San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon is planning on filing felony vehicular manslaughter charges against a cyclist who crashed into and killed 71-year old Sutchi Hui in San Francisco's Castro District late last month.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the severity of the charge stems from a perception inside the D.A.'s office that Bucchere's ride down the hill along Divisadero Street preceding the crash, which occurred at the intersection of Market and Castro streets, was exceedingly reckless. While prosecutors believe Bucchere entered the intersection on a yellow light, witnesses reported seeing him run several stop signs and red lights immediately beforehand.
A tracker on Bucchere's bike clocked him at 35 miles per hour, ten mph over the posted speed limit. Security camera footage of the crash showed Bucchere was traveling at such a high speed he was unable to make any real attempt at stopping or swerving to avoid Hui.
"I think the evidence is very strong," an unnamed source inside the D.A.'s office told the Chronicle.
The case drew international attention after a post allegedly written by Bucchere appeared on the website of local bicycling group MissionCycling.org detailing the crash:
The light turned yellow as I was approaching the intersection, but 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...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.
I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn't mine. I really hope he ends up OK.
Dedicating the post to his now-broken helmet, the author wrote, "may she die knowing that because she committed the ultimate sacrifice, her rider and live and ride on. Can I get an amen? Amen."
The comment, which drew significant criticism from other users of the site, has since been removed, and MissionCycling has distanced itself from Bucchere.
If convicted, Bucchere could face up to 16 months in prison.
This felony charge is significantly more serious than the one given to Randolph Ang, another local cyclist who fatally struck 68-year old DiDi Cherney while riding his bike along the Embarcadero last summer. Ang pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to three years probation, 500 hours of community service and paying $15,000 in restitution to the victim's family.
Ang's relatively light sentence largely came from the Cherney family's call for Gascon to refrain from pursuing a particularly harsh punishment. "Our loss is done," said Cherney's husband in a statement.
These two high-profile accidents have brought additional scrutiny to safety issues surrounding San Francisco's burgeoning bicycle community and led civic leaders to pledge to do more regarding bicycle safety. During an appearance at the Commonwealth Club of California, Mayor Ed Lee said his office was coordinating with SFPD on increased enforcement in key areas like Market Street and the popular "wiggle" bicycle route.
Accordingly, recent weeks have seen a citywide crackdown with SFPD officers issuing far more citations and warnings to bicyclists than is typical.
Some critics have charged that all of this focus on the dangers posed by bicyclists on San Francisco's streets is largely unwarranted--a creation of sensationalist media buzz and cranks who see cycling's rapidly increasing popularity, not to mention local politicians' incorporation of the concern of bike advocates into their own agendas, as a threat to the dominance of private automobiles and public buses on city streets.
In a editorial that initially seemed a bit out of character, the San Francisco Examiner took on the hoopla over Bucheree and Ang:
On one level, we understand why the story of a bicyclist killing someone in the heart of one of The City’s most famous neighborhoods--and then posting comments about it in an online forum--makes for such good copy. It’s just so exotic.
But another word for exotic is rare. Bicyclists just don’t hit people very often; according to The City’s Department of Public Health, cars hit people 811 times in 2010, while bicyclists hit people just 18 times. And when they do, they don’t have the momentum to do the same level of damage.
Still, we get it. It’s a fascinating story, precisely because it doesn’t happen very often.
Even so, in a completely unscientific poll taken by local blog SFist, readers had considerably less sympathy for Bucheree than they did for the drunk woman who attacked a man in the Marina with her high-heeled shoe, cracking his skull.
Check out this video showing tips on how to bike safely on crowded city streets: