San Francisco

For First Time Ever, Cyclist Found Guilty of Felony Vehicular Manslaughter

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Credit: credit-mugley-Foter-CC-BY-NC-ND

In what is likely a first in the U.S., a California man has pled guilty to committing felony vehicular manslaughter while riding a bicycle. The New York Times explains that not only is the situation rare, it may be entirely novel:

Though no agency tracks national data on the severity of charges in such cases, many cycling advocates and law enforcement officials said this was the first felony charge they had heard of in such a case.

The incident took place on March 29, 2012. Chris Bucchere, a 37-year-old San Francisco resident, plowed through an intersection and into Sutchi Hui, a 71-year-old also of San Francisco. The pedestrian was dead four days later due to the seriousness of his injuries. Bucchere turned himself in and was charged.

 The Chicago Tribune notes that "the same month Bucchere hit Hui, a bicyclist pleaded guilty in San Francisco to misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for running down a 67-year-old woman who died a month later."

Bucchere was hit with a felony rather than a misdemeanor after witnesses testified that he ran several red lights and a stop sign before colliding with Hui. Because the cyclist was using a GPS device to track his route, authorities were able to determine that Bucchere was traveling 30 mph. 

George Gascon, the San Francisco District Attorney, explained the charge:

Mr. Bucchere has been held accountable to a historic level What he did deserved prosecution. This is about sending a clear message about prevention.

[…] Our goal is to send a message to cyclists about safety. 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.

Nevertheless, Bucchere is facing no prison time for the death of Hui. Instead, he is serving 1000 hours of community service and three years probation. According to the Guardian, "the victim's family did not want to see Bucchere imprisoned and prosecutors did not think a judge would sentence him to jail, so they offered probation and community service in the plea deal."

NEXT: Plea Deal Talks Continue in Cleveland Kidnapping Case

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  1. That fuckhead ran three red lights, was going too fast, and admitted he speeded up to try and blow through the crowd of people crossing at the cross walk. He should have gone to prison.

    1. prison would have served no purpose but he does owe a debt to the family of the victim

      1. Yet if your child were killed by a drunk driver you’d probably be trying to hang the driver yourself.

        1. That’s why victims’ families do not carry out the sentencing.

    2. Yeah, I agree with that; Dead is dead. Doesn’t matter really if it was a bike or a car.

    3. Agree. This was not mereless careless, running several red lights while going 30 mph on a bike is reckless.

      I think that the sentences for vehicular manslaughter generally are too light.

  2. The only truly aggressive cyclists I have ever seen were in San Francisco.

    One guy came barreling down one of those steep hills in morning traffic, ran through three red lights, bounced off a cable car and was chanting “Out of the way, motherfuckers, motherfuckers. Out of the way, motherfuckers,” the entire time he was within earshot. Bike shorts, denim vest with no shirt and one of those asshole hats they all wear. I guess he was late for his job at the stereotype factory.

    1. denim vest with no shirt and one of those asshole hats they all wear.

      Would that be a helmet?

      1. I think he means a cycling cap.

        1. Yes, a cycling cap. I’m sure they serve a function, but fuck are they douchy looking.

          1. The word from someone who knows (not me; I just texted him) is that they keep the sun out of your eyes, sweat off your face, and you can turn them around to keep the sun off your neck.

            1. So they work like all hats?

              1. I know, it’s pretty anticlimactic, huh? But I wanted to ask since the brim is so small, it doesn’t seem like it would keep the sun out.

                1. It’s small to reduce drag I believe.

                  1. Yeah, I assumed as much.

                    1. “That’s why I have a spoiler on my car…to uh, you know, reduce the drag coefficient. Yeah, that’s it”

                    2. Ironically, spoilers increase drag coefficients. You know, the whole idea of increasing downforce and all.

                  2. Oh for Christ’s sake. “To reduce drag”? Is every bicyclist Jeff Gordon now?

                    1. Dude, you have no idea.

                      Above 15 mph every bit of clothing flapping in the wind takes its toll. Drag goes up with the square of velocity IIRC, so it gets very significant.

                    2. [Drag goes up with the square of velocity IIRC, so it gets very significant.]

                      Two words. Harley Davidson.

      2. I think he means this.

        Although the helmets are pretty much hats.

