Articles Posted in Bicycle Accidents

riding-a-bike-1192075-m.jpg Four-percent of the Bay Area population uses a bike to commute to and from work-a statistic that is unmatched anywhere else in the country. The large population of bicyclists and motor vehicles results in a great deal of tension that complicates the interpretation of bicycle and motor-vehicle accidents.

In March 2012, San Franciscan bicyclist Chris Bucchere was riding his bike southbound on Divisadero toward Market when he struck and killed Sutchi Hui, a 71-year-old pedestrianwho was crossing the street. The thirty-second traffic video shows that cars had stopped in response to the ending yellow, prompting a few pedestrians to start walking early before the light turned red. Then, at about 25-30 mi/hr, Bucchere is seen riding, through the intersection in the last few seconds of the yellow, and as he mentions in a blog post, the crosswalk was filled “almost instantly”, and he had to “plow through the least populated” side he could find ultimately colliding with Hui, killing him.

There are many factors that contribute to the difficulty of assigning fault in this situation. First, the fact that the pedestrians began walking early may have contributed to the difficulty Bucchere had in readjusting his trajectory to avoid them. On the other hand, Bucchere was riding between 25 and 30 mi/hr through an intersection when all other vehicles had stopped for the imminent red. In addition, Bucchere had reportedly sped past two red lights just before the intersection in question. Together, the pedestrians walking early combined with Bucchere’s speed created a difficult situation to get out of unscathed. The pedestrians who walked early and Bucchere were being too aggressive amidst the rush hour pressure, expecting the other parties to behave in a way that accommodated the other’s intentions. Unfortunately, those expectations collided, resulting in the death of Hui.

The combination of this ambiguity and the fact that the light had not completely turned red made it difficult to eventually convict Bucchere with gross negligence leading to felony vehicular manslaughter, a sentence that carries two to six years in prison. Bucchere is the first bicyclist to be thus convicted, although he was not given the full brunt of the corresponding sentence. Instead of prison time, Bucchere was sentenced to three years of probation and one-thousand hours of community service.

In response to the accident, there has been a great deal of disagreement towards the sentencing of Bucchere. Many believe that it was not a harsh enough sentence given that the accident resulted in the death of a person. One anonymous commentator writes that “cyclists are lazy entitled jerks”, while still others argue that a driver of a motor vehicle would have faced a more severe recourse than Bucherre. While speculative and unsubstantiated, these conversations reflect a tension on the road between motor vehicles and bicyclists that has been seen in various forms, from internet comments to road rage.

Both cyclists and drivers can be negligent-the problem is that sometimes, the difference in the size of the bike and motor vehicle makes it difficult to get rid of observer’s bias as to who is more reckless or negligent. It is important to consider how such biases may affect juries. In a recent case in Boston, there has been a great deal of upset regarding the verdict in a case where a bicyclist was fatally injured by a truck. Despite the fact that there was video footage, and several eye witness testimony insisting that the vehicle that struck him was going too fast, the driver was not charged. The jury’s indictment was seen by many cyclists in the area as a sign that their rights are not equated with those of motor vehicles. However, in examining criminal cases, it is important to keep in mind that the burden of proof in a criminal case is significantly higher than that of a civil matter. In the former, one is innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, whereas in the latter, a case is won and lost based upon whether or not a claim can be reasonably affirmed.

Of course, being accident-free is the optimal state of affairs for any driver or bicyclist. To get as close as possible to that standard, it is essential to practice appropriate safety measures to prevent avoidable accidents. For all participants on the road-bicyclists, pedestrians and cars-observing the road with a careful eye, and being considerate of others’ needs are key to sharing the road effectively. For cars and bicyclists, wearing appropriate safety gear such as seatbelts and helmets respectively can help avoid potentially severe injuries.

