San Francisco Cyclist to Get Probation, Community Service in Pedestrian Death

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced Tuesday a plea deal with Chris Bucchere, the Marin County bicyclist who notoriously ran over and killed 71-year-old Sutchi Hui at Market and Castro streets in March, 2012. Bucchere agreed to a charge of felony vehicular manslaughter, but will avoid jail time with a sentence of three years probation and 1,000 hours of community service. The Chronicle is reporting that Bucchere could potentially have the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor after six months.

The intersection at Castro and Market streets, where bicyclist  Chris Bucchere fatally plowed into 71-year-old Sutchi Huiran.
The intersection at Castro and Market streets, where bicyclist Chris Bucchere fatally plowed into 71-year-old Sutchi Hui. (Photo by Deborah Svoboda/KQED)

Gascon said the family of Sutchi Hui was in agreement with the deal. “I think that the family, certainly the son himself, has made it very clear that he did not believe that sending Mr. Bucchere to prison would actually do anything for the community,” he said. “He believed that actually what is happening today is the best outcome for the community.”

Bucchere originally pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter last June. In March he was ordered to stand trial. According to the Chron, “The felony case had no known precedent — at least in California.”

Bucchere certainly didn’t do himself any favors when he posted his account of the crash — before knowing that Hui had died — on the Mission Cycling Club of San Francisco’s Google group. The post began like this:

“I wrecked on the way home today from the biweekly Headlands Raid today. Short story: I’m fine. The pedestrian I clobbered? Not so much.”

And then there was this:

“In closing, I want to dedicate this story to my late helmet.”

That comment in particular caught Gascon’s attention.

“His helmet was more important than a human being,” Gascon told Forbes’ Kashmir Hill.

In response to Bucchere’s post, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition released a statement that said it was “deeply troubled by the just-released online account of the incident.” (You can read more from Bucchere’s post here; the Bay Guardian published it soon after the accident.)

You may recall that this was one of several bicyclist-pedestrian accidents last year, and that caused a bit of a stir. The death in San Francisco was the second area fatality in a year. As Forbes’ Hill wrote:

As in many urban environments, there is strife between the different classes of commuters in this city. Bucchere epitomized for many the reckless biker who takes liberties with the laws of the road — annoying drivers — and does not take seriously the damage that can be done on two wheels to those on two legs — annoying pedestrians, and in this case, mortally injuring one.

KQED’s Forum responded to the issue with a show about bicycle safety, which featured this lively online debate about bicycle-pedestrian encounters.

Also coming under criticism at the time was Strava, a social fitness website that Bucchere was using to track his time when he plowed into Hui. The Chronicle’s C.W. Nevius took the site to task for encouraging reckless bicycling in this column.

And again from Forbes’ Hill: “District Attorney George Gascon told me the Strava data was part of the reason the city had decided to bring such severe charges against Bucchere. ‘It implies he was trying to compete with himself.’”

The family of William Flint sued Strava last year after Flint died following a bike bike while trying to win the site’s “King of the Mountain” title for a particular route in Berkeley. That suit was later dismissed.

Despite the high-profile nature of this case, Elizabeth Stampe, executive director of Walk San Francisco, a pedestrian advocacy group, told us Tuesday she considers cars to be a far greater pedestrian menace than bikes. She said she was satisfied with the penalty against Bucchere in so far as it might herald more prosecutions against reckless automobile drivers.

“Walk San Francisco thinks it’s important that there be a penalty for endangering or killing other people on the streets,” Stampe said, “and in that sense the day’s action here sets an important precedent for the three people a day who get hit by cars in San Francisco, which is really far more common than this unusual bicyclist case. We hope this will set a precedent for the many people who are killed by drivers on our streets every year.”

The Center For Investigative Reporting reported in April that Bay Area drivers who kill pedestrians rarely face serious consqeuences.

Full Bucchere post after the accident:

I wrecked on the way home today from the bi-weekly Headlands Raid today. Short story: I’m fine. The pedestrian I clobbered? Not so much.

Around 8 am I was descending Divisidero Street southbound and about to cross Market Street. 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. The intersection very long and the width of Castro Street at that point is very short, so, in a nutshell, blammo…

The quote/unquote ‘scene of the crime’ was that intersection right by the landmark Castro Theatre – it leads from a really busy MUNI station to that little plaza where The Naked Guy always hangs out. It was commuter hour and it was crowded as all getup. 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 don’t remember the next five minutes but when I came to, I was in a neck brace being loaded into an ambulance. I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn’t mine. Apparently I hit a 71-year old male pedestrian and he ended up in the ICU with pretty serious head injuries. I really hope he ends up OK.

They asked me a bunch of stupid easy questions that I couldn’t answer, so they kept me for a few hours for observation, gave me a tetanus shot and sent me on my way.

Anyway, other than a stiff neck, a sore jaw/TMJ, a few bruises and some raspberries, I’m totally fine. I got discharged from the hospital during the lunch hour. The guy I hit was not as fortunate. I really hope he makes it.

The cops took my bike. Hopefully they’ll give it back.

