Outrage follows forum posting by San Francisco cyclist involved in fatal collision with pedestrian

Alleged comment lamenting loss of his helmet in crash condemned by other cyclists

by Simon_MacMichael   April 10, 2012  

Castro and Market, San Francisco (Matthew McPherson, Wikimpedia Commons)

A cyclist in San Francisco who allegedly posted to an online forum to lament the fact his helmet had broken in an incident in which he struck a pedestrian who later died of his injuries may face vehicular homicide charges. The same post suggested that the cyclist had ridden through a red traffic light, although the rider involved in the incident has since said, through his lawyer, that he complied with the law.

Sutchi Hui, aged 71, died on Monday 2 April at San Francisco General Hospital, four days after he had been struck by a bicycle ridden by Chris Bucchere at the junction of Castro Street and Market Street. Mr Sutchi had been crossing the intersection with his wife at the time of the incident.

A statement released last Friday through Mr Bucchere’s attorney, Ted Cassman, and quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle, said: "Chris is devastated by the accident last Thursday and by the tragic death of Sutchi Hui.

"Chris believes that he entered the intersection lawfully and that he did everything possible to avoid the accident. His heart goes out to Mr. Hui's wife and family for their loss."

Prior to Mr Hui’s death, there had been outrage after a post, subsequently removed, appeared in the Mission Cycling AM Riders Google Group on the same day as the incident took place, apparently authored by Mr Bucchere himself.

The post was made by a user named ‘Bucchere Chris’ from an account linked to Mr Bucchere’s email address and according to the San Francisco Chronicle, prosecutors are working on the assumption that it was made by Mr Bucchere himself, although that is an issue that does not appear to have been confirmed or denied in his attorney's subsequent statement.

The poster had described in detail his version of events leading up to the collision, saying that he was unable to stop as he approached the traffic lights, which had turned from green to yellow.

"I was already way too committed to stop," the poster wrote. "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... 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."

The person making the post described how they were knocked unconscious then came round five minutes later to be told that a pedestrian – Mr Hui – had been taken to hospital.

"I remember seeing a RIVER of blood on the asphalt, but it wasn't mine," the post continued. "I really hope he ends up OK."
However, it was the closing remarks about the cycle helmet that attracted most criticism, with some claiming that it made light of the incident, although at the time it was made, Mr Hui was still alive.

Those remarks have been picked up by media outlets across the United States and beyond including the UK’s own Daily Mail.

According to the poster, the bike helmet "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 can live on and ride on. Can I get an amen? Amen."

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that prosecutors have not yet made a decision on whether or not to bring charges against Mr Bucchere, which could include vehicular homicide. According to the newspaper, he has given police investigating the incident his full co-operation.

Last Friday, members of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition were at the corner of Market and Guerrero Streets to emphasise to cyclists the need to ride safely, with its director, Leah Shahum, commenting: “We do not condone reckless behaviour. This is not how we want to be perceived."

10 user comments

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Either San Fransisco's pedestrians are potential Olympic sprinters (even the 71 year olds) or he is talking crap. Go on then tell me what the Daily Mail said.....Please don't make me read that paper.

posted by SideBurn [755 posts]
10th April 2012 - 16:50

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From his account it sounds like he might have been riding a brake-less fixed gear bike. Looking at the intersection on Google Street View it seems very wide with excellent visibility.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1315 posts]
10th April 2012 - 17:13

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SideBurn wrote:
Either San Fransisco's pedestrians are potential Olympic sprinters (even the 71 year olds) or he is talking crap. Go on then tell me what the Daily Mail said.....Please don't make me read that paper.

I took one for the team and had a look - nothing in there that isn't mentioned here and can't say there is anything anti cyclist there.
One thing it does have is a pic of the cyclist and he's far from the skinny hipster I'd imagined.

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posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
10th April 2012 - 21:28

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It sounds like we are far short of any evidence or actual witness accounts, and and yet people are happy to start making assumptions based on a selection of quotes without the full context.. The way the Mail article laid out some of the quotes, it made it sound like the rider posted the rather heartless comment after the 71 year old died.. He didn't - he posted it 4 days before.

No one knows yet if he ran a light, and no one mentions if the pedestrians crossed the road on a red man.

The rider not being able to slow sounds like an unlikely story (how lacking must his brakes be!?) , but again, this might be out of context.. He may only have hit the pedestrian at 5 mph as far as we know!

All this said, the Mail article and the comments thereafter were quite balanced considering they are trying sell papers...

posted by creepymonkey [31 posts]
10th April 2012 - 22:44

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creepymonkey wrote:
He may only have hit the pedestrian at 5 mph as far as we know!

so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk

I read that part the first time as he accelerated, but I could be wrong.

posted by scook94 [40 posts]
11th April 2012 - 8:35

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I think it is the width of the intersection that he hadn't bargained on; it sounds to me like he's made an "amber gamble" but by the pedestrians started crossing before he could clear the junction.

Based purely on the account he was the one in the wrong and there is nobody to blame but him. He could have hit the brakes at several points (assuming he had them!) but he decided to chance it each time and the unfortunate pedestrian lost his life because of it.

posted by Mr Will [88 posts]
11th April 2012 - 10:12

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If it is dangerous riding he should have the book thrown at him. Too many times we lament car/lorry drivers getting away with being 'careless' (read dangerous) when one of our fellow brethren are injured or killed while cycling. We, too, must be held to account as pedestrians are even more vulnerable than us as we are typically travelling at speed riding a hunk of metal/carbon.


posted by Tripod16 [109 posts]
11th April 2012 - 15:33

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I suppose he could get away with the usual driver's cop-out if the sun was shining.

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posted by Manglier [67 posts]
12th April 2012 - 10:34

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I know nothing about the SF junction in question, but what I do know is that a junction I pass through every day - Ludgate Circus, junction of Fleet St/Ludgate Hill'Farringdon Rd/New Bridge St, in London - sees pedestrians anticipating the green man and starting to cross on almost every light cycle.

You could say that a pedestrian who is injured in these circs has brought it on himself, but it is such a fixture here that any road user, motorist or cyclist, should surely be aware of it and respond accordingly. I suppose you could say it isn't fair - the peds are eating into the vehicles' green time - but in reality Borisin his "smooth traffic flow" obesssion has eaten into green man timings to such an extent now that it is the pedestrians who are the disenfranchised ones.

posted by Paul M [302 posts]
12th April 2012 - 10:43

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There's an essential difference though - in San Francisco and elsewhere in the US, there are laws against jaywalking and people can, and do, get fined. In London and elsewhere in the UK, it's perfectly legal.

Drivers here do seem to have much less patience though than they used to in their rush to be wherever it is they have to be with such urgency - crossing the roads on foot where I live, you can be halfway across a junction when a car approaches and turns into it with little adjustment for speed or room for safety should you trip or stumble.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7723 posts]
12th April 2012 - 12:35

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