NYT asks, "Is it okay to kill cyclists?"

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The Times gave good play and a cool graphic to its "Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?" piece in Sunday's paper.
Kurt McRobert

It was great to read the provocative opinion piece about cycling in San Francisco in yesterday’s The New York Times’ Sunday Review (“Is It O.K. to Kill Cyclists?”), which amplified recent reporting and editorial messages from the Bay Guardian.

Kudos especially to the writer of that headline, which crystallizes the issue beautifully. San Francisco and other cities have essentially sanctioned violence against cyclists by refusing to issue citations against negligent motorists who kill and seriously injure cyclists. (It’s a sadly similar story with pedestrians, as a Bay Citizen investigation found last year).

“There is something undeniably screwy about a justice system that makes it de facto legal to kill people, even when it is clearly your fault, as long you’re driving a car and the victim is on a bike and you’re not obviously drunk and don’t flee the scene,” wrote Daniel Duane, a San Franciscan who now says he’s too scared to ride local roadways.

San Francisco will never get anywhere close to its official goal of having 20 percent of all vehicle trips being by bicycle by 2020 if the San Francisco Police Department focuses more on harassing cyclists running stop signs than it does on citing motorists that are actually responsible for most car versus cyclist collisions (according to a study cited in the article).

The reasoning for going easy on drivers who kill cyclists and pedestrians has been the assumption that juries won’t convict because “accidents happen” and we all need to keep driving, right? But that societal attitude causes problems ranging for needless death to global warming, and it only begins to change with good think-pieces like the New York Times piece.    

Comments

Vehicular homicide is a crime. If you get mad at a cyclist (and let's face it, we all do) and decide to hit him deliberately, then you will be prosecuted.

Our criminal justice system has an important concept called criminal intent. Essentially, if there was no criminal intent, then there cannot be a successful prosecution, because the DA has to demonstrate that intent to a jury as a key requirement.

An accident is, by definition, something that was not intended. The average driver who hits a cyclist did not intend to and, indeed, probably feels terrible about it after the fact. Throwing him in prison will not make it safer for other cyclists because no driver goes around thinking "I'd hit a cyclist today only I don't want to go to prison"

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

You can make a mistake or be negligent and commit a crime: involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide can include accidents or mistakes.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 8:42 pm

a minor transgression and not felon homicide.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:14 am

Mere negligence of the sort we generally discuss in a civil matter is never the basis for a homicide conviction. Criminal negligence is required and that is a a higher standard. Also, California does not have a negligent homicide statute, though it does have an involuntary manslaughter statute, and again, something more than mere negligence is required.

Posted by Chris on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:51 am

Speeding is not a crime? Violating someones right of way is not a crime? Double Parking is not a crime? Since when did all of these crimes become legal?

Most car drivers who kill cyclists are not even cited, even when they are at fault. The police in San Francisco have given car drivers a license to kill, one that they exercise with increasing regularity. Time to get a new and better Chief of Police.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 11, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

every time there is an accident. But some accidents happen even through there is no speeding, running a light or DUI.

Some accidents are just accidents.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 6:15 am

Yes, that is a crime, and it's called vehicular manslaughter, which means someone dies because of your negligence as a driver. The comments on this thread really reinforce the thesis of this article and the need for reforms. Drivers need to take more responsibility for their impacts to individuals, the city, and the health of the planet.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 8:49 am

part of the prosecutor that there is no reasonable possibility that it really was just an accident. And most jurors are themselves drivers and do not want to encourage that every driver involved in an accident is somehow at fault and can go to prison.

I note also that you say nothing about accidents where a driver kills another driver. Do you somehow deem that to not really be a problem then?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 9:03 am

Whenever two cars collide, the police assess blame, and that's especially true when someone dies. But a driver can run over a cyclist in San Francisco, even when she's in her bike lane and had the right-of-way, and nothing happens. This is a huge double standard. 

Also, vehicular manslaughter doesn't require criminal intent, all the police need to show is that a driver committed a traffic infraction that resulted in a death. And we're not even calling for that driver to go to prison or anything overly harsh, just a fine, some community service, and the temporary loss of driving privileges pending a traffic safety course. Again, drivers need to take responsibility for the impacts of their actions, and to understand the responsibility that comes with operating what can easily be a deadly weapon. 

Posted by steven on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

Their insurance company decides blame and pays out a claim. That driver's insurance premium then goes up. Additionally there is guilt, stress and other negative losses for the driver.

The only issue here is whether anything additional is served by a criminal prosecution and, apart from your apparent desire for revenge, I just do not see the benefit to society of treating accidental death like it was intended.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

In The Netherlands, where they prosecute drivers for hitting cyclists and where automobiles are assumed at fault unless proven otherwise, fatalities are 1/7th what they are here.