But accidents do happen, and when they occur, it is important to be proactive in acquiring the facts of the incident. What is done at the scene of the accident is crucial—bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers must collect the raw data at the scene, and exchange contact information. While collecting basic information, it is also important to examine liability issues, namely who may or may not have been following the traffic laws. If there have been injuries, it is important to have a medical professional assess the extent of that injury, and verify whether there is a possible link between the accident and the observed injury.
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As a member and supporter of the San Francisco and Marin County Bicycle Coalitions, Attorney Greg Brod knows the countless benefits of bicycling, including the extensive health benefits to the rider and the environmental benefits that help keep all of us healthier. As a San Francisco bicycle accident attorney, Greg Brod sees the tragedies associated with riding on two wheels, especially in a society focused on four wheels. This is an upsetting contrast and a true problem evidenced by both injury crashes and the great loss associated with fatal bicycle crashes. These tragic fatalities are the focus of today’s post.

Fatal Bicycle Crash in South of Market Neighborhood

A short article in this week’s San Francisco Chronicle focused on the death of a 24-year old woman from San Francisco. Amelie Le Moullac was riding her bike in the South of Market neighborhood, travelling east on Folsom Street just past 7 o’clock on Wednesday morning. She was in the bike lane when an eastbound truck hit her while it was attempting to turn right on Sixth Street. LeMoullac succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced dead at San Francisco General Hospital. Officer Tracey Turner reported that the truck driver, who remained at the crash scene, was not cited.

We teach children to look both ways before they cross the road. We teach them to watch for cars pulling in or out of driveway. While we tell them to always be alert, we also teach them that sidewalks are the safest place for pedestrians. However, many pedestrians have experienced a scare due to a bicycle speeding along on a sidewalk. Bicycles on sidewalks have led to pedestrian injury and even death. While our firm is a staunch supporter of bicycle riders, we are also committed to serving as a San Francisco pedestrian injury law firm when rider negligence threatens pedestrian safety.

San Francisco Pedestrian Hit &Injured By Bicyclist Riding on Sidewalk

streetview.jpgAlthough most bicyclists ride responsibly, a story in the San Francisco Chronicle highlights the potential for bikes to be a threat to pedestrians. A woman in her 60s was walking on Market Street, heading east near Stockton Street on Sunday June 9. At approximately 12:25 P.M., the woman was hit by a 21-year-old bicyclist travelling west. Officer Gordon Shyy reports that the pedestrian fell and hit her head after the collision. Emergency services transported her to San Francisco General Hospital with life-threatening injuries. The bike rider did stop and cooperated with the police. Initially, he was cited for riding his bike on the sidewalk, but that citation has been put on hold as investigators decide whether additional charges are warranted.

The Brod Firm is proud to support the Northern California bicycling community, including the SF Bike Coalition and the Marin County Bike Coalition. While we are also proud of our work as an experienced San Francisco bicyclist’s law firm, we hope that attention to safety on behalf of motorists and the cyclists themselves will save lives, prevent injury, and make this work increasingly unnecessary. Bicycle helmets do not, as a general matter, prevent accidents. Driver attentiveness would be a much better tool for that end. However, helmets are important safety tools that can help reduce the severity of injuries and prevent an accident from becoming a fatality.

Accident Claims Life of San Francisco Bicycle Rider

On Thursday May 23 at around 6:45 a.m., per a report by the San Francisco Chronicle, twenty-one year old Dylan Mitchell was riding his bicycle in the Mission District. He was headed east on 16th Street when he collided with the rear of a Recology garbage truck. The truck had also been travelling east on 16th and had begun to make a right turn onto South Van Ness Avenue and collided with the bicycle and its rider. Mitchell, who family members say had just moved to San Francisco a week before order to begin an apprenticeship at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, died at the scene. Police are investigating the crash and do not believe alcohol or drugs were involved. Reports indicate Mitchell was not wearing a helmet and was riding at a “high rate of speed.” The intersection is equipped with a four way traffic signal.

Last week our San Francisco based attorney wrote on a tragic accident in San Francisco when a biker collided with a 71-year-old man in the Castro district. While in that instance, the bicycle rider seems to be at fault in the accident, collisions involving bicyclists are not always caused by them, nor are they necessarily at fault. This week, we will look at collisions between bicyclists and automobiles.

Collision between pedestrians, bikers, and automobile drivers is not uncommon, especially in areas of dense population like San Francisco. Whether because of unfortunate circumstances, carelessness, or failure to follow road rules, accidents occur. It is the most unfortunate however, whenever a fatality occurs.

