Memorial for cyclist marred by SFPD harassment

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Shahum was still visibly disturbed by the behavior of Sgt. Ernst more than an hour later.
Steven T. Jones

A memorial and informational event this morning at the 6th and Folsom corner where a bicyclist was fatally run over by a truck last week was marred by a tense and unsettling confrontation with an SFPD sergeant who showed up to block the bike lane with his cruiser, lecture the cyclists, and blame the victim.

The event was organized by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to raise awareness of the incident and that dangerous intersection and to call for the city to make improvements. It included friends and co-workers of 24-year-old Amelie Le Moullac, who was riding in the Folsom Street bike lane on the morning of Aug. 14 when an unidentified delivery truck driver turned right onto 6th Street, across her path, and ran her over.

SFPD Sgt. Dennis Toomer tells the Guardian that the department has completed the traffic incident report, information from which can only be shared with the parties involved, but that the investigation of the fatality is still ongoing and will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review once it's done.

But SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum said that SFPD Sgt. Richard Ernst, who showed up at the event a little before 9am, had already drawn his own conclusions about the crash and showed up to make his apparent disdain for “you people,” bicyclists, disturbingly clear.

Shahum said that she tried to be diplomatic with Ernst and asked him to please move his patrol car out of the bike lane and into an available parking space that was right next to it, saying that it presented an unnecessary hazard to bicyclists riding past.

But she said Ernst refused to do so for almost 10 minutes, telling the group that he has “a right” to leave his car than and that he was “making the point that bicyclists need to move around” cars parked in bike lanes, according to Shahum’s written account, which she prepared to file a report about the incident with the Office of Citizens Complaints.

“He then told me explicitly that he ‘would not leave until’ I ‘understood’ that ‘it was the bicyclist’s fault.’ This was shocking to hear, as I was told just a day ago by Commander [Mikail] Ali that the case was still under investigation and no cause had yet been determined,” Shahum wrote.

And apparently Ernst didn’t stop at denouncing Le Moullac for causing her own death, in front of people who are still mourning that death. Shahum said Ernst also blamed the other two bicyclist deaths in SF this year on the cyclists, and on “you people” in the SFBC for not teaching cyclists how to avoid cars.

“I told him the SF Bicycle Coalition does a significant amount of safety work educating people biking and driving about sharing the road, and that I’d be happy to share more information with him. I again urged him to move his car out of the bike lane. He again refused, saying it was his right and he wasn’t moving until I ‘understood,’” Shahum wrote.

Shahum said there were multiple witness to the incident, including three television reporters who were there to cover the event.

“In addition to the Sgt’s inappropriate and dangerous behavior of parking his car in the bike lane and blocking safe passage for people bicycling by, it was deeply upsetting to see him unnecessarily disrupt and add tension to what was already an emotional and difficult time for many people who lamented this sad loss of life,” Shahum wrote.

Asked about the actions and attitudes expressed today by Ernst, who we could not reach for comment, Sgt. Toomer told us he “cannot talk about personnel issues.”

Compounding Ernst’s insensitive and judgmental approach today, it also appears the SFPD may have failed to properly investigate this incident, which Shahum and the SFBC have been tracking closely, and she said the SFPD told her that there were no video surveillance tapes of the collision.

After today’s event, SFBC's Marc Caswell decided to check in at businesses on the block to see if they had any video cameras aimed at the intersection, and he found an auto body business at the intersection whose workers said they did indeed have revealing footage of the crash that the SFPD hasn’t requested, but which SFBC today delivered to investigators.

“He had the time to come harass us as a memorial, but he didn’t have the time to see if anyone had footage of this incident. It’s very unsettled,” Shahum told us.

Whoever was ultimately at fault in this collision and others that have injured or killed bicyclists in San Francisco, today’s confrontation demonstrates an unacceptable and dangerous insensitivity and animosity toward bicyclists in San Francisco, which was also on display in the comments to the post that I wrote last week about the incident.

It’s fine to debate what happens on the streets of San Francisco, and you can even harbor resentments toward bicyclists and believe that we deserve your ire. But when you endanger people’s lives to make a point, or when you threaten violence against vulnerable road users, then you’ve gone too far.

Yes, let’s talk about what happens on the roads and how to improve behaviors, but let’s not forget our humanity in the process.  

