On March 2nd Charles Vincent, 66 years old, was riding his bike at the intersection of 14th and Folsom in San Francisco when he was killed by a car driver who was observed by multiple witnesses to have run a red light. Despite this, no charges are being filed. According to the story on Streetsblog, SFPD Explains: Driver Won’t Be Charged for Killing Cyclist at 14th & Folsom, a witness also had Vincent riding through a red light in his direction, and so the collision occurred when both people had reds. "The DA is not gonna charge that person with a crime because there’s a contributory factor" according to SFPD.
This is an interesting spin on the law with which I'd not formerly been aware. If someone is in violation of code, it's sanctionable to kill them with your own violation? Curious.
Rewind to the Chris Bucchere case.... Chris rode his bike at approximately 31 mph through the intersection of Castro and Mission, hitting and killing a Sacha Hui, a pedestrian among a group of pedestrians who were crossing Castro. This case brought out a wave of rage against Chris, indeed against cyclists in general, which caused the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to attack him and his behavior as irresponsible and unrepresentative of cyclists in the city. Indeed there's little question Chris was being reckless, and his speed was in excess of the 25 mph limit. But the question is here is one of fairness, whether drivers are treated comparably to cyclists when they are guilty of reckless behavior.
Compare and contrast. First, the Vincent case where no charges are filed because the cyclist was observed to have been in violation of code. Whatever violations the driver committed were thus rendered irrelevant: there's a "contributory factor."
The Bucchere case, on the other hand, went something like this:
A: "That speeding cyclist blew through the stop sign and hit the pedestrians legally crossing the intersection - throw the book at him!"
B: "But the video shows he entered the intersection legally."
A: "Well, never mind that -- he still plowed into those pedestrians legally crossing the intersection!"
B: "But if he entered legally, and was near the speed limit, it's impossible the pedestrians entered the intersection legally -- there's an all red phase long enough to clear traffic, so they entered well before the walk signal."
A: "Well, never mind that -- someone says he ran a stop sign during one of the blocks before the intersection."
B: "Really? Okay -- felony manslaughter!"
I'm not defending Bucchere; he screwed up. But if anything violations by drivers of multi-ton motor vehicles need to be treated more seriously, not less, those pedaling their 10 milliton bicycles. The repeated pattern of San Francisco Police behavior in these matters is demoralizing: there's so many. Amelie Le Moullac is just the most egregious of so many tragic cases where cyclists have been killed and blame-the-victim has been the first line of investigation. But when it's a cyclist who causes the damage, things are very different.