    2. You need to go to Amsterdam.

      The rules as explained to me by a local:
      Bike, never wrong
      Car beats pedestrian but not bike
      Pedestrian beats nobody. period.

      1. So, rent a bike while in Amsterdam?

        1. actually no. Buy two or three. The balancing act comes from buying a shitty enough bike it wont get stolen but ok to ride. I kid you not this is the advice i got…from several people. c=Cant rent, if stolen you are out lots of money.

          1. On the other hand, my wife and I rented bikes and had lots of fun. There is a safety in numbers herd prevention of theft to an extent. It really is a cool place to bike because they really are kings of the road with their own paths, traffic lights, etc.

      2. How about skateboarders? Can they just roll through red lights and stop signs and tell everyone get out of the way?

        I respect skateboarders way more than bicyclists. Bicyclists have this moral superiority thing that makes what they do even more asshole-ish.

    3. Have you been to Chicago? That’s pretty much a daily encounter for me.

      1. Here in NYC, it’s pretty much daily, other than the steep hill and the cable car.

        The other day, I was approaching a street when I heard some shouting, and I looked over to see a pedestrian jump back from the path of a shouting bicyclist intent on running a red light. The bicyclist yelled, “That’s why you look both ways!” I yelled after him, “That’s why you don’t run red lights!” but I don’t think he heard me.

      2. Los Angeles is worse but at least you can escape them on the freeway. Road rage towards motorcycles driving between lanes is much more satisfying.

    4. San Francisco cyclists can be incredible assholes. I think many have a Holier Than Thou attitude toward cars: I am saving the planet while you are destroying it.

      Once a cyclist did some stupid/illegal move in front of me. I hit the brakes and stopped in time, and gave him a frown/raised eyebrow look. No honking, cursing, fingers, anything like that. He looked me in the eye and threw the milkshake he was drinking across my windshield.

      Another time a young mother pushing one of those “I’m an active mom” baby strollers literally ran from behind a parked car into the street. I slammed on the brakes and avoiding killing them both, but she frowned at me as if I had done something wrong.

      1. So why don’t the babies in those things have to be in car seats or have helmets?

        Sounds ridiculous but at least in a car, the child has some kind of protection. In the back of those carriages that pull along after mom’s bike? Nada.

    5. “Out of the way, motherfuckers, motherfuckers. Out of the way, motherfuckers,”

      I think he’s the Seattle transportation secretary.

    6. “The Stereotype Factory”. Great band name.

  3. I have a good friend of mine who is an avid cyclist, and he tells me about his frequent encounters with “asshole” motorists. Now, I like the guy, but it reminds of the old joke about divorced: after about four or five of them, the problem may be *you*.

    1. We have a lot of cyclists at work and most of them aren’t too jerky about it. Sadly, the nicest one actually had a real asshole car moment. One whizzed by her and slapped her right on the ass. Hard enough to leave a bruise.

      1. You saw it?

      2. Demand to see the bruise!

    2. I am not an asshole cyclist. I commute regularly on bicycle, and about once every two weeks I have an encounter with an asshole.

      The typical encounter occurs is a driver who is going on auto-pilot pulling into traffic without looking (like the lady who assumed nobody could possibly be coming from her left as she blew through the stop sign to drive across the street I was flying down).

      The next largest case of assholes are people who are pissed off and impatient at some obstacle and pull a sudden, unexpected maneuver to go around it without looking. Case in point the woman who sideswiped me and put me into a parked car last year. She whipped into the bike lane when she saw construction ahead. Had I been overtaking her, I would have avoided her (I can usually see the signs when someone is about to try something stupid), unfortunately she was overtaking me so I didn’t get much time to react; I had half a second between hearing her car motor go CBDR on me and her front quarter shoveling me out of the bike lane.

      The major problem I see – aside from asshole cyclists who use people’s reluctance to cream them as a shield while violating rules of the road – is the fact that many drivers are shitty drivers, either through inattention, being in a hurry or being distracted.

      1. I think there’s also a big element of shitty driving of the “I’m freaked out by having to deal with anything on the road but other cars” variety. I mean I see people driving in the city who don’t even know what to do about pedestrians crossing the street.