Comments

of proof is on anyone who disputes that is the majority viewpoint.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 9:40 am

When you make a claim, it is your responsibility to support that claim with facts.
That's how logic works.
If you can't support your claim with facts, then that means you're full of bullshit, which is what you're so proudly demonstrating here.

Now stop crying, everything will be alright. You just need to find some facts to support your opinion, then all the other people you want attention from will see what a big smart internet arguer you really are.

P.S.-
MAJORITY!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:16 am

I am perfectly happy with the status quo, and simply offer up my belief that a majority agree with that, else elections would have produced different results.

Since you are the one who seeks change (presumably, else why oppose the above) then the onus is on you to demonstrate that a majority disagrees with me.

Until then, nothing changes.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:26 am

It's an imaginary majority that he usually only suspects to agree with him, but go easy on the little fella.
Being a mentally defective internet troll obsessed with the eternal struggle between conservative and liberal takes a lot out of his limited mental capacity. So we all have to have some pity for this loser who thinks he can claim that his very own personal majority agrees with him everywhere he goes.
For instance, ice cream:
"I SUSPECT the MAJORITY agrees that strawberry is best, and the onus is on you to demonstrate that a majority disagrees with me."

Fun fact. You made a claim that a "majority" agrees with you, but have failed to support your claim. This means that you are full of a majority of shit.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:50 am

The onus and burden of proof is on you.

Knock yourself out, my dear dancing bear.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:55 am

How does one grow into a veritable monument to ignorance such as yourself?
Who the fuck is arguing about "the status quo"?
You. That's all. One lonely internet fucktroll who dreams of one day worshipping some random cops nether world. Best of luck with that.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

Now he is just spitting on your prone lumpen body.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

you've already licked his ass.
Now he is just splitting a bowl of Santorum with you.
Color me unimpressed that two internet twats have reached an agreement about who "won". Will you be riding together on float fashioned from pure ignorance in the next big parade for piss drunk keyboard warriors?
I'll bring flowers!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 3:50 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

is that of speaking for the majority, the whole occupy thing was about the so called 99%.

Now it's bad to mention a majority opinion?

Posted by Matlock on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 6:24 am

Watching this video infuriated me yesterday. I would expect an officer to at least show common courtesy for people on bicycles. There's a campaign recently started calling for SFPD Sgt. Richard Ernst to be suspended and reprimanded.

http://www.causes.com/campaigns/1266-make-sf-streets-safer-for-bicycling

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 9:52 am

He was trying to give advice but the renta-mob there appeared not to be listening. Getting a little irked by such disrespect doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:02 am

renta-mob
irked by such disrespect
doesn't seem... to me

Yep.
It sure doesn't SEEM that way. To you.
That right there must be reality, because it's definitely not a biased opinion filled with weasel words.
I SUSPECT the MAJORITY agrees.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:23 am

their video shows her waving her arms about in the air as if unduly animated.

No doubt the cop drew on his experience to maintain a calm demeanor but he certainly needed to calm her down, again from what I saw.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:36 am

Is that what your own little personal majority suspects?
Do you think a barrage of weasel words obscures your bullshit?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:56 am

get back to me.

She appears to be out of her tree.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:04 am

that is obviously conclusive fact, not weasel words.
Plus you have an imaginary majority that agree with everything you suspect. No one can top that.

Posted by Mort on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:25 am

Or is that just more idle speculation on your part?

Posted by Anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:39 am
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:57 am

I knew that anyway but others might not have done.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 12:05 pm

I'm sure if you come back later someone will play your sad stupid little game with you, and then maybe you can convince them to play by your rules cause that is always way more fun.

P.S.-
I watched the video!

P.S.S.-
You're a biased idiotic asshole!

P.S.S.S.-
MAJORITY!

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 12:23 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

The majority of you is an idiot.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

You're just here to throw insults around and troll, not to debate serious issues.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

so how fucking pathetic are you? Really fucking pathetic. And now you want to "debate serious issues"? Really? No you don't. You don't give a fuck for debate, you just come here to be an asshole to strangers who you pray will find you important enough to pay attention to for a few minutes, thus taking your mind off what a walking shithole you are.
You're just mad because I didn't play by your stupid rules and I broke your fucking toy.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

here all day.