A couple of months ago, a woman, later identified as Diana Sullivan, a San Francisco native, was hit by a concrete-mixing truck while riding her bicycle. This occurred early Saturday morning in front of AT&T Park. Both Sullivan and the truck were heading westbound on King Street when they collided near the intersection of Third and King Street. Sullivan was taken to San Francisco General Hospital with life threatening injuries and was pronounced dead later that day. The driver was not cited and police do not believe drugs or alcohol were a factor in the accident.

Bicycling through the streets of San Francisco is a great treat due to the city’s unique landscape and breathtaking views. For those who work in the city, bicycling provides a fast and efficient means of transportation in a small, but busy and dense city. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the city on rented bikes along the Marina district or through Golden Gate Park, among many other areas. Although biking can be fun and a good alternative for travel throughout the city, it can also be a dangerous activity if bicyclists do not properly adhere to the rules of the road.

Tragic Collision in the Castro

A little over a week ago, Chris Bucchere, a San Francisco native, was riding his bike through the Castro district near the particularly busy intersection of Market and Castro, early in the morning. Shortly after 8 a.m., Bucchere collided with 71-year-old man Sutchi Hui, who was walking east in the crosswalk. Bucchere is reported to have lost consciousness from the collision but regained it after several minutes. Both were brought to the hospital where Hui died.

I have seen many cyclists on the streets of San Francisco wearing cameras on their helmets (most likely the Gopro). Of course a helmet camera seems like a great piece of technology to record beautiful or interesting scenery, but I expect that one reason these cameras are appearing on city cyclists more often, is to document what actually happens in the event of a bike crash, though I’ve certainly not taken a poll. I have helped many, many cyclists who have been injured on the streets of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and in the San Francisco Bay Area, by careless drivers, and it extremely rare that any video can be found that documents an actual accident. During the claims process, and during a lawsuit, the fault of a bike versus car collision is regularly at issue, and bike riders must face an unfair prejudice that the cyclist was the cause of the crash. When a helmet cam records exactly what happened in a collision, at the very least, the cyclist is protected from any attempt to distort the truth. I’ve even found instructional videos on, describing how to mount the camera to a bike helmet, which apparently will not shake or cause the rider any discomfort.
In addition to documenting a bike v. car crash, I hope and expect that the use of helmet cam technology will result in fewer bike collisions in the streets of our cities. Though I was unable to find any statistics, I expect that similar to the use of bike helmets, lights, and even seatbelts for auto passengers, a defensive mindset is a good start to help avoid accidents on the roadway. As any bike rider in a major city knows, one must ride defensively, and some collisions cannot be avoided, entirely, but it’s all about reducing your odds of being involved in a crash. Even in instances of road rage, which cyclists can occasionally be the victim of, perhaps an irate driver will think twice about foolish actions if they know they’re being recorded. If the use of helmet cams prevent even one bike accident, their use should be applauded and encouraged.

If you or someone you care about has been injured in a serious bike accident involving a car, truck, bus or train, please contact the Brod Law Firm for a free consultation. I have posted blogs about bike safety, bike accidents, and related topics over the past several years. At the Brod Law Firm, we have a history of fighting for injured cyclists to ensure that after an accident, their rights are protected, and that they receive the compensation they fairly deserve.

As a member and supporter of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Attorney Greg Brod applauds those who make a commitment to commuting by bike. Our San Francisco bicycle accident attorney believes that Northern California must keep our region safe and accessible for people who opt to make their commutes healthy, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly by traveling on two wheels instead of four. Safety efforts at all levels, from lawmakers to individual drivers, are vital to decreasing the number of bicycle accidents. Even the most cautious rider is at risk on the road, and a single-inattentive driver can take, or forever alter, a life.

