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No jail time for man in rare case of vehicular manslaughter by bike

Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on July 24th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Screen shot from SF Chronicle.

A man who killed a person on foot with his bicycle last year won't serve any jail time in what's thought to be "the first vehicular manslaughter conviction in the nation involving a bicyclist."

Prosecutors said Chris Bucchere, 37, of San Francisco, ran "several red lights" and was moving at an estimated 30 mph when he lethally collided with Sutchi Hui, 71, in a crosswalk, as Slate and other outlets reported Tuesday. Hui survived for four days before dying.

"The light turned yellow as I was approaching the intersection, but I was already way too committed to stop," Bucchere reportedly wrote on Mission Cycling Club's biking forum. "I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find."

Bucchere plead guilty Tuesday and will get three years of probation and 1,000 hours of mandatory community service.

BikePortland reader Anne Fischer, who lives in Sellwood/Westmoreland, wrote BikePortland to say this about the unusual case:

Personally, I find it appalling that a reckless bicyclist - he'd just run several red lights prior to the collision - fatally hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk and gets off with three years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service. If a car driver had been the agent of this pedestrian's death and received the same sentence, I would be equally appalled.

Another reason I'd like this story to be reported in BikePortland is because BP commenters will periodically claim that bikes have such small mass that they pose little danger, and certainly not life-threatening danger, to pedestrians.

In light of our ongoing conversation about the too-common violence on Portland's streets, we wanted to share the Bucchere verdict and Fischer's perspective. Though this awful situation is certainly uncommon, hopefully there's something to be learned from it.

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Comments
  • Paikikala July 24, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    "In light of our ongoing conversation about the unusual but constant level of violence on Portland's streets..."

    By what measure did you determine the current crash rate in Portland is unusual? How do you define unusual?

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) July 24, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      That wasn't actually what I intended to say, Paikikala -- I meant that violence itself is unusual, statistically speaking, not that it's at an unusual level at the moment. I've rephrased to clarify. Thanks.

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  • q`Tzal July 24, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Thank God it wasn't here.
    There are lessons to be learned that apply here as well but I'm much happier with the anti-bike backlash somewhere else.

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  • Bjorn July 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Bicyclists are responsible for a handful of pedestrian deaths each year, but they are almost always elderly people whose injuries are life threatening for them but would likely be minor for a younger person. Over 4000 people are killed while on foot each year by motor vehicles in the US. While it is fine to recognize that it is possible for someone riding a bicycle to cause someone's death we should really be focused on behaviors that are actually leading to large numbers of pedestrian deaths and injuries, and that simply isn't bicycling, scofflaw or otherwise.

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    • Anne Hawley July 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm

      I feel *sure* you meant to say "...a handful of pedestrian deaths each year, AND they are almost always elderly people..." because otherwise this really comes across as "yes, but if these victims had just had the sense to be YOUNG they wouldn't have died," and I know you probably didn't intend that.

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      • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 7:48 am

        Whether Bjorn wrote "but" or "and", people could interpret his statement as you suggested.

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        • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 10:14 am

          Just to be clear, though, I was not claiming their interpretation would be "right", "correct", or anything like that. I was instead alluding to the common behavior of readers assuming more about a writer than is evident in his/her/its writings.

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    • wsbob July 24, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      "Bicyclists are responsible for a handful of pedestrian deaths each year, but they are almost always elderly people whose injuries are life threatening for them but would likely be minor for a younger person. ...? Bjorn

      You're rationalizing that injuries and death caused to pedestrians by reckless biking, is no big deal because it's mostly elderly people taking the big hit. Incidentally, to consider how a younger person may have fared in this collision, it might be worthwhile to review the type of impact Bucchere brought upon the pedestrian he killed.

      Fundamentally, how a young person would have fared in this collision, compared to how an older person fared...is beside the point. Bucchere as a road user on a vehicle...a bike...has an obligation to prevent his use of the road from harming other road users, especially vulnerable road users. He failed in that obligation, criminally.

      "...While it is fine to recognize that it is possible for someone riding a bicycle to cause someone's death we should really be focused on behaviors that are actually leading to large numbers of pedestrian deaths and injuries, and that simply isn't bicycling, scofflaw or otherwise." Bjorn

      Again, it seems as though you'd prefer...here, because the numbers aren't there, to just pass off as no big deal, this example of extremely bad biking with mortal consequences to another living soul.

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    • pengo July 24, 2013 at 8:05 pm

      So of the 4000 people on foot killed by motor vehicles every year, can we speculate that the elderly victims may have in fact survived had they been younger or stronger and thus deduct them from the total? Or maybe count them as half a fatality? Or how about people who, had they been struck in a location that allowed first responders to access them more promptly, would have had a more reasonable chance of survival? Do we apply this to children as well or only the elderly?

      I find it strange that the fact that the victim belongs to a particularly vulnerable population is used to minimize the situation. Your point seems to be that while it's certainly a bummer that someone on a bike can through negligence and stupidity kill someone who's weak, let's keep in mind that the victim was weak to begin with, and since there's something different that harms more people we should be talking about that instead. I think there's probably room for both to be reported and discussed.

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  • Paul in the 'couve July 24, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    I think this guy got what he deserved, approximately. He was convicted of a felony. I wouldn't have object to jail time, EXCEPT that motorists are almost never convicted of felonies for killing pedestrians or cyclists.

    To Anne, I would like to reply:
    Notice he only injured - and killed - 1 pedestrian. Yes, that can happen. I am one who will argue the physics. I never say that a cyclist can't cause any harm, but the potential is much lower and the damage much less. In this case it was fatal. This is just about the worst possible outcome.

    Can we imagine a cyclists killing 3 or 4 pedestrians? Or a two cyclist colliding, spinning out of control and killing a family of 4 on the sidewalk? A cyclist losing control, jumping the curb and sending several people to the hospital?

