Monday, April 9, 2012

The Chris Bucchere Accident

I have been very deeply affected by the bike/pedestrian crash at Market and Castro last week. I have spent a lot of time thinking about the accident and asking the question "How did this happen?"

I use the word "Accident" in the title intentionally and ironically. I am of the camp that the word accident is usually inaccurate. When something goes wrong on our streets, there is generally a cause. And this can break down into factors covered by law, and those that are not. There can be factors that are negligence, and those that are more "preventative".

For example, when I was run over on Millbrae Ave I feel that the driver was legally at fault, and negligent. I was in the correct lane for where I was headed and he ran me down from behind. The City of Millbrae was a player too - they were party to designing this horrible interchange that is the only crossing of 101 for miles. I won't call them negligent, but they did not take steps to prevent. Even I played a part - if I was headed to SFO, and I knew the interchange was complete crap, I could have taken BART, ridden on the sidewalk, or gone out of my way and ridden a safer overcrossing.

The primary word applicable to Bucchere's case is "tragic". If you don't think so, watch this. But if you divorce yourself from the tragedy, it's provides a lot of food for thought. I went to the intersection this AM to film it. I only stayed for 2 light cycles but got the shots I wanted. Apologies for the quality and the angle of the second but the point is clear.

First this video.

You see the man in the foreground looking up at the light for N/S Castro Street. It's red, and he starts to cross against the walk signal. He makes it almost to the yellow line before the walk signal appears. A woman closer to Market itself also reaches mid-intersection before the walk sign. On the other side of the street, a pedestrian waits to verify that the car headed North has stopped, then enters the intersection against the red walk sign.

Second, this video

In this shot, the pedestrians on the far side of the intersection do in fact wait for the walk sign before entering the intersection. The difference in this shot is that there is a motorist in the intersection, the motorist reaches the crosswalk simultaneous to the walk sign turning white and is in the crosswalk with the white walk sign. Perhaps similar to Bucchere's arrival time. Are these just more law abiding pedestrians or are they aware that there is a car crossing and are waiting for the intersection to clear?

Look at the angle of the man in the first video. He is looking mid-lane. Would his eyes catch view of a cyclist coming along the right side of the Southbound lane? This is prescribed by California Law - cyclists must ride as far to the right as practicable. If the cyclist has a black jersey which might blend into the background, would he be that much more difficult to spot? A cyclist has - for the most part - the same rules and responsibilities as a motorist, as such a pedestrian has the same responsibilities with respect to a cyclst.

These are the sort of questions that will come up as the case proceeds. There is supposedly video of the intersection during the incident. Will the video show Bucchere entering on Yellow, as he claims? Is there video of the crosswalk showing the timing of Mr. Hui's entrance to the intersection?

If there is information gleaned from video to support Bucchere's claims it will make things more tricky for the District Attorney if they intend to charge him. If there is no video, Bucchere's defense team will do a much more substantial inventory of pedestrian activity at that intersection that will be of value to his defense. This will force the District Attorney to dig deep into a pretty meager toolbox in order to make charges that will pass the rigors of a court case.

If I were the cyclist in question, this incident (EDIT - add "perhaps") would not have happened. First - if I were riding from the Panhandle to the Castro I would avoid Divisadero/Castro Street and take the Wiggle - because it is flat and though I enjoy a good challenge, in the city I prefer flatter routes. Second, if I happened to be on Castro I would probably be riding slower than Bucchere apparently was. I got a yellow at the last moment it would be tricky, I would proceed but immediately be preparing for the worst, with cross traffic on Market now having the green light and MUNI tracks in the road making emergency maneuvers a bit dicey.

My behavior would fall under the umbrella of "Practicing Due Care". My understanding of the law is that this isn't a specific requirement - instead of requiring people to drive carefully, we have instead tried to devise a set of rules that we believe, if followed, will enforce care. In practice, these rules tend to fall short.

My opinion is that the Police and Courts need another weapon in their arsenal. Install a "Vulnerable Users Law" that states if you are on a bike and you hit a pedestrian, then you have not practiced due care unless it can be shown otherwise. If you are in a car and you hit a cyclist or a pedestrian, the same standard applies. Then, just because you followed the logistics of road use you may still be charged for not adapting to conditions.