But I'm multi-tasking. Yes, that's right, I can whup you in a debate and make more money than you all at the same time.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Me " you cared enough to spend all day whining here"
And now your witty and incisive retort: "Well, uh, I make more money than you, so I win."
Whatever you say, Doctor Cock.
Enjoy your self proclaimed internet victory, it's clearly of vital import to your fragile ego.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 3:56 pm
Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

see that Leah Shahum was reported as getting angry with the cop.

That's not a responsible or mature response to a cop who was seeking to give advice, even if as it happens she disagrees with that advice.

If you get pissy with cops, you can reasonably expect some comeback.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 10:17 am

Maybe not "mature", but her response was understandable. Imagine having lost a loved one, then at their memorial, an officer reproduces the dangerous conditions that have contributed to similar deaths. (This is the objection... not his "comeback" to any action on her part.)

I have nothing against local police in general and think the majority act with the interest of public safety at heart, but we are all human, so there will always be some "dirty" cops and some that simply have an occasional lapse in judgement. The same is true with motorists and cyclists... some follow traffic laws and some don't.

In the footage of officer Ernst speaking to Shahum http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzLInp_Hs9g Ernst seems calm and professional. However, showing up with the deliberate intent (per his own televised words) of forcing bikes into motor traffic to set an example is, in my opinion, a poor judgment call. We don't know whether he was ordered there or acted on his own judgment, but in either case, it's better to "inform" the public of safe cycling practices than to force them into an unsafe condition. You can teach a kid the best way to escape an alligator without actually throwing them into an alligator pen.

Posted by Jonathan on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:54 am

Maybe not "mature", but her response was understandable. Imagine having lost a loved one, then at their memorial, an officer reproduces the dangerous conditions that have contributed to similar deaths. (This is the objection... not his "comeback" to any action on her part.)

I have nothing against local police in general and think the majority act with the interest of public safety at heart, but we are all human, so there will always be some "dirty" cops and some that simply have an occasional lapse in judgement. The same is true with motorists and cyclists... some follow traffic laws and some don't.

In the footage of officer Ernst speaking to Shahum http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzLInp_Hs9g Ernst seems calm and professional. However, showing up with the deliberate intent (per his own televised words) of forcing bikes into motor traffic to set an example is, in my opinion, a poor judgment call. We don't know whether he was ordered there or acted on his own judgment, but in either case, it's better to "inform" the public of safe cycling practices than to force them into an unsafe condition. You can teach a kid the best way to escape an alligator without actually throwing them into an alligator pen.

Posted by Jonathan on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 11:57 am

Leah was there in her activist, lobbying role and not as a family member.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

The Dutch build cycle paths right on their junctions. So they must have wider streets, right? Wrong! This video shows how it is done, no extra space needed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA

This is what we need to be talking about.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

particularly for trucks making wide turns, it would put more pressure on them. They might be less likely to hit a bike, but they are now more likely to hit another vehicle.

And along with the changes to pedestrian crossings that he talked about, it would have a slowing effect on traffic speeds and capacity.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:12 pm

For one, a curb to separate bike travel from motor vehicle travel seems to require the eliminaton of curb parking; and not just during rush hour.

As mentioned already, it forces the bicyclists to adopt a more circuitous route.

Also, I'd note that a curb limiting the bike lane might tend to present a "trip" hazard causing errant bicyclists to end up falling into traffic, so I'd expect them to have shallowly sloped edges on the bike side.

I think it should be more effective to look for ways to encourage motorists to more universally feel deathly afraid of killing.

If there is no practical way for drivers of large vehicles to both swing wide *and* completely block the bike lane prior to making right turns, then it would seem to make it that much more imperitive that they don't harm anybody while doing so.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 11:25 am

Because she wasn't turning right but going straight on. There is no way a cyclist can proceed straight without crossing right-turning traffic somewhere.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:15 pm

will facilitate informed discussion on your part.

As for bikeys going straight when others are turning, I believe the accepted practice is for the vehicle drivers to move to the right so as to allow space for the bicyclists to pass on the left; and to prevent the bicyclists' continued travel on the more dangerous side of the turning vehicle at the same time.