    No one should argue that cyclists can't cause any harm. However Cars are capable of far far greater - like 1,000 times greater, harm. And cars cause those problems every single day. Yet motorists are not charged with manslaughter... because every one drives and driving is inherently deadly to pedestrians and cyclists. So even thought the motorist is distracted or speeding, they don't get manslaughter because they are driving the way everyone else drives.

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    • Bill Walters July 24, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      Agreed, supported by the fact that this is *the first* manslaughter conviction via bike. Over more than a hundred years, that's a telling stat for death-dealing efficiency. But no doubt it will be constantly misused to allege parity.

      Perhaps the real lesson to learn, along with actually obeying traffic controls: When speeds increase, the game grows serious and you need way more of a margin for error. San Francisco has steep hills with crowds of people at the bottom. The speed potential of the steep downhill is what endowed the rider with force sufficient to kill (force = mass x acceleration) --- and clearly he didn't take it near seriously enough.

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      • 9watts July 24, 2013 at 6:48 pm

        What is the percentage of manslaughter via bike charges to deaths caused by bike compared with the manslaughter via car charges to deaths caused by car? I think this would be an interesting statistic to have on hand.

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        • Opus the Poet July 27, 2013 at 8:42 pm

          Well the SF DA has a 100% prosecution and conviction rate for bicyclists that kill pedestrians (2 for 2) and about a 5% prosecution rate with a 2% conviction rate (or putting it in a convictions per prosecution rate killer drivers are convicted less than half the time they face prosecution). The fact that every cyclist who has killed a pedestrian this century has been prosecuted and convicted compared to about 2% of the drivers committing the same offense would be a cause for civil rights prosecution against the DA's office if those were racial classifications instead of mode of transport. In fact the bias starts much lower down the food chain than the DA's office as only about 9% of drivers that kill even get so much as a ticket and the 5% prosecution rate comes from that 9%. So in fatal wrecks with pedestrians in SF you have a 91% chance of not even getting a ticket for killing a pedestrian. I find it incredibly unlikely that more than 90% of pedestrian fatalities are the fault of the pedestrian. It blows my mind in fact.

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          • Paul in the 'couve July 27, 2013 at 9:03 pm

            Wow! thanks for those stats ... Can you point us towards sources so we can use that data effectively?

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            • Opus the Poet July 27, 2013 at 9:09 pm

              I got them from Streetsblog's SF edition when the first guy was being prosecuted.

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          • 9watts July 27, 2013 at 9:25 pm

            Thanks, Opus. That is what I'm talking about.

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      • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 7:55 am

        I strongly agree that being mindful of and cautious with speed is a practical lesson this case reinforces, but I don't agree with calling that lesson "the real lesson". Any lesson that can be learned is a real lesson, so to avoid diverting ourselves from other lessons, I suggest we call it simply "a" real lesson, or just a lesson.

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      • Aaronf July 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

        I agree with you. There is a difference between not seeing someone while driving, and failing to maneuver at the last moment, and someone who chooses to run multiple lights and chooses to go unsafely fast, and chooses to accelerate towards a perceived gap in a large crowd, I think the cyclist had made two basically indefensible judgement errors prior to the last-second decision regarding evasive maneuvering.

        Faced with a similar situation, I hope I would have crashed the bike rather than run through a crowded crosswalk, especially since my own decisions would have led to the final one, at no fault of the people in the crosswalk.

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    • canuck July 25, 2013 at 6:18 am

      How many cases involving cars show this level of disregard?

      If a vehicle driver was shown to have run several red lights before causing the death of a pedestrian I would say that they would have received a stiffer sentence.

      This cyclist made a conscience decision to run red lights.

      Compare apples to apples on this one.

      His actions showed complete disregard for his own and the safety of others.

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      • Richard Masoner July 25, 2013 at 10:21 am

        Absolutely untrue that a driver would have received a stiffer sentence. Only 5% of pedestrian traffic fatalities in San Francisco result in charges; 2% result in conviction of any kind. 1000 hours of community service in a plea agreement would be an outlier; time served and paying the traffic citation is much more common sentence, with felony removed in exchange for the plea.

        Just last week the Santa Clara County attorney decided against filing charges against Luis Hau, who was driving with meth in his blood, on a suspended license, and 10 MPH over the 25 MPH limit when he swerved into a bike lane and hit a 12 year old kid from behind. Didn't kill the boy but he's on a feeding tube for life now. The attorney said this life-changing crash was just an accident that could happen with anybody.

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    • JRB July 25, 2013 at 9:04 am

      Yes, it is the relative risk posed by a motor vehicle versus a bicycle that is an issue, not that bicycles pose no risk. It is just as wrong to say that bicycles pose a high risk as it is to say that they pose no risk.

      On a related matter, I have a hard time reading Bjorn's post as anything other than an attempt to minimize the risk posed by bicycles. It is a fundamental precept of criminal law that the fragility of a victim is irrelevant, known colloquially as the "egg shell skull" theory. The perpetrator is not guilty of a lesser crime because the blow that fractured the skull and killed their victim may only have bruised most people.

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  • Rob July 24, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    A d*ck is a d*ck whether (s)he's in a car or on a bike.

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    • pdxleftturn July 24, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Agreed. And I think I remember Strava being a factor as well...Stravahole.

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  • shirtsoff July 24, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    "If a car driver had been the agent of this pedestrian's death and received the same sentence, I would be equally appalled."

    If? There's no need for hypothetical scenarios here: It's almost a guarantee that a car involved in the taking of a pedestrian will receive a similar slap on the risk. It would not take much searching through news to find numerous examples of weak convictions, if any at all, involving car operators taking a pedestrian's life.