Penalty? California spends 50 Billion per year on prisons and 8 billion on education. I'm not sure that we need to put people guilty of Vehicular Manslaughter who are otherwise non-malicious into the prison system for long periods of time, unless gross negligence is shown (I consider DUI to be gross negligence to name only one example). I do think we simply pull their Driver's License for 3 years, with no exception for work travel. That is a pretty serious hardship on the person convicted of the charges, but a lot less serious than going to prison, at far less cost to the State. I think this should apply to cases involving a cyclist - right now tickets while on a bike do not impact your drivers license. I'll hazard a guess that Mr. Bucchere would be impacted pretty badly with a 3 year suspension. And if you get caught driving a car (or causing more mayhem on your bike) within that period - off to the clink, no questions asked.

If this sort of law were in place, this case would be a lot more clear. Instead, I think this one will take a long time and I have no idea what the result will be.

I would bet a large sum of money that organizations like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition would throw their full weight behind passage of such a law, no matter the increased exposure to legal repercussions for cyclists. And I would also wager a lot of money that California AAA would fight against it.

30 comments:

Avengers said...

Did Chris Bucchere hit Sutchi Hui?
Yes.

Did Sutchi Hui die after the collison?
Yes.

Did Chris Bucchere kill Sutchi Hui?
Indeterminate. Coroner has not issued a report on cause of death.

Was Chris Bucchere operating a vehicle?
Yes.

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21200.htm
A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division

Did Sutchi Hui have the right of way, in regards to Chris Bucchere, irregardless of the light being yellow or red?
Yes. See section D and the exception to section B.

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21950.htm
Right-of-Way at Crosswalks

21950.  (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Will Chris Bucchere walk?
Likely.

The same can't be said for Mr. Hui.

djconnel said...

Avengers misses:
21451. (c) A pedestrian facing a circular green signal, unless prohibited by sign or otherwise directed by a pedestrian control signal as provided in Section 21456, may proceed across the roadway within any marked or unmarked crosswalk, but shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully within the intersection at the time that signal is first shown.

Jekka said...

Yes, pedestrians often don't see cyclists when they're trying to jaywalk. I've also seen cyclists collide at 90° while simultaneously scanning for cars and rolling their respective stops.

Regardless, approaching that intersection at that speed is reckless and asshatty. I imagine he was on Divis because the Wiggle was too slow for him.

Also, I agree with some of the comments on SFist: where were the headlines from Streetsblog and SFBC? Everyone knew about it, is there just some collective guilt because we all know we go too fast sometimes?

Ygduf said...

Was looking up the code to post what DJ beat me to posting...

Rationally, you can't just jump in front of a vehicle, get injured, and have the driver at fault.

My only comment on the post is that I dislike the idea that the accident could not have happened if you were the cyclist. I understand you're saying that because you take different roads, but the implied is that you're a more cautious cyclist.

We're all the more cautious cyclist/driver/pedestrian until we make a mistake and cause an accident.

There can be plenty of fault to spread around, but I doubt Chris intended to hit Sutchi, and I doubt Sutchi intended to step in front of Chris (regardless of the light status), so I feel like accident is a valid term.

Mikesonn said...

@ Jekka.

What were you hoping that Streetsblog would add? They listed every major article in the headlines section. There was plenty of discussion all around about the incident.

Also, the SFBC released a co-statement with the SFPD and Leah was on KQED this morning.

murphstahoe said...

@Ygduf this is a valid point in general. On that hill in specific, I would probably be creeping down Castro like an old grandma. There's just too much crap going on there. Even with a flat out green light you never know when some meth-head naked guy is going to come screaming out onto the pavement.

Vitaly Gashpar said...

Thanks for blogging about this. I thought about it, but I consider myself too close to the situation, for more than one reason, to post about it at length.

Unfortunately, unlike the previous, similar events, this one has a before and after component.

Let's just focus on the before. Chris was returning home and was going down Castro very fast. In fact, he was going so fast that when the light turned yellow, he had no choice but to continue across the intersection, where the light changed to red and pedestrians began to cross. This all took seconds, as I'm sure you can imagine. Unfortunately, Chris ended up hitting Sutchi Hui, who we know later died.

In order to determine the level of punishment, your factual inquiry has to stop there. Period. What was said and done after has absolutely no place in our legal system, or our courts. As with the previous incident, I don't see this ending in jail time and as with the previous incident, I think that's the correct outcome. This belongs in civil court with a suit for damages.

However, where the second part plays a huge role is in the PR flame war that is ongoing among motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. We, cyclists, now seem like douchebags who recklessly ride through intersections hitting people. This also gets people angry. I don't know if this is in any way related to a cyclist/racer getting run down in LA over the weekend, but the fact that some people in comments on articles covering this issue feel that they are somehow now entitled to attack cyclists on the road, places every single one of us who rides in danger.