        1. That’s the scariest group. Every now and then I make eye-contact with someone and see the panic and know that I’m about to see something unexpected and very dramatic. Usually I come to a stop till they sort themselves out.

          1. I’m cool with sharing the road. Mainly because I know that if I ever get run over while walking the overwhelming odds are it being some goddamn fucking asshole driving a car while yapping or texting on a cell phone.

            1. Actually, I find making eye contact, smiling, and signaling what I want to do or motioning to them that I am yielding solves most panicky encounters.

            2. I’m fine with sharing the road. But cyclists think it’s OK to share the LANE which is actually illegal.

              But every cyclist is an asshole. EVERY. ONE. On a 4-lane road with 2 long lines of cars waiting at a stop light, you will NEVER see a cyclist waiting in line like every other vehicle. Nope, they all pull the “there’s room on the side of your car” shit. Then they blame the drivers for not seeing them.

          2. I sold my road bike when I nearly went to fisticuffs with the asshole that blew around me and 6 inches range to slam on his brakes in front of me to turn into his neighborhood. I know it saved him about 5 seconds to go around me. I understand the drive for efficiency and all but that was ridiculous. When I made it out of that one without going to jail or drawing blood, I sold the road bike and took up single track.

      2. On the busy and congested road near my house, there’s a new road sign saying “Cyclists May Use Entire Lane.”

        Yeah, I’m sure that will work out just fine.

        1. What is with that? Why does anyone think that’s a good idea?

          There’s this Platonic ideal out in the world where auto drivers are going to be satisfied with going 12 MPH in a 25. That’s never going to exist in the real world. Ever.

          1. A common misconception amongst automobile drivers are that cyclists are required to stay to the extreme right of the road.

            That’s actually not the case.

            For a cyclist, the safest place to be varies with the speed of traffic. If the automobiles are faster than the cyclist, the extreme right is good unless one is trying to turn left obviously.

            However, if the speed is matching the cyclist’s speed, the safest place to be is in the lanes with the automobiles, because you are visible.

            Last but not least, if the bicycle is going faster than the traffic, and there is no bike lane, the cyclist is generally safest keeping to the left of the cars; passing on the left is much less dangerous than passing on the right.

            This gets messed up when one encounters someone with the misconception that the cyclist is supposed to stay right and tries to use their vehicle to enforce this rule by trying to shovel the cyclist out or to scare them off.

            The sign is for those people.

            1. 99.9% of the time bicyclists are not matching automobile speed. It’s practically nonexistent.

              1. I commute through cambridge MA during rush hour.

                There are roads where 95% of days I am going with or faster than the traffic.

                1. I figured. You’re one of the rare ones.

                  1. I find a CBR 929RR has no trouble keeping up with motorists…and even exceeding those that drive Ferraris and Lambos. But I digress

              2. Unless you can pedal your ass 35 mph, then stay the hell out of in front of cars.

          2. Why does anyone think that’s a good idea?

            Because that’s where drivers actually LOOK.

            It’s one thing if you’re on a two-lane road, but if there are 4 lanes, the faster traffic can switch lanes to get around the slower traffic. This is true regardless of vehicle type.

            If cyclists aren’t going to follow the rules of the road like the other 99.9% of the traffic, then they are no smarter and no safer than racoons.

            1. I am saying they cannot meaningfully occupy the lane and travel safely with the prevailing speed, that’s the thing.

      3. So aside from the major problem…

      4. “The next largest case of assholes are people who are pissed off and impatient at some obstacle and pull a sudden, unexpected maneuver to go around it without looking.”

        I experienced the reverse of this. I was driving my car (in SF) and the car in front of me stopped while making a right turn, blocking about half of my lane. Rather than whipping into the left lane before I had time to look, I stopped. Looked in my rear view mirror and saw a bicyclist peddling furiously, thinking I would try to get around the car. I sat and watched him, knowing he would hit me, and he did. Rode right up on my trunk and left tire marks on it. His front tire got bent up, and he picked up his bike and slammed it into the street. As soon as I could move, I drove on. Idiot.

        Also in SF, I had the pleasure more than once of seeing idiots cycling downhill in the Tenderloin, against traffic on one-way streets. I don’t miss those dangerous morons.