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    • KJ July 24, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      I can think of a good hand full recently just locally. =/

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    • Help July 25, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Not in this situation. The cyclist stated he was going too fast to stop. I believe had a driver stated the same thing as an excuse for running someone over, he or she would be serving jail time.

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      • dr2chase July 25, 2013 at 10:52 am

        "I couldn't see, the sun was in my eyes..."

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  • Todd Boulanger July 24, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Commenting on the photo above...I have been surprised at the implementation of these regulatory markings in bike lanes for 3 reasons:
    1) the car lane is not also marked with similar text
    2) the standard layout for stencil markings as message in a travel lane is to invert the order of the text (first word of message is on bottom...you read it from bottom to top as you approach it)...
    3) I could not find this message text in the MUTCD
    4) an R1-6a in street sign may have been the better option to communicate this message for drivers and bicyclists vs. just bicyclists

    http://www.tcpsigns.com/R1-6a-In-Street-Stop-To-Pedestrian-Crossing.html

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) July 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Hey Todd,
      Thanks for the comment on that photo. I decided to change it. Here's the original photo the story was first published with just to maintain the integrity of your comment.

      new markings on N Vancouver at Graham-2

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  • John Kirsh July 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Those on here that are *kind of* justifying this type of behavior are likely the people giving cyclists a bad name. There really is no excuse for this type of behavior be it on bike or in a car. Young or old, a person has the right to walk in a crosswalk without a carless person running them over - Small children may also not survive such an impact.

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    • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      What is your basis for determining that likelihood?

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  • CaptainKarma July 24, 2013 at 7:01 pm
  • Barney July 24, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    A number of comments here seem to imply that if he was driving a car that somehow it would have been worse. I believe that bad behavior is bad behavior regardless of the mode of transport. Let's not show any "double standards" and demand equal justice for the infraction. You all want the heads of a automobile driver on a pike, why not the cyclist who KILLED an innocent human being as well?

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    • Paul in the 'couve July 24, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      Barney, I at least am not implying that Killing someone with a car is worse than killing someone with a bike.

      Rather, I am stating (and no implying) unequivacolly that even careful operation of a motor vehicle is more likely to kill pedestrians and that when operating recklessly cars are capable of causing much more injury and damage to property that bicycles.

      And, in actual fact, in this exact case if a car had run the same light at the same time it is very likely that 3 or 4 people would have been killed and not only 1. Certainly I see news reports approximately weekly where motorists kill and hospitalize multiple pedestrians in one "accident."

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    • Chainwhipped July 27, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      Given that the deceased was not the only person in the crosswalk, and a car driven by the same negligent sap would have had 8 times the frontal area and 1,000 times the mass, it definitely would have been worse.

      Not only would the pedestrian have been killed instantly, but the driver could have easily killed at least one more person at the same time.

      That happens all the time, and the excuses fly in the face of justice:
      "I didn't see him"
      "He came out of nowhere"
      "I don't know what happened"

      And the police absolve the driver all too frequently - "No criminality Suspected"

      A double standard indeed.

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      • Opus the Poet July 27, 2013 at 9:23 pm

        The frontal area is accurate but unless you only weigh 4 pounds your weight ratio is off by about two orders of magnitude. Cars weigh an average of 3700 pounds these days, while a bike and average fit rider weigh in the 200 pound range. making the ratio almost 20 times the mass. Now if you're talking a semi, well the tractor alone would fill that description quite nicely, not to mention a full DOT limit tractor-trailer comes in at 80K pounds vs a cyclist's maybe 220 (330 if I load mine to the posted GVW max on the sticker on the bike).

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  • younggods July 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm
    • 9watts July 24, 2013 at 8:16 pm

      wsbob,
      did you read that article? You might want to since you seem to think/imply that people driving are already punished adequately.
      http://bikeportland.org/2013/07/22/the-monday-roundup-is-bad-driving-inevitable-and-more-90729#comment-4298817

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      • wsbob July 25, 2013 at 10:18 am

        Excerpt from my comment you provided a link to:

        "...People presently do get cited and fined. Is that punishment? There are results, but are the results what people are seeking? ..."

        Alluding to the fact that, among other things, a range of measures exist already to, using your word "punish", if you want to think of it that way...people driving, but did not write as to whether or not those measures are necessarily adequate punishment. Changes in the degree and type of 'punishment' exacted by current measures, is something it seems you may have some ideas about...realistic, workable ideas, hopefully...which people may be interested in reading, if you were to post them here.

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    • Pete July 25, 2013 at 9:06 am

      Excellent article, thanks. Some history lessons in there, as well as touching on the tricky issue of pulling driver's licenses. The lesson I take away is that driving is clearly an inalienable right, not a privilege.

      My neighbor was run down earlier this year by a 19-year-old who proceeded to a Peet's Coffee instead of stopping at the scene. People in the car behind her claimed that she "swerved onto the shoulder before running him down." Charges were never filed. http://campbell.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/cyclist-killed-on-san-tomas-expressway-was-a-cautious-rider

      This article should be sent to those who say "why aren't they out looking for real criminals" when they see police trapping speeders. It should, in my opinion, cause the same level of uproar that guns do when we read about school shootings.

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  • John Liu July 24, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I think if a driver had blown through multiple red lights at high speed and plowed through pedestrians in a crosswalk, killing one, the odds of that driver doing jail time would be pretty high.

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    • Pete July 25, 2013 at 9:09 am

      Read the article that "younggods" posted above...

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      • Help July 25, 2013 at 10:13 am

        I just read it. Completely different scenario.

