Last March, a cyclist named Chris Bucchere was speeding through the streets of San Francisco, traveling more than 30 miles per hour. Bucchere ran two red lights and a stop sign, proceeded through an intersection, and struck a 71-year-old man. The man suffered serious injuries and died four days later. Bucchere is now facing criminal charges for the fatal accident, reported the Los Angeles Times.
“In the eyes of the law, cyclists have the same responsibly as motorists to obey traffic safety rules and to share the road,” explained California personal injury lawyer James Ballidis.
Bucchere was returning from an informal meeting of the Mission Cycling Club of San Francisco. He said he was descending Divisadero Street going south and was about to cross Market Street. When he approached the intersection, he indicated that the light turned yellow but he was “too committed” to stop.
As the light turned red when he was in the middle of the intersection, he indicated that the southern crosswalk began to fill up with people from both directions. He said he was unable to stop his bike so he “just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place [he] could find.” He further indicated that he did not remember the next five minutes but came to and saw a river of blood on the sidewalk.
The accident was tragic and Bucchere clearly broke safety rules, behaving in a careless and irresponsible way. As a result, he was charged with felony gross vehicular manslaughter.
Bucchere’s attorney argued that he should be charged only with a misdemeanor. However, the District Attorney trying the case believes that Bucchere’s actions rise above the misdemeanor level and warrant felony charges. The District Attorney assigned to the case, George Gascon, was reported by the Los Angeles Times as saying, “I hope this case serves as a reminder to all that there are life-altering consequences to not following the rules of the road.”
San Francisco Laws for Bicycle Riders
Under California law, bicycle riders are expected to follow all of the same laws as the drivers of automobiles, and they have all of the same rights. This means that bicycle riders are expected to obey the speed limit, to stop at traffic signs, and to yield the right-of-way when the law requires it.
The speed limit in the area where the accident occurred was 25 miles per hour, but Bucchere was reportedly going 35.2 miles per hour down the hill near where the accident occurred. His excessive speed, coupled with his decision to go through the red light and plow into the crowd, can be considered legally negligent.
It was his grossly negligent behavior that led to the felony charges he faces now. Under section 192(c) of the California Penal Code, the law defines the offense of vehicular manslaughter when alcohol is not involved:
- Driving in an unlawful manner
- Driving in a legal but dangerous way
- Knowingly causing a crash for financial gain
The charge applies not just to people who hit others with their car, but also to those who hit others with a bicycle. This is because a bicycle is a vehicle in the eyes of the law, and riders are subject to the same laws as drivers.
The offense is considered to be a “wobbler” under the law in California, giving district attorneys the right to charge wrongdoers with either a felony or a misdemeanor depending upon the criminal history of the defendant and the facts of the case.
In this instance, because Bucchere’s behavior was so dangerous, the prosecutor made the choice to charge him with a felony.
Bucchere’s behavior could also result in him being subject to civil liability, which means the surviving family members of the victim could sue him for wrongful death.
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