    3. Bad behavior in traffic has totally different impact on cars, bikes, and pedestrians.

      A bicyclist going a one way in the wrong direction? No problem for bikes going in the correct direction, can be a big problem for cars.

      A car parked on a bike lane? Usually does not impact other cars at all, but outright dangerous for anybody on a bike.

  4. What this guy did was unconscionable.

    The rule in riding a vehicle, any vehicle, you need to keep your speed down so that you can stop if an obstacle pops up. For cars it means don’t go faster than your headlights etc.

    The stopping distance on a bike, especially on a hill, is pretty high. It’s tempting to go fast down a hill, but if there are pedestrians and cross-walks the cyclist should be leaning on his brakes and keeping a reasonable speed.

    He probably got away with it a hundred times because all the pedestrians he encountered were nimble enough to jump out of his way. But elderly or infirm people also cross streets….

    What an asshole.

    1. Ya ever wanted to step out of the way of a cyclist then just bump him a little as he goes past? We have them flying across my campus most of the year. I figure it’s only a matter of time before they clean up someone who is walking.

      1. Don’t try it. The injuries are pretty spectacular, and if you willfully injure someone, he can press charges on you.

        IF you misjudge and get nailed, you’ll be in a world of hurt. I think I broke the ribs of a coast guard E-7 who suddenly changed course and stepped in front of me when I was doing 20mph on the Storrow Drive Bike Path.

        1. Yeah, wasn’t really planning to. Just more thinking of it as a kind of fantasy.

  5. Hey, I live in SF. I saw a biker stop at a stop sign. It was October 13, 2011. I remember it clearly.

    1. I bike to work a few times a week and only run stops if I’ve got good visibility on the cross streets and it’s in a low traffic area. At this point drivers are so acclimated to giving cyclists the right of way that they seem annoyed when I make a stop because they have the right of way. Then there’s a lot of gesticulating since I need a second to go from a full stop to riding again, and I’d really prefer they just went first (but they almost never do).

      1. That’s exactly the problem I kept having. I don’t think it’s a big deal if a cyclist runs a stop sign when there’s good visibility and doing so doesn’t get in the way of other cars. The opportunity really does come up a lot, and when I stop anyway, it tends to slow *everyone* down as the cars don’t want to take right-of-way, and then you have to speed back up from 0 (which frequently takes so much time the car could have gone anyway…)

        … none of which is meant to counter all the stories of jerk cyclists.

        It’s like men & women. Ask a bunch of men and they’ll tell you about bitches they dated. Ask a bunch of women and they’ll tell you about assholes they dated. They’re both right. So are cyclists complaining about cars, and car drivers complaining about bikes.

        1. greenish| 7.24.13 @ 7:52PM |#
          “That’s exactly the problem I kept having. I don’t think it’s a big deal if a cyclist runs a stop sign when there’s good visibility and doing so doesn’t get in the way of other cars.”

          And strangely enough, “good visibility and doing so doesn’t get in the way of other cars” seems to suffer by interpretation.
          I treat bikers as cars; it one is approaching a stop crossways to where I’ve stopped, I start, expecting the biker to stop.
          I get the finger.
          Here’s a hint; a stop sign is not a suggestion.

  6. I once got a speeding ticket as a kid. Had to go to court and everything. The judge grounded me. Really!

    I was like the king of the playground for a week after that for the sheer machismo of getting a speeding ticket in sixth grade.

  7. Well, its about time. I mean if you can get a DUI for riding a bicycle while ‘intoxicated’ . . .

    It just goes to show that we need more government licensing, starting with bicycle licenses and bike registration.

    1. Agammamon| 7.24.13 @ 6:02PM |#
      “It just goes to show that we need more government licensing, starting with bicycle licenses and bike registration.”

      Nope, but as the article shows, an ignorant biker can easily kill someone, so I can imaging libertarian solutions, bit I don’t see them used.

  8. For a short while I rode a bicycle here in Tokyo. But the traffic – both vehicular and pedestrian – was more than I wanted to deal with and just gave it up.

    Drivers are so bad here just yesterday on my morning run I had a truck pull out of a small side street in front of me, rolled almost to a stop, and blasted on through without ever looking in my direction. I had already pegged him as “not stopping” and had started to cut over behind him.

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