We now have a lot of goodwill to build up. Personally, I think Mission Cycling and SFBC should join forces and have a collection for the family of the victim to take care of medical and burial expenses. Perhaps showing that we recognize there are problem riders among us is a first step to fostering a better relationship between the "warring" groups.

murphstahoe said...

@vitaly - count me in. Had I been more organized I was going to bring flowers this morning.

Jekka said...

@ Mikesonn

If this had been a car hitting a cyclist, it would have been *overtly* on Twitter and everywhere else within the hour. This was more like a slow leak of info. I mean, really, Marin Independent Journal?

I was suggesting that people were silent out of some self-recognition and guilt. I could be wrong.

Vitaly's suggestion is excellent and thoughtful. Much better than blaming various modes of transport.

Mikesonn said...

Vitaly's suggestion +1

murphstahoe said...

@Jekka -

There was no slow "leak". It was a delayed but instantaneous release. The stories derived from the email threads appeared in the Marin IJ, SFAppeal, SFBG, Chron, SFist, in rapid succession. The stories are not derived from each other, and all contain different snippets from the 2 key email threads, one from Mission Cycling and one from SF2G.

Our intrepid Bay Area Journalists were oblivious to these threads for a week. To me, Occam's Razor says that at some point, a single entity decided to release the entire email threads to the various publications simultanously. The Marin IJ was simply the first one to get their story written.

Who sent the threads to the papers is not known. I do know that the SFPD had this information the day of the accident. And that our newspapers do crappy research. The SF2G thread was in the top 10 google search for Chris Bucchere bike crash.

Jekka said...

OK, "slow leak" was incorrect. I guess I was more surprised that everyone got the email and no one shared it straight away. That's all I meant. Someone thought to contact Strava and have them delete the ride, but didn't publicize it.

Of course it traveled quickly once it got out.

murphstahoe said...

Chris Bucchere logged back into Strava and hit "delete". QED. He was almost assuredly advised by many people who were saying on the threads that he will need a lawyer that he should do so. All those people would probably be savvy enough to believe that "delete" does not remove the ride from Strava's servers (that will be interesting to see).

The email threads were known to thousands of people for days but not in the media for a week. That is astounding. I was in a conversation regarding the deletion of the SF2G thread. "Destroying evidence" came up. I said "The SFPD already has the thread, you can't destroy anything. But this will be a really ugly media firestorm, if I were choosing I'd delete them."

Can't speak for 1000 people but distaste for the fallout from public release of the original mail from Chris Bucchere was why I did not say anything about it to anyone outside my close confidence. In the age of the Internet that staying underground for a week is truly astonishing, almost as if the SFPD told them NOT to publish anything until a certain time. That doesn't explain that no random Internet commenter did not find the emails. Omerta

Avengers said...

djconnel misses:

V C Section 21451 Circular Green or Green Arrow
Amended Ch. 413, Stats. 1981. Effective January 1, 1982.
Any driver, including one turning, shall yield the right-of-way to other traffic and to pedestrians lawfully within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk.

V C Section 21950 Right of Way at Crosswalks
Amended Sec. 8, Ch. 833, Stats. 2000. Effective January 1, 2001.
does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

21950 in 2001 fixed the 21451 in 1982 misnomer that vehicles have unfettered right of way.

Either way, 21950 AND 21451 state the same point; driver shall yield to pedestrian.

Then there's possible eye witness account:
"The light turned red as I was cruising through the middle of the intersection" Chris Bucchere

The light was green for pedestrians, and Sutchi Hui was "lawfully" within the intersection. Leaving him a small fraction of a second to react.

Never - "blammo" Chris Bucchere.

murphstahoe said...

"The light turned red as I was cruising through the middle of the intersection" Chris Bucchere

The light was green for pedestrians, and Sutchi Hui was "lawfully" within the intersection.

The second statement is not implied by the first. See the video embedded in this thread. There is a substantial delay between the red light on Castro and the walk sign turning white.

djconnel said...

In any case you are not lawfully within the crosswalk if you do not wait for traffic to first clear the intersection before you enter it, whether the light is white or not. Sure, there's the "due care" clause, but that's a judgement call. It's quite possible he was reckless, but the only evidence presented so far on that has been a maximum speed reading from notoriously bad iPhone GPS.

