A 37-year-old cyclist in San Francisco was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service and three years of probation on Thursday after pleading guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter.
The district attorney said it was the first conviction for felony vehicular manslaughter in the United States. The cyclist, Chris Bucchere, apparently avoided jail time by copping a plea and not bringing the case to trial.
Although it’s clear that the cyclist was at fault in the crash, a surveillance video shows there were other factors in the tragedy.
Witnesses said Bucchere was riding at about 32 mph downhill on March 29, 2012, when he entered an intersection where pedestrians were already in the crosswalk. He struck Sutchi Hui, 71, who was crossing the street with his wife. Hui died four days later at the hospital.
Bucchere, who was also injured in the crash, didn’t do himself any favors when he posted online his account of the collision before Hui’s death.
‘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… so, in a nutshell, blammo.’
Bucchere said that he hoped the man he struck “ends up OK.” Then he concluded by lamenting the loss of his bike helmet:
‘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… may she die knowing that because she committed the ultimate sacrifice, her rider and live and ride on. Can I get an amen? Amen.’
Reuters reports that Bucchere and prosecutors reached the plea deal after Hui’s son said he didn’t want the cyclist to be sentenced to jail time.
Prosecutors alleged that information posted to his account at the Stava mapping site showed he was riding recklessly that morning. A surveillance video was used to estimate that Bucchere was traveling at 32 mph on a 25 mph road.
Kashmir Hill, who attended a preliminary hearing for Forbes magazine, said Bucchere’s defense attorney referred to the surveillance video of the crash scene. It showed that a traffic signal had apparently just changed from yellow to red as Bucchere entered in the intersection. What follows the change from yellow to red is 3.5 seconds when all the traffic and pedestrian signals are red.
Hill writes that it’s clear in the video that many pedestrians were already in the intersection.
“Bucchere was going far too fast, but he may have run a very late yellow rather than a red, a mistake made worse because of the pedestrians entering the crosswalk very early. Everyone was being too aggressive in their commuting, but Bucchere’s aggressiveness held the highest risk for others.”
In a statement, district attorney George Gascón said that the victim “tragically lost his life in an incident that could have easily been prevented. Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists must share the road in a responsible way because there are dire consequences when traffic laws are disregarded.”