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. Like the Secret Service would do for a president, she took some serious pavement today, cracking through-and-through in five places and getting completely mauled by the ragged asphalt. 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.

The moral of this little story is: WYFH

 

 

Related

  • SF Pedestrian

    Bucchere should have gotten prison time, and lots of it! If he were from Bayview and not Marin, he’d be in jail for the rest of his life.

    • Notanarmchairlawyer

      So because a person from Bayview might have gotten an excessive sentence, we should use that as the standard? Sounds like compounding one injustice with another. Applying a law to it’s extreme regardless of circumstances really makes no sense.

      • We’re All Going To Hell

        I don’t think SF Pedestrian was suggesting any injustice as a standard; I think he/she was merely proving a valid and real point. The unfortunate reality is that we live in a World where people discriminate based on whatever reason they feel, including where you’re from, your ethnicity, your income, etc. When something like this happens, you can’t help but question “why?” because it doesn’t make sense.

        The circumstances you speak of, in this case, is death. Death is one of those things where circumstances are almost 100% at fault of the doer, unless it’s an issue of self-defense. I agree that this man shouldn’t receive the electric chair for his crime; however, I don’t think it’s fair to receive community service for vehicular manslaughter. How does the fact that he was on a bicycle versus a car change the circumstances? How does that logically make sense?

    • Cypherpunks (a public account)

      I don’t agree with your silly neighborhood parochialism/classism but yeah, the SOB should be doing time. Someone f*king died and it was his fault.

  • a common reader

    The Chronicle this morning reported that the family of the victim asked that Bucchere not get jail time as being pointless. They wanted community service with an emphasis on publicly promoting bicycle safety.

  • Pissed Off Pedestiran

    I’m sorry… but pedestrians are menaced by bicyclists in this city DAILY. I must cross the Wriggle on my way to and from my daughters school daily. She and I have both been nearly run over by bicyclists at Page and Scott who REPEATEDLY do not stop at the posted four way stop. They just peddle on through, regardless of where the pedestrian is in the sidewalk. The motorists at least STOP. My son has had his wrist spraind by being hit by a bicyclist on a mountain bike…ON THE SIDEWALK (Page St. at Steiner)…the bicyclist came BACK and yelled at my son for getting in HIS way. My son was hit two months later by a bicyclist AGAIN running the stop and the cross walk at Page and Scott.

    You will find this pedestrian family kicking the wheels of bikes that get in OUR way as we cross the sidewalk. I’m done having my family’s safety threatened by jerks on bikes who will NOT cooperate and obey the laws of the road. For you bicyclists obeying the laws…you should have a talk with your non-compliant bike riding friends…they’re making you ALL look like complete and utter ASSHATS.

    • A Good Cyclist

      I totally agree and sympathize with you. I always wonder how much money the city could make by ticketing reckless cyclists. Those people should have been arrested for vehicular assault (is that a thing?) and reckless endangerment.

    • Cypherpunks (a public account)

      I’m a bicyclist who tries to obey the rules of the road…I’d love to talk to the others if it actually would be effective, but in my experience it never works. They ARE asshats. Seriously the only solution to this is for SF cops to start ticketing the hell out of these people and arresting where applicable. Really you should get your neighbors together and start filing police reports on a regular basis. If a bicyclist hits you or your son and then leaves, I say it’s a hit and run and that person should be arrested. Ask the police to start monitoring that intersection, and hound the crap out of them until it happens. This is completely unacceptable. If bicyclists want to use the road, then we need to respect the rules of the fricking road.

  • Walking is better

    Scandal – pedestrians should take a crowbar to the next little hipster bike that hops a curb, runs a light, swerves through traffic or generally acts like its ridden by a spoilt, entitled dick – which, lets be honest – the majority of bike riders in SF are.

    • Law Abiding Bike Rider

      I’d say it’s 50% of bike riders, which is still a large number. Though EVERYONE needs to be safer. Not in this particular case, but overall. I bike everyday to work because it’s financially sensible. I’d say half of my fellow commuters run red lights. But, I see cars pass with not enough room and cut cyclists off (taxis are the worst offenders) and cars also running yellow/red lights and blocking intersections. I also see an insane amount of pedestrians j walking on very busy streets like market. I wish there were stricter punishments for everyone making the road unsafe. Bikers should be ticketed for running red lights and riding on sidewalks.

      The wiggle is horrendous though. The amount of bikers I see not even slow down at four way stops is appalling and the turn on Fell right before the panhandle– bikers just go into the opposing lane of traffic to make a left onto a one way street during a red light– so frustrating.

      • Mr Rogers

        Wow, very glad to hear a fellow law-abiding bike rider say these things. I live just off the Wiggle, and it’s a nightmare. Something needs to be done to rein in the legions of entitled bikers out there, before someone is seriously hurt.

        • Ballsack

          Before someone is seriously hurt??? Umm this article is about a guy who died..there is no “before”?? It’s already happened/happens….I will drop kick a hipster off their fixed gear and throw a vegan sandwich at their face…I hate these self righteous entitled little pricks

  • ljacoby714

    In addition to the penalties already imposed, I think Mr. Bucchere’s bicycle license should be suspended for at least one year.