Bikes are supposed to "take a lane" and operate as a motor vehicle at intersections, but for this to be safe and practical it is necessary for drivers to be in a state of anxiety about their likelihood to kill innocent riders if they don't pay proper attention.

If the truck driver had matched speeds with the bicyclist and simply pinched her off in the bike lane preperatory to turning, then running her down, there's nothing she could have done to avoid it. The safety of bicyclists requires that motor vehicle drivers take great care to account for the bicyclists' presence and to provide a margin of error for their safety.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

It is just as probably that the bike moved into the path of a right-turning vehicle.

The idea of a vehicle moving to the right to turn right is only valid for cars and small vehicles. Long vehicles have to make wide turns which means being to the left before and after the turn, but cutting across the corner.

The Dutch solution helps bikes turning right, but doesn't help those going straight on where other traffic is turning right. There is really no perfect solution to that - traffic lanes crossing each other is inherently dangerous and, given that, bikes should ride defensively and hold back where there is any doubt.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

Yes. And to be absolutely sure everyone get's the point, anon, you should fucking repeat yourself over and over again in the widest variety of ways and anonymous screen names as your pathetic little dung-encrusted brain can come up with.

On the other hand, as seems necessary to repeat myself, the fact that truck drivers and such may decide to simply swing wide in making their turns instead of OBEYING THE LAW and entering the bike lane parallelel to the curb before beginning their right turn -- no matter how they ultimately decide to make it -- then it would behoove such drivers to think mightily of the repercussions of killing some young lady while doing it wrongly.

This is not to foreclose on the possibility that this truck driver is significantly or totally at fault, but in the case of a theoretical bicyclist who carelessly crashed into the side of a truck, a driver who is on-the-ball would probably be able to stop in time before killing anyone.

I think enhanced police enforcement of the vehicle code to protect bicyclists is in order. Recently just such a thing was done (probably in a all-too-temporary and superficial manner) for pedestrians after a youngster was killed on 2nd Street.

Doesn't the SFPD seem to have a bias against bicyclists?

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 6:38 pm
Posted by anon on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 11:00 am

they could be relied upon to do so with complete safety. By that, I mean the driver taking as much care about what is happening along the side of his truck as he must -- like all drivers -- must take in regard to what is happening in front.

By that I mean the truck driver -- if he/she is truly unable to start their turn from parallel to and inside of the dotted part of bicycle lane -- should proceed around the turn with extreme caution and yield to any pedestrian or bicyclist who looks as though they might be getting cut off or endangered.

Otherwise, the truck drivers can always just make three left turns instead.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 4:12 pm

look all ways and then proceed to make the turn with care. Even though SFBC obviously sent out people to try and prove the driver was at fault, we have seen zero evidence so far that this was anything other than an accident.

For all we know, the truck might have been stalled and the bike ran straight into it.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 4:21 pm

Trucks move faster than bicycles. This truck would have had to come up from behind the cyclist, providing ample time to notice her if he were accustomed to noticing non-vehicle traffic, which is absolutely essential for motorists to do.

I was on my bike in a similar situation, going straight on the right-hand shoulder (following local traffic law) in a line of three other bikes. We were approaching a four-way intersection and had a green light. An SUV came up from behind us, meaning we were clearly visible on his right for a long ways, and then he turned right AS we were crossing the intersection - one of us had already made it across, he very nearly hit the second, and then cut off the last two, forcing us to stop in the middle of the cross-street. He screamed "FUCK YOU!" and literally peeled out, crossing the double-yellow onto the wrong side of the road to get around us. I can bet he thought we were in the wrong and came away wondering why cyclists were such assholes. I bet anyone reading this who has had a bad experience with cyclists can find a way to believe we were in the wrong. But that's what the traffic law is. Bicycles are to travel on the shoulder, but are otherwise subject to all the rights and all the laws of vehicle traffic. It's a recipe for animosity.

Motorists need a much greater awareness that piloting a steel-framed, 1000+ pound vehicle is absolutely the most dangerous thing almost anyone does in the course of their lives. It's immediately dangerous to those around them. Driving a car is not a human right - it's nothing but responsibilities.

I don't understand how you think someone would be run over by a stalled truck, or die from running into a stationary vehicle while traveling at city-traffic biking speed.

Posted by Hezaa on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 9:11 am

going faster than the bike. It's just as possible that the truck was going very slowly, since it was making a turn, and the cyclist was going too fast.