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        • Pete July 25, 2013 at 10:08 pm

          Tell that to the wife of the man and his child who were killed in Los Gatos a few years ago by a woman who ran two red lights and lost control of her speeding Chevy Tahoe and ran them down on the sidewalk. They were part of the statistics in the article and the scenario isn't terribly dissimilar to the hypothetical scenario that the OC is speculating on. The article, OTOH, represents statistics documented by an investigative journalist.

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  • sabes July 24, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Ah, the sweet smell of cyclists rationalizing away their dangerous (and illegal) behavior.

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    • spare_wheel July 24, 2013 at 9:44 pm

      Over the past 10 years motorists have killed approximately 6,000 pedestrians a year. Two 9/11s each year.

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      • pixelgate July 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm

        Ah, the sweet smell of cyclists rationalizing away their dangerous (and illegal) behavior.

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        • spare_wheel July 25, 2013 at 8:14 am

          As I stated below I would like to see mandatory incarceration for all vehicular homicide (by motorists or cyclists) regardless of fault. How exactly is this rationalization?

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        • Pete July 25, 2013 at 9:35 am

          Kill a man with a bike... felony manslaughter.
          Kill a man with a car... it was an accident!

          Who's rationalizing now?

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          • pixelgate July 25, 2013 at 10:26 am

            I truly hope the irony of posting your comment in a thread where a man on a bike killed an elderly man and isn't going to jail for it is not lost on you.

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            • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm

              Seeing how his comment made no reference to jail time, I don't see the irony you refer to. We have no indication that pete is not dissatisfied the person who killed by bicycle is not facing jail time.

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            • Pete July 25, 2013 at 10:53 pm

              He isn't going to jail because the victim's family asked the judge not to send him there. He received a felony manslaughter charge because the judge said he "wanted to send a message to cyclists about safety." I never said the punishment doesn't fit the crime, but my point is we rarely read about judges handing down felony vehicular manslaughter charges to send a message to drivers about safety on the road.

              I fail to see irony here, sorry.

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              • aaronf July 25, 2013 at 11:08 pm

                The Slate article disagrees with your account.

                "Hui's family had made it clear they did not want to see Bucchere sent to prison, and prosecutors were doubtful that a judge would have sent the 37-year-old there anyway."

                Where did you read that it was because of the family?

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                • Opus the Poet July 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm

                  Reading comprehension fail. It said so in the first sentence you quoted, Hui was the patrinomial of the victim, the victim's family asked for no jail time. He still got a much stiffer sentence than most drunks get for killing a pedestrian or cyclist.

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    • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 10:26 am

      Except that you can't smell them, and I haven't read all the comments yet, but I don't think they are claiming their illegal and dangerous behavior is excusable. Please stop being dramatic and/or provocative.

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    • El Biciclero July 25, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      Ahh, the slightly stinky odor of misinterpreting and misrepresenting others' statements so you can feel superior to them...

      I don't think anyone is rationalizing behavior any more than anyone else, and I don't think very many here are attempting to convince themselves that breaking the law in a dangerous fashion (regardless of how minimal the danger might be characterized) is OK to do as long as you are riding a bike.

      What I hear is that mostly, people agree that mowing down a pedestrian is bad/wrong no matter how you do it. People are also seeming to agree that, yes, bikes can kill people too. But I also hear that many are fed up with cases such as this one receiving sensational coverage while the many hundreds of cases every day of peds and cyclists being run down by motorists get nary a mention. I don't think the complaint is that "cyclists shouldn't have to follow the law because they're small", I think it is that there is far too little in the way of consequences to drivers who do vastly more damage on a daily basis.

      It is as if the police would rather focus on punishing kids who get into fistfights on the playground rather than concentrate on going after the neighborhood gang members who are shooting people on a daily basis. Yeah, fistfights might be wrong, and rarely someone can actually get killed in a fistfight, but in the time it takes for one fistfight fatality to happen, how many have been mowed down in drive-by shootings? Statistically speaking, which group, playground kids or gang members, should we really be concentrating on? To further deplete this analogy, what should the consequences be for merely threatening someone with a gun? Firing it and missing everyone? Carelessly tossing it around? Compare that with threatening someone with your fists, or carelessly twirling around with your arms out, or even hitting someone. Which is more severe, even though all of it might be "wrong"?

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      • Aaronf July 25, 2013 at 3:35 pm

        Oh! The putrid stench of someone assigning a dubious motivation to another persons observation, in order to discount the observation.

        This is a fun game. :-)

        If I drop a gun and it goes off, should I be punished more or less than if I beat an elderly person to death with my fists?

        Wikipedia has a great article on mens rea which explains pretty well how and why the law is applied as it is, if anyone is interested.

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        • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm

          "someone assigning a dubious motivation to another persons observation, in order to discount the observation."

          That's the general direction my thoughts went in response to sabes's comment.

          Yes, El Biciclero stated a presumed motivation. While he(?) might have done so to discount the observation as you said, I think it also possible he did so only to discourage that exact same behavior. I say that, because unlike sabes, El Biciclero actually attempted to rationalize any discredit against sabes's comment.

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        • El Biciclero July 25, 2013 at 6:07 pm

          Oh, the horrible...never mind. All I am trying to get across is that statistically speaking, overall, just as guns are considered "more dangerous" than fists, and offenses committed with guns are treated more seriously than similar offenses committed without them, so are cars "more dangerous" than bicycles and deserve a greater degree of scrutiny and a higher level of consequences when used irresponsibly. This general principle is not used to "rationalize" away beating people up with fists--that is still horrible and wrong, but in general, it is less lethal than shooting guns at people. These are bad examples because they imply intent, but just imagine what the police response would be if, in a crowd of some type, there was a guy tottering around randomly swinging his fists around and bumping into people--maybe even randomly punching people, and there was another guy brandishing a gun, twirling it around on his finger, shooting it into the air, etc. If they could only respond to one or the other, which would it be?

