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Bicycle-pedestrian accidents: A cautionary tale

Any bicycle rider can become annoyed discussing the subject of car-bicycle collisions. Like motor vehicle operators, bicycle riders have their share of lawbreakers; however, because of the disparity in numbers, bicycle-pedestrian accidents are relatively uncommon. Most cyclists ride defensively, constantly watching for obstacles in their path. Bicycle riders are particularly cautious when riding near pedestrians since, with no warning, people on foot randomly veer in any direction. Adults are bad enough, but children are even more likely to run directly into the path of a bicycle.

When a bicycle rider does injure a pedestrian, the media abundantly responds. A bicyclist-pedestrian crash is a novelty—and an opportunity for news sources to inflame auto drivers’ bias toward the “superior moral attitude” of cyclists. 

San Francisco bicyclist charged with felony manslaughter 

A cyclist charged with felony manslaughter for fatally injuring a 71-year-old man in a crosswalk is now claiming he was a victim of political grandstanding and the ensuing media feeding frenzy. The rider, a software developer, insists he was maliciously prosecuted by a San Francisco District Attorney who held a grudge against “techies” who cycled to work.

According to witnesses, the cyclist raced through several stop signs before speeding through a red light in a marked intersection at Market Street and Castro, where he hit a 71-year-old man in the crosswalk. The downed pedestrian died several days later at the hospital from injuries sustained in the crash. The rider caused outrage among the local community when he dedicated a tasteless online post to his bicycle helmet that, as he put it, “died heroically” during the collision. In his defense, the cyclist claimed the injured man was still alive and recovering in the hospital at the time.

Surveillance video showed the light turned red as the cyclist entered the intersection, and he was unable to stop in time. While the video allowed the man to escape a jail sentence, he said it did not stop the D.A. forcing him to take a plea deal to reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor after 1,000 hours of community service. The rider blamed the media, the prosecuting attorney and all of the witnesses that testified against him. He is now conducting a series of self-produced blogs and podcasts against his alleged persecutors.

The moral of the story 

This tale is not an indictment of the risk bicycle riders pose to society; it is also not a veiled suggestion that seniors should know better than to walk in heavy traffic areas. It is merely an illustration of human nature. Undoubtedly, few auto drivers or cyclists can claim they have never committed an ill-conceived act that could endanger life. Fortunately, most people avoid a circumstance that results in a fatality. Pedestrians, in addition to cyclists, have a duty of care to expect the unexpected. Even while engaged in lawful behavior, each person has the primary responsibility to monitor their surroundings and plan for evasive action.