A San Francisco bicyclist who struck and killed a 71-year-old pedestrian in a crosswalk last year has pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter.
San Francisco prosecutors call the conviction the first of its kind, but District Attorney George Gascón said the conviction of Chris Bucchere, 37, of Marin County, California, sends the proper message, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
The case is a cautionary tale to bicyclists across the nation to slow down and respect pedestrians.
Though Bucchere was convicted of a felony, he won't be serving any time in the slammer. Under a plea agreement, the cyclist will be sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service.
In fact, Bucchere's conviction may be knocked down to a misdemeanor after six months if he complies with the terms of his sentence.
In another high-profile San Francisco bike-crash case, 23-year-old Randolph Ang pleaded guilty to misdemeanor manslaughter for running over a pedestrian and was sentenced last year to 500 hours of community service and three years of probation, The Huffington Post reported.
But Bucchere's case is unprecedented in California because it entailed a felony.
A felony conviction for vehicular manslaughter in California can carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison, compared with only one year in jail for a misdemeanor.
Prosecutors believe Bucchere behaved recklessly before he sailed through a red light and fatally struck pedestrian Sutchi Hui.
Bucchere said the light was still yellow when he was halfway through the busy intersection, reports the Chronicle.
But a prosecution witness testified at Bucchere's preliminary hearing that the bicyclist had raced through three red lights and was traveling about 30 miles per hour before he struck Hui.
Cyclist Safety Tips
Cases like this remind us of the interactions that drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have on city streets every day.
Cyclists should take safety precautions, including:
- Getting familiar with and obeying local traffic laws,
- Riding on the right side of the street,
- Heeding stop signs and red lights,
- Stopping at yellow lights,
- Staying off the sidewalk,
- Riding defensively (always allow for time to react and adjust),
- Passing on the left and not on the right,
- Wearing bright-colored clothing and reflectors, and
- Riding consistently and predictably.
If you don't exercise caution, tragedy could result, and the next cyclist to be made an example of could be you.
- In U.S. First, Cyclist Pleads Guilty to Felony Vehicular Manslaughter (Slate)
- Bicycle Accidents (FindLaw)
- New Bicycle Law Adds Protection for Cyclists (FindLaw's Blotter)
- California Crackdown on Biking While Intoxicated (FindLaw's Blotter)