Additionally, keeping bad drivers off the road makes it safer for all users.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 11:46 pm

nothing in common with the US, and there are many reasons why their accident rate might be different to a much more car-centric nation like ours.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 7:40 am

Steven, plenty of drivers hit other cars, and even cause injuries, and never get prosecuted. I myself have been hit by other drivers while in a car and injured, and in none of the incidents was the other driver prosecuted, even though they were at fault in all three accidents (there insurance did pay out, though).

Even proving mere civil liability in a car accident can be a difficult matter. And a criminal conviction requires a much higher standard of proof.

Also, you seem to be confused as to what the law requires to establish a wrongful act. Yes, vehicular manslaughter doesn't require intent to injure, but it DOES require more than mere negligence. The language of the statute requires GROSS negligence--you can read the statute yourself. Gross negligence is not simple negligence, and merely speeding a bit or being sloppy in changing lanes is not gross negligence.

Finally, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists all are legally required to take responsibility for their actions to protect themselves and to protect those around them. No one disagrees with that principle, and the law requires it. But, being irresponsible and causing an accident does not always mean one has committed a crime, even when someone gets injured or killed (though it may well result in civil liability).

Posted by Chris on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:08 am

They were not even cited? A citation for running a red light is a crime, even though you like to make some sophistic argument that it is not. It clearly is, but it is an infraction instead of a misdemeanor.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

GPD, whether you think it is "bullshit" or not, in the incidents I was involved in, the other drivers who hit me, were not not cited. I am stating the facts of what happened in all three incidents I experienced, and simply because those facts do not conform to what you think should happen does not make mean they didn't occur. It is simply a fantasy of yours that everyone who is involved in an accident is generally cited for something.

Also, I am not sure why you are going on about running red lights? Or, making silly statements that I am engaging in a "sophistic" argument? I am stating the law to you, which you are free to look up online for yourself. I am also stating how the law is applied, and you are welcome to read cases for yourself and see how the law is generally interpreted and applied. The notion that you have that simple negligence that results in injury is always a crime is simply incorrect.

Finally, in case you lost your dictionary, making a "sophistic" argument would require that I try to mislead others with a false argument. Stating facts in an accurate manner is neither misleading nor false. I have seen some sophistry on this discussion forum, but it is not coming from me.

Posted by Chris on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:30 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

You are foolish to keep stating that it is not. It is, I have seen people cited for it and most people who run red lights and cause accidents are cited. I am sorry your experience with SFPD was so bad, but am not surprised.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 12:38 am

Glen Park, again, why are you going on about red lights?

In my post, to which you responded, I did not mention anything about red lights.

Here is my exact post, please read it and tell me where you think you see anything about a red light?

QUOTE:/

Steven, plenty of drivers hit other cars, and even cause injuries, and never get prosecuted. I myself have been hit by other drivers while in a car and injured, and in none of the incidents was the other driver prosecuted, even though they were at fault in all three accidents (there insurance did pay out, though).

Even proving mere civil liability in a car accident can be a difficult matter. And a criminal conviction requires a much higher standard of proof.

Also, you seem to be confused as to what the law requires to establish a wrongful act. Yes, vehicular manslaughter doesn't require intent to injure, but it DOES require more than mere negligence. The language of the statute requires GROSS negligence--you can read the statute yourself. Gross negligence is not simple negligence, and merely speeding a bit or being sloppy in changing lanes is not gross negligence.

Finally, drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists all are legally required to take responsibility for their actions to protect themselves and to protect those around them. No one disagrees with that principle, and the law requires it. But, being irresponsible and causing an accident does not always mean one has committed a crime, even when someone gets injured or killed (though it may well result in civil liability).

/QUOTE

I did not mention anything in my post about a red light.

Posted by Chris on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 1:05 pm

Gross negligence is the lack of any care or an extreme departure from what a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation to prevent harm to oneself or to others.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

Marcos, why are you responding with a definition of "gross negligence?"

Glen Park Daddy seems to think I made a claim that running a red light is not illegal. I did not make such a statement. Running a red light is illegal, but how does that relate to anything?

I have asked GPD twice to respond as to why he/she thinks I said something about red lights?

Posted by Chris on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Bucchiere did not have criminal intent either, yet he was prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, there is a reasonable probability that his conduct was accidental.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 9:40 am

not rise to the level of criminal accountability.

He was timed at 35mph which is like a driver doing 100 mph in the city. Excessive speed and lowing through a red light is easily enough to establish culpability.

Bucchiere set back the case of cycling in SF more than anything else in recent history. You cyclists should hate him, not offer excuses for him.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 9:51 am

Apparently there was evidence that he entered the light on a yellow, legally.