          Yes, there are legal principles of intent and negligence that play into any specific situation, but I find it hard to believe that even those principles come into play to the same degree when using a bicycle as when using a car. Outside of bike polo or jousting, when is the last time a cyclist intentionally rammed a pedestrian or another cyclist with malice aforethought? Negligence can be more believably attributed to cyclists when incidents such as this one occur, but even the result of such negligence usually doesn't have the dire outcome that Bucchere's excessive speed and disregard for traffic signals had here.

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          • aaronf July 25, 2013 at 11:03 pm

            I think we basically agree.

            For me, where the charge of rationalization rings true (and I don't mean to imply that Everyone is rationalizing...) is this:

            If a sensational article was posted about how somebody was killed by a banana that fell from an airplane, tossed out the window by a careless pilot, it would be a sensationalist story about something that won't really impact anybody but the families of those involved. I would not be surprised to see coverage on a story like that for a day or to, given the 24 hr news cycle.

            Now, if the comment section of an article about the story was filled with angry pilots who were exasperated because of the attention being paid to the story, and repeatedly adding "perspective" to the story by pointing out that cancer is more dangerous, I'd wonder why they were so bothered, if not out of some defensive impulse. Probably some folks are rationalizing their behaviors to a degree (we ALL do, to a degree) and probably others feel misunderstood and stereotyped, which can be painful.

            This guy(cyclist) just blows my mind though. Racing in the city at 8am, running red lights and a stop sign... I thought for sure he would be 18-21. He's 36 (at the time) and went to Stanford. Then after the wreck, and describing the RIVER of blood flowing from his victim... he posts about it online like a cool war story.

            To me the main, useful takeaway from this story is that there are narcissistic folks who endanger people because they are seeking a thrill, or venting anger, or whatever. Since most people are driving cars, I bet a lot of them are in cars. So everybody be careful, alert, and don't count on any other vehicle to follow the rules.

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            • El Biciclero July 26, 2013 at 10:16 am

              I think we basically agree, too...the only nuance to your example that I would point out is that there was no suggestion that the TSA ban bananas, or that pilots be subjected to extra scrutiny to see if they are allowing bananas on board their planes, or that passengers sneaking bananas on board be subject to the same penalties that passengers sneaking bombs on board would be.

              What I react to personally--and I'm probably attributing the same motivations to others' reactions--is the suggestion that "See?! Bikes are dangerous, you scofflaw fools! The cops should crack down on cyclists like drug dealers so we can finally rid the streets of this two-wheeled scourge!" Granted, that's an exaggeration to some extent, but when a singular incident such as this is used as vindication for all the motorists who now feel they can legitimately claim cyclists in general "endanger" others on the road, all the while speeding around distractedly in their 5000-lb. SUVs, it's a little bit off-putting. Or as is more often the case in this comment section, using an incident like this one to point out that cyclists must obey the letter of the law to a T at all times, 'cuz look what happens if you don't!

              Anyway, I don't intend to rationalize dangerous behavior by claiming I can't do any damage--or even to agree with those that DO intend to do that, I just don't want calls for perspective to be mischaracterized as "rationalization".

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              • Aaronf July 26, 2013 at 11:25 am

                I have similar concerns about the extreme positions people take. For example, I have taken part in an argument with a cyclist who thinks that cycling is valuable because society is going to collapse, soon enough that an investment in cycling right now is valuable in "preparation."

                I probably can't reason with this person, because we have fundamental assumptions that sharply contrast. We would have to do a lot of untangling, in good faith, which is unlikely. It drives me crazy, if I let it.

                I try to maintain a perspective that folks like these are on both sides of nearly every argument. If they have a lot of money they will have influence (see Forest Park!) but otherwise they are usually paid lip service and ignored by decision makers, who are generally more judicious than to entertain, say, banning bikes from all roads. I don't think that I will spend any time on my deathbed wishing I'd spent more time arguing with fools. I know that I don't need to write a letter to City Council imploring them not to ban all cars from the city, just because someone who knows very little about logistics thinks it is a good idea.

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                • 9watts July 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm

                  "I have similar concerns about the extreme positions people take. For example, I have taken part in an argument with a cyclist who thinks that cycling is valuable because society is going to collapse, soon enough that an investment in cycling right now is valuable in "preparation."

                  I probably can't reason with this person, because we have fundamental assumptions that sharply contrast. We would have to do a lot of untangling, in good faith, which is unlikely. It drives me crazy, if I let it."

                  I wonder what that person thinks about the prospects of reasoning with you? I'm curious how you approach your argument with him/her?
                  I happen to think the part of society that relies on personal automobiles *is* going to atrophy and eventually collapse, and that any investment in biking *will* be a magnificent move, even if we turn out to be wrong about the prospects of cardom (see Pascal's Wager).

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  • J_R July 24, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Count me as a cyclist/motorist/pedestrian who believes that any vehicle operator who kills a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk or as a result of blowing a stop sign or traffic signal deserves some jail time.

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  • spare_wheel July 24, 2013 at 9:33 pm

    I would like to see mandatory jail time for any motorist or cyclist who kills a pedestrian (regardless of so-called fault). I really don't care if they came out of no where, if you did not see them, if it was raining, if the sun got in your eyes, or if it was dark outside. If you kill a human being I would like you to spend some time in a penitentiary contemplating what you have done.

    Nevertheless, making a comment about "violence in our streets" in the context of this absurdly rare fatality is a very dangerous sort of false equivalence.

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    • JRB July 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      That's a harsh position to take. Criminal sanctions have historically only been applied when there is intent to cause harm or a depraved indifference to the welfare of others (recklessness). We live in a far from perfect world and until human beings stop being human beings and are replaced by robots or cyborgs they will continue to make mistakes and those mistakes may result in someone's death. There are civil remedies and sanctions available against people whose conduct does not rise to the level of intentional or reckless. I believe each case has to be viewed on its own merits with a weighing of the aggravating and mitigating circumstances particular to that case.