Note the delay between red light and white pedestrian light is around 2 seconds. It's reported it's around 50 meters to cross that intersection. 12.5 meters per second would be a very fast speed for a bike, so it took at least 4 seconds for him to cross the intersection. That's plenty of time for pedestrians to rush onto the intersection before he reached the cross-walk. Should he have slammed on his brakes the minute he saw the light turn yellow? Doing so would risk getting obliterated by cross-traffic. It was a split-second judgement call to think he could clear the pedestrian traffic, and he judged wrongly. But this hardly seems conclusively criminal by the standards applied to vehicle operators.

cgguy said...

I think all the points are well made about how we don't have enough information to claim fault at this point. Though, if he did make statements about blasting through the least populated part of the crosswalk are true then he's at fault in my mind. He should have been locked up or laid his bike down, rather than accelerating.

The truth is that while there are many of my fellow cyclists that stop at lights and signs, it seems like there are increasing numbers that don't.

And it's not just bikers, not a day goes by when I don't see a driver roll through a stop and make a right without looking right. Lots of pedestrians get run down this way.

What we need is a collective understanding that we live in a dense city and we all need to slow it down and use some more caution.

luxzia said...

I think this is less an issue of a cyclist than of a typical bit of San Francisco entitlement. I've read about this guy and he seems like the douchey type that show up at SXSWi every year babbling about social media and how clever his ideas are. He thinks he's some awesome amazing action man whose trusty helmet died so that he may live. I hope the Hui family sues the shit out of him.

Razor Sheldon said...

Suppose for a moment that Chris was riding quickly in order to track and post a personal best time for this route on Strava.com. Most rational people would consider this reckless, and given the fact this resulted in the loss of a life... most would argue this should warrant jail time for involuntary manslaughter.

While your video indicates there there are pedestrians that enter the crosswalk before the walk signal is illuminated, or that there are vehicles that run the yellow and reach the crosswalk when the walk signal is illuminated, it does not indicate what happened in that unfortunate incident.

Now Strava records along with video evidence of the accident and Chris's own comments on the matter (before before being deleted) are true evidence that will most certainly be used against him... for both criminal as well as civil legal matters.

murphstahoe said...

@Razor

1) It is known that there was a Strava segment on this piece of road. It is known that the segment ended at 18th Street. It is known that this segment includes some streetlights and even a stop sign at 16th.

2) It is also known that this segment was flagged by the userbase as "Hazardous". To make it clear to all the people latching onto this, what does flagging of a segment mean? It means that there is no ranking of the segment done on the website. The time on the segment is kept, and will be posted on your individual ride. On the segment page, your own best time will be posted, but it is not compared to anyone else's time.

3) It is not known if the flagged status of the segment impacted Mr. Bucchere's approach to the segment. If the segment was flagged, he had no times of other people to compare to. Would he be worried about beating his time on a flagged segment? Unknown.

4) It is not known when the segment was flagged. I looked at the segment in the early afternoon on March 29 - the day of the crash - and it had already been flagged. I do not know if it was flagged that day. I did see Chris' Strava data, but did not notice a segment for that downhill. This was because the segment ends at 18th, and as we known Chris never made it to 18th to trip the segment.

5) Known - here are four of Mr. Bucchere's times on that segment including his record, shown from the google cache before the segment was flagged. This does not show the KOM time.

http://sfcitizen.com/blog/2012/04/06/did-strava-com-help-kill-pedestrian-sutchi-hui-whats-your-time-on-the-castro-street-descent-aka-castro-street-bomb/

2:20, 2:57, 3:00, 3:07

His fastest time ever on that segment was 17.4 MPH average over almost 3/4 of a mile. 17.4 MPH is not particularly fast on a flat stretch of road, this road is downhill. To me a 17.4 MPH top time indicates that Bucchere had stopped for at least one light (or the stop sign). His other times are in the 14 MPH range, definitely waiting for some lights.
It certainly does not seem like a "BOMB". If the road was closed and you could go down it at top speed, the average speed would be in the high 20's or low 30's.

I do not think this can indicate recklessness on this stretch of road. What it shows is that Bucchere typically followed the lights. 2:20 would be consistent with catching all the green lights but stopping at the stop sign.

6) Not known - did he encounter red lights on the way down the hill that day? The GPS data will indicate if he stopped anywhere between Waller and Market. Why speculate? I saw the track and it had several up and downs on the speed graph and then a sharp spike at the end. I did not make note of where the spike started.

Razor Sheldon said...