    But, wait, cyclists aren’t licensed. OK, well then, we need to require bicyclists to pass a test and pay for a license before they are entitled to ride their bicycles on the streets—just the way vehicle drivers must. Bike riders want to be recognized as equal? I think that’s where it begins. Oh, and they should have mandatory insurance, too, so they have coverage for themselves or the people they injure/kill.

    Maybe part of Mr. Bucchere’s public service could be spent promoting those things to and on behalf of his fellow cyclists.

  • Stephen

    This was vehicular manslaughter and he should have served some time. It’s important that all drivers of any kind of vehicle understand that they can lose their freedom when their recklessness causes the death of another. We’re talking about someone’s life here, and the punishment should fit the crime. Just another example of a justice system that fails to treat all people equally under the law. Can you imagine what this verdict would have been if a young black man cycling had hit and killed an old white woman crossing the street?

  • Sam

    I hope that the primacy of the “entitled cyclist” soon ends. With all respect to the public health and environmental benefits of bike corridors, it has been a bad idea to encourage more cyclists on roads already crowded with vehicles and/or pedestrians. Cyclists seldom observe reasonable road-sharing practices, and have not been subject to the degree of rule enforcement that keeps drivers well-behaved. This case will only serve to reinforce the sense of impunity and entitlement among them, evinced so perfectly by the breezy tone of that man’s account of “powering through the crowd” and, you know, “killing dead an old person in an entirely preventable act of negligence.”

    In reality, roads were designed for the safe operation of vehicles, not as areas for recreation or bike commuting. I add that the world hasn’t yet changed so much that we no longer need vehicles for commerce and public safety–many roads, especially on weekends in the hills of Marin County, are nearly impassible for the throngs of cyclists, few of whom exhibit any deference to vehicles or allow them to pass. More accidents will happen unless we establish clearer, by which I mean more restrictive, rules for cyclists.

  • SF Driver

    This upsets me. The guy killed someone and he is upset about his helmet. Karma is a bitch and I hope it comes back and haunts him good.

  • Hard Truth

    Let’s not make this more than what it is: A tragedy caused by an
    asshole. Bucchere doesn’t represent me as a cyclist any more than the drunk
    driver who plows through a family of four represents everyone who gets
    behind the wheel. Some people are bad. But generalizing about an entire group because of one guy’s bad actions is unfair and misguided.

    I am a cyclist in San Francisco. (I am also a pedestrian, motorcycle rider, car driver, and public transit rider.) Aside from the tragic loss of Mr. Hui, the worst part about this is that even more negativity will be directed at cyclists. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: EVERY SINGLE car driver in this city breaks the laws every time they get in their car. Pedestrians fail to follow the rules too. The holier than though attitude is laughable. Yes, some people are jerks on bikes. But guess what? The same is true for pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses, and every other mode of transportation. And the number of cyclists injured by cars far exceeds the number of people hurt by cyclists. BY FAR. And if we weren’t on bikes we would be in cars. In front of you, creating more traffic. Is that what you want?

  • Shroudwoman

    “His helmet was more important than a human being” SO YOU GAVE HIM COMMUNITY SERVICE????????? Bicyclists in this city are rude, aggressive and dangerous. I (64) have nearly been run over many times – and they don’t even stop!

  • Derf Defard

    This is the same kind of prick MUPpet roadies in my neck of the woods that I see riding two abreast on trails doing 25+. No care for anyone but their own and completely oblivious to children and dog-walkers sharing the very same strip of asphalt. They don’t announce and sure as heck don’t slow down as they come flying around downgrading blind corners. On my commutes home, I’ve had several close calls where they’ve come wide onto my side of the path rounding corners. How we don’t have more of these types of accidents is beyond me.

    One thing is for sure, this Bucchere guy didn’t give a rat’s ass that he killed someone. To go home and blog about the accident in detail is one thing. But to do so with only remorse for the loss of a piece of styrofoam shows how little regard he had for anyone but his own. That alone should have moved the judge to give him a harsher sentence.

    Me, me, me. That’s the world we live in.

  • ANGRYANDUPSET

    I’m enraged that this guy isn’t getting any jail time. His little journal entry tells you EVERYTHING. He was going too fast and couldn’t stop in time so decided to ram into a group of pedestrians instead. He also said he woke up to a river of blood that wasn’t his and then dedicates his entry to his helmut. IS THERE NO JUSTICE?!!! He KILLED somebody. If he was in a car writing this same entry and dedicating the entry to his airbag or state-of-the-art seatbelt he’d be in jail already!!!

    • Ballsack

      And just his basic disregard for human life even if the guy was just injured..This guy is a POS and anyone who thinks different is in the same category..guess what cyclists..I have and engine and four wheels…get in my way and see what happens

  • jackieme

    this is horrible, I know this intersection, this person got away with murder.

  • Elle T.

    Well, at least he didn’t stalk his victim before he ran him down.

    • Ballsack

      Attempt at humor? Fail..go drink some bleach and ride your bike into an intersection

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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