Roadway Designed to Be Bicycle-Friendly Poses Numerous Threats to Bicycle Commuters

Sadly, as a report in the San Francisco Chronicle notes bicycle commuters often find themselves at war with auto traffic. This threat is pronounced on Valencia Street where cars are known to dart across the dedicated bike lane to grab a parking spot, forcing a rider to swerve into active traffic lanes.

bike_on_concrete.jpgA bill pending before California lawmakers caught the attention of our San Francisco bicycle accident attorney. On Monday, the state Assembly passed SB1464. The proposed law would require drivers to leave a three foot buffer zone in most cases when they are passing a bicycle rider from behind. Drivers would be permitted to cross a solid double yellow line in order to comply. Senator Alan Lowenthal of Long Beach authored the bill which is being co-sponsored by the City of Los Angeles and the California Bicycle Coalition. Violations of the law would be punishable by fines of up to $35. SB1464 now returns to the state Senate for a final vote before making its way to the Governor.

Governor Brown vetoed a similar bill just last year. In related statements, he expressed support for the general concept but concern about the wording of an exception aimed at dense, urban areas. The prior bill called for drivers to slow to 15 miles per hour when they were unable to leave the required clearance. Brown sided with groups including the California Highway Patrol and the American Automobile Association that said the specific speed requirement could lead to traffic congestion and cause rear-end collisions. This year’s version changes that specificity, saying drivers who are unable to leave three feet of clearance must slow to “a speed that is reasonable and prudent given traffic and roadway conditions” and should wait to pass until it is safe. Opponents of the current proposal express safety concerns, especially about applying the rule to twisting and winding roads where it is hard to see oncoming vehicles. They also argue that it would give bikers a false sense of security. Existing law requires drivers to leave a safe distance when passing, whether they are overtaking a bike or another car.

According to the California Bicycle Coalition, many people choose not to use bicycles for either transportation or recreation because they worry about safety, especially when it comes to motor vehicles passing riders. The group says the fear is not simply a matter of rider perception, noting that passing-from-behind collisions are the top cause of bicyclist deaths among adults in California and across the nation. They believe the new rule would help drivers know their responsibility by creating a clear and objective standard. Currently, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have laws establishing a specific minimum passing distance.

1389108_cycle.jpg Bicycling is a great way to commute around town. It allows riders to get in some exercise and has the advantage of alleviating traffic and pollution. However, bicyclists share the road with motorized vehicles of all sizes and are subject to the same traffic rules. Bicyclists are also subject to the same dangers on the road as other vehicles, yet while insurance is required for automobiles, no such requirement exists for bicycles.

Therefore, both avid and casual bicyclists might be asking themselves when and how they are covered by insurance policies in the event they are involved in an accident. For now, comprehensive insurance that is specifically tailored for bicyclists is limited. However, there are a couple of options out there for commuters that want total peace of mind. In California, the Irvine based company Spoke Bicycle Insurance specializes in providing auto like insurance for bicyclists, including liability insurance and uninsured motorist’s protection. They also offer extra options for medical payments and roadside assistance. Spoke currently offers insurance to bicyclists in eight states, including its home base of California, and it would like to expand its services to all fifty states. The Portland based Better World Club offers liability insurance for bicyclists and other coverage options either in conjunction with or completely separately from its auto insurance plans. Better World Club offers coverage nationwide.

Bicyclist specific insurance may be especially desirable in the case where a commuter does not own any other vehicles. However, before seeking out an insurance policy, bicyclists should evaluate any current insurance policies to see whether they may already be covered. For instance, a bicyclist that does not own a car may still be covered in some circumstances if they have home or renter’s insurance– and not just for bicycle theft. Many such policies include personal liability coverage for injuries caused to others on or off their residence. In the case of a bicyclist who hits a pedestrian, their personal liability could be covered up to their policy limits by their home/renter’s insurance policy. It is of course important to be aware of what the limits of the policy are and to determine if additional coverage through an inexpensive umbrella policy may be warranted.

However, personal liability insurance that is available as part of a home/renter’s insurance policy will only cover injuries to the other person in the event of an accident. Bicyclists that also own a car may want to review their auto insurance policy to get the most out of their coverage when traveling by bike too. As an example, uninsured motorist’s coverage not only covers injury victims who were struck by an uninsured motorist while driving their car, but also when bicycling or walking. Once again, it is important to review your current policy and discuss it with your provider to see what is and what is not covered.
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