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      • spare_wheel July 25, 2013 at 10:33 pm

        when people drive drunk there is no intent to cause harm yet mandatory jail time is becoming increasingly common.

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        • Aaronf July 25, 2013 at 10:44 pm

          There is intent, or willingness, to put others in danger. Any reasonable person knows this, thus the penalty. Learn about our judicial system, it's really pretty thoughtful, nuanced territory.

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          • spare_wheel July 26, 2013 at 12:11 pm

            "There is intent, or willingness, to put others in danger.".

            nonsense. drunk driving or, for example, accidental firearm discharge do not signal "intent" to harm others. they increase the risk of harm by some degree.

            "Learn about our judicial system"

            this is off topic but i've learned more than enough about our judicial system to come to the conclusion that its corrupt, unfair, and repressive.

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        • JRB July 26, 2013 at 8:40 am

          What Aaron said. Criminal penalties are not limited to wrongful acts committed intentionally. By choosing to become intoxicated and then get behind the wheel you are exhibiting a depraved indifference to the welfare of others, or to use another definition of "reckless" you are demonstrating a conscious disregard for a substantial and unjustifiable risk.

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          • spare_wheel July 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm

            "By choosing to become intoxicated and then get behind the wheel you are exhibiting a depraved indifference to the welfare of others."

            So...someone who drives with a blood alcohol of 0.09 is not "depraved and indifferent" but someone who drives with 0.11 is?

            "Reckless", "wanton", "depraved indifference" are vague terms and, IMO, are often used to facilitate bias in prosecution and sentencing. Someone who "accidentally" commits homicide by firearm is prosecuted while someone who "accidentally" runs over a child often gets away without even a slap on the wrist.

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        • wsbob July 26, 2013 at 12:49 pm

          The act of driving drunk is willful negligence, rightfully regarded by society as criminal behavior to which various measures must be directed against in order to help sustain a level of safety for everyone in need of using the road.

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      • spare_wheel July 25, 2013 at 10:36 pm

        civil penalties work very well for the upper quintiles who can afford the time and money involved.

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  • Babygorilla July 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    9watts
    What is the percentage of manslaughter via bike charges to deaths caused by bike compared with the manslaughter via car charges to deaths caused by car? I think this would be an interesting statistic to have on hand.
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    As would these figures compared with vehicle miles travelled.

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    • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 10:28 am

      May I ask what you would hope to glean by comparing miles traveled?

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      • El Biciclero July 26, 2013 at 10:30 am

        My guess would be to see how far a car can travel before killing someone, vs. how far a bike would travel before killing someone. My other guess is that this statistic would make cars look incredibly safe.

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        • Caleb July 26, 2013 at 11:03 am

          That was the only possibility that came to mind, but I didn't want to assume it was the case - benefit of the doubt, and all.

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        • Paul in the 'couve July 26, 2013 at 11:08 am

          It would make a big difference if you compared the driving / riding environment miles. Freeway miles mean nothing for cars causing pedestrian / cyclist deaths.

          The interesting stat would be the rate per mile for pedestrian deaths auto vs. cycling in urban areas. That would only leave a few cities in the world that could be really studied, but it would be interesting.

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  • jim July 24, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    Many years ago in Eugene two cyclists hit each other head on at night. They both died.

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  • Sue July 24, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    I am appalled at his attitude and that he didn't even try to slow down. Everyone on the road needs to be able to stop in time. I didn't read the original article, so I wonder where this happened and if it was on Oak St. I did a bomb down that street once with a friend who was on a fast recumbent, all the lights were green..very scary..I would have never chosen that street myself. I almost didn't stop at the bottom; we were probably going over 30 mph.. never tried that again! SF presents unique dangers with its hills that all riders need to be aware of.

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    • spare_wheel July 25, 2013 at 10:43 pm

      he could have layed down his bike and suffered a bit of road rash. instead he admitted to seeking a "line" through a crowd of vulnerable human beings.

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      • Paul in the 'couve July 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm

        Actually, that has never been clear to me from what I have read. He aimed for the emptiest spot and "laid it on." There is no video of the accident. From what I recall of what I have read, I don't know if anyone knows for sure about that. He might have laid it down. Problem is, at the speed he seems to have been traveling on a steep down hill, I thin k even laying it down wouldn't have been enough. At that speed he would have had to aim for a parked car or a light pole to get stopped before the crosswalk.

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      • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 11:22 pm

        All this time I thought that when he wrote, "so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find", he was referring to laying down the bike. Dang slang and pronouns!

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  • Jack July 25, 2013 at 7:48 am

    "...because BP commenters will periodically claim that bikes have such small mass that they pose little danger..."

    It's not a claim, its simple physics. Clearly a bicyclist can move fast enough to be dangerous, but the point everyone is always making is that a person on a bike is objectively far less massive than any motor vehicle and on average is traveling at less than half the speed of a motor vehicle.

    I don't think anyone is arguing that reckless and/or inconsiderate cycling should be tolerated.

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    • Mike July 25, 2013 at 11:10 am

      Simple physics prove "that bikes have such small mass that they pose little danger"
      I don't consider death as a "little danger". Seems pretty serious and permanent.

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      • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 2:09 pm

        "Little" is a subjective, comparative word. I don't believe he was diminishing the severity of death by using the word, but instead using the word to describe total bicycle-caused damage as compared to total automobile-caused damage.

