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Bicycle accidents: news on the bicycle v. auto front

The Cartwright Law Firm has noted a couple of new items related to bicyclists and bicycle accidents, and how the law may impact two-wheeling citizens in coming years. Both stories are from here in Northern California.

Our first story is from San Francisco, where a San Francisco man, Chris Bucchere, will be one of the few bicyclists in the country to be tried on felony manslaughter charges, for running into an elderly pedestrian in a busy intersection last March. 71-year-old Sutchi Hui died of head injuries four days after the accident in the Castro neighborhood.

A witness testified at a preliminary hearing that Bucchere sped through several red lights before the accident. Bucchere’s ride was recorded on a social fitness site which showed he was traveling about 35 mph at the time of the accident.

A Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that Bucchere should be tried for felony gross vehicular manslaughter, rejecting a defense request that the charge be reduced to a misdemeanor. If convicted, Bucchere faces a maximum of six years in prison.

“I hope this case serves as a reminder to all that there are life-altering consequences to not following the rules of the road,” District Attorney George Gascon reportedly said.

Our second story comes out of Sonoma County, where the County Board of Supervisors are getting set to vote on a somewhat controversial ordinance that makes it possible for cyclists and pedestrians to sue in civil court for “harassment” by vehicle drivers, to whit: “it is against the public policy of the County of Sonoma to permit harassment due to an individual’s status as a pedestrian and/or a person riding a bicycle.”

Sec. 19-59. Prohibition against civil harassment of bicyclists and pedestrians reads in part:

A person shall not do or attempt to do any of the following:

(a) Physically assault or attempt to physically assault a bicyclist because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.
(b) Physically assault or attempt to physically assault a pedestrian because of, in whole or in part, the pedestrian’s status as a pedestrian.
(c) Threaten to physically injure a bicyclist because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.
(d) Threaten to physically injure a pedestrian because of, in whole or in part, the pedestrian’s status as a pedestrian.
(e) Intentionally injure, attempt to injure, or threaten to physically injure, either by words, vehicle or other object, a bicyclist because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.
(f) Intentionally injure, attempt to injure, or threaten to physically injure, either by words, vehicle or other object, a pedestrian because of, in whole or in part, the pedestrian’s status as a pedestrian.
(g) Intentionally distract or attempt to distract a bicyclist because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.
(h) Intentionally force or attempt to force a bicyclist off a street for purposes unrelated to public safety because of, in whole or in part, the bicyclist’s status as a bicyclist.

(i) Intentionally force or attempt to force a pedestrian off a street for purposes unrelated to public safety because of, in whole or in part, the pedestrian’s status as a pedestrian.

The ordinance provides no cap on damages in civil actions permitted by the ordinance.

Both of these stories illustrate a changing climate for bicyclists on both the responsibilities and the remedies aspects of biking. As the law changes to give bicyclists more parity on the roads, it will also tighten and more clearly define the attendent responsibilities bikers must face as they share the roadways of California.

The Cartwright Law Firm has represented many bicyclists and pedestrians throughout Northern California, and stands ready to assist in your case. Call today for more information and a free consultation, at 415-433-0444.

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