The case was settled with a slap on the wrist because of that evidence and the fact that average people don't have the deep pockets that the DA does.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 10:10 am

was speeding excessively. Clearly if he had been obeying the laws, he could not possibly have hit a pedestrian, let alone killed one.

And of course he had little public sympathy - even the bike lobby disowned him - so he did well to settle rather than risk a jury.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 10:29 am

actual accident.

Say a car runs 3 red lights then gets the next one on the yellow, then the last run is legal, right?

Posted by Usual Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:00 pm

reckless and risky demeanor, and would infer from that.

And even if a cyclist or driver has a green, that doesn't mean that you mow down a pedestrian on the crosswalk with impunity.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

Then why did the DA not take the case to trial and the jury?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:44 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:56 pm

With conviction rates north of 90%, that the DA did not proceed to trial demonstrated the squishiness of the case.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

The DA's routinely take a plea on even open-and-shut cases, like Ross's wife-beating, for instance.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/01/08/gascon-adachi-and-conviction-rates

don't know where you came up with your 90% rate, but am even more befuddled by your constant support for this kid who admitted to committing a crime.

can no biker ever do any wrong in your eyes??

Posted by guestD on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 1:06 pm

sympathy for the least sympathetic characters e.g. public nudists, killers as long as they are cyclists, homeless vagrants, and so on.

It's best to just consider it a form of trolling.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

You claim earlier that sometimes it is just an accident when a driver runs into and kills a cyclist. No crime was committed.

Now you claim " Clearly if he had been obeying the laws, he could not possibly have hit a pedestrian, let alone killed one."

Hypocrite.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

and killed a pedestrian, I'd say that crosses the line into criminal intent.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 7:39 am

Speaking of 80mph, how is it that case of the little old lady who did 80 on Pine, in her M-B SUV, plowed into minivan at Gough and killed two people, has completely dropped out of the news?

She posted some miniscule amount of bail and dropped off the face of the earth.

Posted by pete moss on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 11:58 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 12:34 pm

From what I heard she is long gone. Out of the USA. Whereabouts unknown.

The investigations gone cold.

The wreck was 2 months ago. If they were gonna charge her they would have by now.

Or what about that tennis player who deliberetly mowed down 4 bikes in Dogpatch. He got like 6 months in Napa.

Face it, if you wanna get away with murder your best choice of weapon is an automobile.

Posted by pete moss on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

Seems improbable to me. Who posted bail?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 15, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

That's the scuttlebutt on a couple of crime blogs I follow.

Admittedly kind of thin, but there's been no official denial.

Her attorney posted bail. $250,000 bucks. 125K per life.

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Posted by www.asoberwayhome.org on Aug. 13, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

His sentence was not a slap on the wrist, rather it was the typical sentence one would get in most cases if one committed vehicular manslaughter with a car.

So, either you are saying most drivers who commit vehicular manslaughter are also innocent and just pleading out because they lack the supposed "deep pockets" of the DA (which is a laugh since the DA like most government agencies is overworked and underfunded), or you are saying that the cyclist was treated in the same manner as a driver who killed someone would be treated (which means he was treated fairly).

Posted by Chris on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 1:14 am

In most cases of auto-on ped or cyclist VM, the motorist is clearly at fault. In this case, there was conflicting evidence and the pedestrian entered the crosswalk illegally.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 6:19 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 7:42 am

Unlike a motorists who killed a cyclist or ped, cyclists who kill peds are prosecuted 100% of the time in San Francisco.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 6:24 am

But for a cyclist to kill a person takes much more egregious behavior than for a car to do so, indicating that when it happens, it probably rises to the level of a crime.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 13, 2013 @ 7:43 am

You've never had to make a split second decision on how to take evasive action in traffic to avoid a "leaper" pedestrian, have you?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 8:04 am

driving. I have had cyclists do that though.

I suspect that pedestrians are more likely to walk out in front of cyclists because cyclists are harder to see, especially when they speed, blow through where they are supposed to stop, ride on the sidewalk, and not use lights at night.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 8:35 am

That has got to rank up with the most cockamamie troll spew I've ever read here.

35mph on a bike is like... 35mph. Period.

And marcos is absolutely correct that the case against Bucchere was anything but cut-and-dried.

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

a bike. All vehicles should travel well below the theoretical maximum for that vehicle, so that there is plenty of room and time for evasive action if needed.

Re Bucchere there were several eye witnesses and his own dumb blog thing. He was lucky to get off as lightly as he did.

That's nothing like the cases with most car/bike accidents which happen at very low speeds.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 12, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

1/2 MV^2, it's the law. Since M is so much higher in a car, going the same speed is even more dangerous.

Claiming 35 is almost idling is the most trollilish comment on the entire thread. You win the bigggest asshole award.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 14, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

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