accident to the Mission Cycling AM Riders Google group.
“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….so, in a nutshell, blammo.
“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.”
Bucchere said he lost consciousness and awoke five minutes later. Someone told him that a 71-year-old injured pedestrian had been taken to the hospital.
“I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn’t mine,” Bucchere wrote. “I really hope he ends up OK.”
Bucchere dedicated the post to his helmet, which “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.”
An “amen” would also be in order for the cause of justice.
Although prosecuted by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, what Bucchere got was the following sentence: Three years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service. He would not serve any jail time.
He might as well have posted that because his helmet made “the ultimate sacrifice, her rider can live on and ride on–and kill on.”
The District Attorney’s office–which has one of the worst conviction records in the country–lost no time in congratulating itself.
“Our goal is to send a message to cyclists about safety,” D.A. George Gascon said. “Just because you are riding a bicycle doesn’t mean all bets are off. All of the rules of the road that apply to everyone else apply to you, too.”
Gascon said Hui’s family did not want to see Bucchere imprisoned. Since prosecutors didn’t expect a judge to sentence him to jail, they offered probation and community service in the plea deal.
That’s what the life of a pedestrian is worth in San Francisco.
In July, 2011, bicyclist Randolph Ang, 23, ran a red light on the Embarcadero–and slammed into 68-year-old Dionette Cherney. She later died of her injuries.
In March, 2012, Ang pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of vehicular manslaughter, as part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Ang faced up to a year in county jail, but a judge sentenced him to three years’ probation and 500 hours of community service, and ordered him to pay $15,375 in restitution to the Cherney family.
According to the website of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:
“Pedestrians Always Have the Right of Way. In the crosswalk or not, bike riders and drivers are required to yield to pedestrians.”
“Stay on the Streets. It’s illegal and unsafe to ride on the sidewalk if you are over the age of 13.”
So much for the official version.
In reality, pedestrians risk their lives whenever they use the sidewalk–especially on tourist-crowded Market Street.
And what role do police play in enforcing the bike laws? None.
At best, a San Francisco cop might stop an law-breaking bicyclist and give him a citation. This amounts to a bicycle traffic ticket. The bike isn’t confiscated.
Most cops patrol in patrol cars. If they see a bicyclist whizzing down a sidewalk, they aren’t going to cut him off and slap handcuffs on him.
If police show no interest in protecting pedestrians, it’s largely because the Mayor and Board of Supervisors clearly favor the rights of law-breaking bicyclists over those of law-abiding pedestrians and drivers.
The greatest proof of this comes on the last Friday of every month. It’s called Critical Mass.
In this event, hundreds of bicyclists deliberately–at the height of evening rush hour–overwhelm the streets of downtown San Francisco, bringing vehicular and pedestrian traffic to a halt.
Founded in 1992 in San Francisco, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formally stated but nevertheless clear: To protest against those who use cars and public transit–and intimidate their riders and pedestrians alike.
Critical Mass riders often use a tactic known as “corking” to maintain the cohesion of the group: A few riders block traffic from side roads so that the mass can race through red lights without interruption.
Cars, buses and pedestrians are expected to wait patiently for however long these self-indulgent thugs-on-bikes flood the streets.
In March, 2010, reports in local media claimed that then-Police Chief George Gascon was considering shutting down Critical Mass.
Four years later, the bike-thuggies continue to tie up traffic and threaten the safety of any pedestrians stupid enough to think they have a legal right to stroll sidewalks and cross streets.