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      • dr2chase July 25, 2013 at 4:50 pm

        If bicyclists pose more than a little danger to pedestrians, then what isn't dangerous? The figures I see say 1 or 2 deaths per year from people being run into by cyclists -- if that's "dangerous", then simple comparison suggests that any generally experienced thing that kills more people than 1 or 2 per year is also dangerous. Not a little dangerous, but "dangerous".

        That's a whole lot of things. Flatulence, lawnmowers, and dogs, are all "dangerous" if that's your standard. This is why I have little patience or respect for people who get all wound up about the "danger" posed by cyclists -- it's innumerate nonsense, and completely fails the compared-to-what test, for many values of "what".

        Note that the mostly-harmlessness of cyclists in general is not contradicted by the actions of this one criminally aberrant bozo. A couple dozen people each year are killed by dogs, but that does not stop me from making friends with almost every dog I encounter. Dog are also mostly-harmless.

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  • Dan July 25, 2013 at 8:39 am

    I didn't see this reported anywhere:

    Was the pedestrian wearing a helmet?

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  • are July 25, 2013 at 8:52 am

    what exactly is accomplished by punishing people. is the objective we are seeking to exact revenge or to reshape behavior. if what we want to see is fewer people acting carelessly with respect to the risk their actions create for others, how do we go about that.

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    • spare_wheel July 25, 2013 at 10:46 am

      while they may not be as effective as positive incentives, there is no question that negative incentives do shape human behavior.

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      • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 2:14 pm

        I don't think incentives shape human behavior, but instead that humans shape their behavior according to perceived incentives.

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    • JRB July 25, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      The purpose of criminal justice in the US is two-fold, to punish the violator and to deter the violator and others from further criminal conduct. As your post points out, these are two separate and different goals/purposes. Civil justice also has a deterrence goal, but punishing the wrong doer is only incidental to the goal of making the injured party whole.

      This is what our current legal system seeks to do. Whether that's right or should we consider adopting different models of justice, which certainly exist in the world, is an entirely different and important question. Particularly as relates to criminal justice because when the state punishes a convicted criminal, it is doing so in our name and the legitimacy of that act stems from the consent of the citizenry.

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  • Spiffy July 25, 2013 at 9:42 am

    he-said, she-said... I'm not moved... there's no overwhelming evidence... looks like a scared cyclist accepted a plea deal... cyclist said that he was in the intersection when the light turned red, crowd started entering crosswalk without checking to ensure all vehicles have cleared the intersection, cyclist intentionally crashes bike to the ground to avoid hitting anybody...

    this is why I wear a video camera... it would have shown me safely in the intersection when the light turned from yellow to red and there'd be no case...

    so as much as I'd like to hate on the cyclist in this case I just can't believe anybody...

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    • Paul Atkinson July 25, 2013 at 10:23 am

      In Oregon, entering on a yellow and leaving on a red is running a red light. You are required to stop for a yellow light and, except in the case of entering on a green and turning left on the red after it's clear, you must exit before the red to be legal.

      You might want to remember that for when you pull your helmet-cam video out in court.

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      • Mike July 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

        Especially if the camera shows you were recklessly running numerous red lights leading up to the fatal crash.

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    • Paul in the 'couve July 25, 2013 at 10:27 am

      I haven't followed this case very closely, but I've read several articles over the months and given it some thought. At first my opinion was closer to yours, Spiffy.

      Now I see it as an insight into our society and it is informing my perspective on driving both personally and how we have built our cities.

      The case against this cyclist seems (from my limited information) to have hinged on the fact that he was observed running several stop lights before the one where the accident occurred and that he was traveling at an extreme speed for a bicycle (??nearly 40 mph down a steep hill). This speed on a bicycle makes it extremely difficult if not nearly impossible to stop for a yellow light the steep hill adding more difficulty. [stopping distance on a bike is limited by center of gravity relative the pivot point of the front wheel specifically the angle between the normal force of gravity at the pivot point and a line from the pivot point to the center of gravity. At some point you can't use the front brake at all and can only drag the rear wheel with very little effect] So this cyclist was demonstrating very extreme disregard for safety. It is clear to me that he was absolutely riding in a manner that demonstrated total disregard for others and was extremely dangerous and that he deserves the punishment he received.

      Yet it bothered me form the beginning that motorist kill pedestrians routinely and often don't even get a traffic citation. My concern over this has increased as I have reflected on the case of this cyclist. As I mentioned above in my reply to Barney, cars are absolutely far more of a threat to pedestrians even when operated by the most careful and capable drivers and I myself am a driver and I recognize that I am not perfect, I make mistakes. Yet, "I didn't see them" or "the sun was in my eyes" is an excuse. Yes, in extreme cases like the motorist who killed Angela Burke on SW Barbur in 2010 the motorist will get a charged criminally. In that case the drive was going 90mph and drunk.

      Right there is the disparity that I have been pondering. Driving a car at 40mph on a city street with pedestrian feet away and crosswalks theoretically at every intersection is considered "Safe" and as long as the driver isn't impaired or driving DOUBLE the speed limit at least, they aren't viewed by the legal system or the public as doing anything "criminal." Rather the victim usually gets blamed. Being distracted and drifting of the shoulder of Hwy 101 while driving a 4500 pound mini-van at 60mph and maiming Christine Osborne will get you a simple citation. Or as Pete as mentioned in this thread, his friend Stanislaw Wicka was killed by an inattentive driver with witnesses and the driver left the scene AND she was still cited for anything.

      Even a momentary distraction driving any car, at any speed, is extremely dangerous and potentially deadly. At speeds over 25mph in areas with pedestrians cars can not be made safe for city streets yet we continue to excuse without any real thought dangerous and distracted driving, even when it causes deaths because we all do it.

      The problem with cars, is you don't have to be doing anything especially stupid or dangerous to kill somebody. Just driving a car at all, even safely is too dangerous.