@murphstahoe based on the information that is known, I could counter that he might have stopped at all the stop signs/lights and blew threw the final intersection at 35mph, which would be reckless. The point is that neither you nor I know at all what exactly happened, so to claim otherwise is dishonest. Whereas you proposed a scenario that sought to clear Chris of willful negligence or recklessness, I proposed a scenario that did the opposite.

Regardless, there apparently exists video of the incident indicates he did not make any effort to stop before plowing into the victim. Based on this evidence, his clear lack of judgement and his prior "timing" of this bike run, I'd say the odds favor my version of events over yours.

murphstahoe said...

Whereas you proposed a scenario that sought to clear Chris of willful negligence or recklessness.

I do not believe I did any such thing. I think we start with the facts and see what we can draw out from there. Several people have jumped straight from

1) Strava exists
to
2) Chris was blasting down the hill to set a record and killed a guy.

That's a big leap not supported by facts. Strava has no relevance here. Either Bucchere was reckless, or he wasn't.

I'm not trying to clear Bucchere of negligence.

If there is actual video, the speculation will end, and that's probably a good thing. If the video matches the cop's description, then it's definitely a good thing we don't live in his brain.

Erorg said...

One thing I learned as a kid...

1. LOOK BOTH WAYS before crossing, even if the light is GREEN and you have the right of way. There still may be a car that isnt through the intersection yet, especially if its a big intersection. Its your DUTY to keep yourself safe.

When I lived in Half Moon Bay, they changed the stop lights for this reason to have ALL lights in all directions will be RED for 3-5 seconds BEFORE another turns green, so they can clear the cars out of the intersections before the flow of traffic begins. This way no one gets T-Boned.

With all that said, while I do believe pedestrians have the right of way, more so crossing the street from TWO CORNERS rather than just "crosswalk", I believe pedestrians, especially in major cities with large flows of traffic, and wonky lights need to keep themselves safe and not rely on the "Oh, its my turn, someone else can worry if they hit me" attitude that so many people have.

And contradicting myself with THAT said, it is also the responsibility of anyone on any mode of transportation they are in control of, or have access to control if the driver does not, to avoid pedestrians and clear intersections SAFELY without endangerment - this means slowing down, slamming on the brakes, turning a corner to avoid pedestrians, or any other measure to keep your vehicle safely operating and avoiding incidents like these. Ultimately, if you blow through a YELLOW light, or in Chris' case an ORANGE light, he accepts responsibility fully for being negligent as he KNEW he was operating at a high rate of speed and couldnt allow for clearance of the intersection during the minimal allotment of time for the light changes, but he COULD have slowed and stopped his bike and self faster than trying to clear.

Im sorry, but Id rather injure myself than kill another person, but thats just me!

murphstahoe said...

Erorg - I think you pretty much summed it up, though I really shy away from doing anything to blame the victim. Because it is known that pedestrians might jump the light, and that if you are on a bicycle you are not very visible, and may not be expected by the pedestrian group, dial it back and go the extra mile to prevent a collision.

Madame Defarge said...

There's no evidence that Hui and his fellow pedestrians were jaywalking.

While the light may have been a yellow when Chris Bucchere entered Market, the street is four plus lanes wide, so it's likely that the pedestrian signal did turn white before they crossed. Take a look at at the intersection on Google maps, you'll see that there is oodles of space between the edge of Divis and the 17th street crosswalk, between 80 and 100 feet.

He could have layer his bike down, which he claimed to do but did not. He could have turned left onto Market or into the gas station. He could have slammed on his brakes.

Madame Defarge said...

There's no evidence that Hui and his fellow pedestrians were jaywalking.

While the light may have been a yellow when Chris Bucchere entered Market, the street is four plus lanes wide, so it's likely that the pedestrian signal did turn white before they crossed. Take a look at at the intersection on Google maps, you'll see that there is oodles of space between the edge of Divis and the 17th street crosswalk, between 80 and 100 feet.

He could have layer his bike down, which he claimed to do but did not. He could have turned left onto Market or into the gas station. He could have slammed on his brakes.

august west said...

There is new evidence that has come out that Chris had a co-rider. that co-rider was able to stop at the light while Chris plowed through it and killed a pedestrian.

murphstahoe said...

Impossible - I have never seen a cyclist stop for a stop light.

Eric Jackson said...

Rattling work man, ready your heads last you did it.
accident compensation claim

Maggie Malone said...

As we all say, accidents do happen. Even if you try so hard to be careful, it will come at you when you least expect it. But then, if you think you’re on the right track, go fight for it. And of course, you have to have a reliable attorney to defend you.

Maggie @Mastragelo Law Offices