It's quite easy for a cyclist to be killed running into a stationery vehicle if, immediately after the impact, the vehicle starts moving again.

As for anecdotes, I can give you dozens where a cyclist rode on the sidewalk, failed to stop at a red, weaved thru pedestrians crossing, going the wrong way down a one-way street, or just going too damn fast.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 9:36 am

when I came up behind traffic lined up in the right lane signalling to go right.

There was traffic in the left turn lanes, but no vehicles going straight as would be necessary for the traffic signal to get tripped for me.

I rode along the shoulder (bike lane) until I got behind a cement truck & trailer at the head of the line waiting to make a right turn. I stepped onto the curb and lifted my bike under me and took two quick strokes toward the pedestrian signal pole and pushed the walk button. No pedestrians were present.

Surpringly my walk signal came up right away. As I looked to make eye contact with the truck driver I saw him look and then promptly proceed to run me over. (No -- he didn't run me over really. He simply drove his vehicle through the crosswalk I was about to use to re-enter the roadway. Rule of tonnage they say in the maritime world.)

The point is, that while I did technically violate the law by taking to the sidewalk and I did fully intend to use the pedestrian crossing signal to help me return to the roadway and on my way in a safe manner, I didn't do so for any reason except it was the only safe and prudent means to do so given the situation.

If I'd dismounted -- as I often do in such cases -- and moved to walk my bike past the imatient cement truck driver, would he have yielded? I think not.

There needs to be a re-emphasis on safety and this means that truck drivers have to be more worried about getting hung up talking to cops after incidents then they are about what their bosses say if they take a bit of extra time to get around.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:03 am

sidewalk and crosswalk rather than simply waiting.

I seriously wonder how many cyclist fatalities occur simply because they appear to have zero patience.

When in doubt, STOP!

Posted by anon on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 11:47 am

in the queue allowed me the benefit of the quickly waning crosswalk signal and I was gone from everyone's path in an instant; traveling expeditiously while at the same time being mindful of the possible expectations and/or limitations of other drivers and bicyclists on the roadway.

Only the badass driver of a cement truck who was towing a trailer demonstrated a callous carelessness with regard to my safety.

On other occasions while approaching the same corner I've found myself being overtaken and passed by an automobile or SUV driver only to have them cut in front of me and jam on their brakes at the last moment. It's like A) they are unable to recognize that I am both traveling at or near the speed limit and quickly approaching a stop light or B) think I've got a lot of nerve even being on the same road that they are driving on. Both kinds of drivers speak to the advisability of sometimes taking to the sidewalk.

anon wan't to comfort these types of drivers while blaming and punishing bicyclists.

Posted by lillipublicans on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

moves of other traffic - both rookie errors.

And you admit to breaking the law re the sidewalk and crosswalk. You're not winning anyone over here.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

I am the Executive Director of a special interest bicycle lobby and we are demanding our special rights. Cyclists are increasingly at the mercy of motor vehicles and we demand that you take action. Last week, someone was killed while bicycling on Folsom Street near 6th Street. Evidence would suggest that the cyclist was struck while attempting to outrun a moving truck that was making a LEGAL right hand turn. We don’t really care about the facts behind this accident because motorists are clearly responsible for ALL collisions on city streets. As the Executive Director of a Special Interest group it is my job to demand special rights for our very special members.

Every time cyclist ignores the traffic laws and engages negligent behavior that causes them bodily harm we must fault the driver of the motor vehicle. The cyclist was the third resident to be killed on a bike in San Francisco this year, all in or near SoMa. Each victim was killed because cyclists and pedestrians are not responsible for their own safety. Cyclists who break the law — placing themselves and others in danger must be silently tolerated because people who drive death monsters are evil and cyclists are holy. It is our God given right to cut in an out of traffic, roll through stop signs, and update our Facebook page at busy intersections.

Stop the Killing on SOMA Streets! We need Protected Bike Lanes Now!

Posted by sfparkripoff on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

in the Middle-East where, if there is an accident and a Westerner is involved, then the accident is always held to be the fault of the Westerner because "if he hadn't been there, the accident would not have happened". I kid you not.

These bike guys remind me of that. A lot.

Posted by anon on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

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