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      • Paul in the 'couve July 25, 2013 at 10:30 am

        "And she was still NOT cited for anything"

        I wish I could edit posts.

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      • Paul in the 'couve July 25, 2013 at 10:38 am

        Also realized my last sentence doesn't make sense. Put scare quotes around "safely" is probably the best way to fix it....

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      • wsbob July 25, 2013 at 6:17 pm

        "...Driving a car at 40mph on a city street with pedestrian feet away and crosswalks theoretically at every intersection is considered "Safe" and as long as the driver isn't impaired or driving DOUBLE the speed limit at least, they aren't viewed by the legal system or the public as doing anything "criminal." ..." Paul in the 'couve

        Driving over the posted or assigned speed limit for a given area, is not by law, considered "Safe". Neither is traveling the road in a manner or at a speed higher than that which allows a road user to avoid hurting or killing other road users, or themselves.

        The criminal part of Bucchere's actions on the bike, wasn't simply his having failed to stop at red lights, or his having faster on his bike than he could safely stop it. By themselves, those actions were only violations. They became actions of a criminal nature, when he allowed them to critically injure another road user to the extent that the injured person's life was eventually lost as a result of his actions.

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    • Robert Getch July 25, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      The guy above is right, its illegal to "run" a yellow as well (as in you will not be clear before the intersection goes red and it was POSSIBLE for you to stop). Everyone should stop for a Yellow light as soon as its displayed UNLESS it would unsafe to do so. Even if you can make it without increasing speed, you're requried to stop if possible. Your only argument would be that before when the light turned yellow it was unsafe to stop; however, you could then be charged with careless/reckless/unsafe for conditions if you were unable to stop but reasonably you should have be able to stop (such as speeding, snow, brake problems, etc.)

      811.260.4 Steady circular yellow signal. A driver facing a steady circular yellow signal light is thereby warned that the related right of way is being terminated and that a red or flashing red light will be shown immediately. A driver facing the light shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, shall stop before entering the marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or if there is no marked crosswalk, then before entering the intersection. If a driver cannot stop in safety, the driver may drive cautiously through the intersection.

      http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.260

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  • Editz July 25, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    Article states that he was "too committed" and "couldn't stop" but doesn't make any reference to brakes. Any chance this guy was riding a brakeless fixie? If so, those things should be banned from anywhere but race tracks.

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  • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Anne Fischer,

    Since I first learned of this case the first time JM posted about it, it has come to my mind each time I've come across comments on this site or others in which somebody stated bicycles pose "little danger" and the like. I just wanted to let you know at least some readers and commenters here are quite conscious of what harm we can possibly cause others with our bicycles.

    If only automobile collisions resulting in death were so infrequent that a single incident could stick out in my mind for a year...

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  • Caleb July 25, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Also, I finally read the Slate article and thought some who haven't might be interested in a couple key parts:

    "Hui's family had made it clear they did not want to see Bucchere sent to prison, and prosecutors were doubtful that a judge would have sent the 37-year-old there anyway. "We believe this is the best outcome for this type of case," Gascon told reporters, adding that his goal had been to "send a message to cyclists about safety," something he believed the felony conviction accomplished.""

    "While Bucchere's felony manslaughter conviction appears to be a first for a U.S. cyclist, it comes only four months after another San Fran biker pleaded guilty to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter after hitting a 67-year-old woman, who later died. In that case, however, the sentence was remarkably similar to Bucchere's: three years probation and 500 hours of community, albeit without a felony conviction on the cyclist's record."

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  • Aaronf July 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Bucchere ended his note with an ode to his headgear, writing: "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... The moral of this little story is: WYFH." Or, in other words: Wear your [...] helmet — a sentiment other commenters doubted, responding: "I'm not sure that's the moral of the story."

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  • Dave July 26, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Just like any motorist who did the same thing, this cyclist's personal information should be made very, very public so as to enhance the delivery of social disapproval to him.

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    • Caleb July 26, 2013 at 9:24 am

      What specific information about him and others do you want made public?

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      • Dave July 26, 2013 at 11:17 am

        Address, telephone, email, all standard contact information.

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  • Aaronf July 26, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    9watts
    "I have similar concerns about the extreme positions people take. For example, I have taken part in an argument with a cyclist who thinks that cycling is valuable because society is going to collapse, soon enough that an investment in cycling right now is valuable in "preparation."
    I probably can't reason with this person, because we have fundamental assumptions that sharply contrast. We would have to do a lot of untangling, in good faith, which is unlikely. It drives me crazy, if I let it."
    I wonder what that person thinks about the prospects of reasoning with you? I'm curious how you approach your argument with him/her?
    I happen to think the part of society that relies on personal automobiles *is* going to atrophy and eventually collapse, and that any investment in biking *will* be a magnificent move, even if we turn out to be wrong about the prospects of cardom (see Pascal's Wager).
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    Exactly. We disagree on how to implement a solution to a problem. We have different opinions on how Pascal's Wager is applied, for starters. Glad to engage in a discussion, but if I find someone who seems to just repeat themselves and argue emotionally, I disengage.

    For an example in this thread, see my discussion with spare wheel regarding drunk driving and culpability. After explaining my viewpoint, and another poster (thanks JRB) explaining it even better, spare wheel repeated his prior without addressing and counter argument. So I'm all done there.

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  • Caleb July 29, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Opus the Poet
    Reading comprehension fail. It said so in the first sentence you quoted, Hui was the patrinomial of the victim, the victim's family asked for no jail time. He still got a much stiffer sentence than most drunks get for killing a pedestrian or cyclist.

    I think aaronf's question was pertinent. The quote said the family made it clear they did not want Bucherre sent to jail, yes, but that's not the same as saying the family's expression actually factored into the sentencing.

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