Reckless Cyclist May Face Charges for Fatal Accident
April 7, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

On March 29, San Francisco web entrepreneur Chris Bucchere was returning from a group cycling ride when he struck and killed a 71-year-old pedestrian while "bombing" his bicycle down Castro street and through a crowded crosswalk—at 35 MPH, according to his STRAVA app. "In a nutshell, blammo," is how Bucchere described the incident in a (since deleted) posting to the Mission Cycling Club website. While he noted a "RIVER of blood" from his victim, Bucchere ended his post with a jovial ode to his own "late helmet." As Bucchere tries to scrub his online identity, including posts about fixed-gear bikes, some cyclists are questioning whether riding a fixed-gear bike without brakes may have contributed to the accident.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese (292 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reckless and/or irresponsible operators of mechanical vehicles are a menace.
posted by pts at 2:14 PM on April 7, 2012 [25 favorites]


Yes, it may have.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:14 PM on April 7, 2012


Yeah, fixed gears are stupid, but reckless assholes are even more stupid.
posted by hellslinger at 2:15 PM on April 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


I assume he'll be charged with vehicular homocide.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:15 PM on April 7, 2012 [17 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Ickster at 2:16 PM on April 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


I don't think it matters what he was riding, driving, scooting, rolling, gliding, skating, or big-wheeling down the street. He appeared to be operating his vehicle recklessly and should be prosecuted like any other asshole hit-and-run vehicle operator.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 2:19 PM on April 7, 2012 [72 favorites]


Putting my emotions about this bicyclist and this particular incident completely aside, I'm not sure what I can take away from this story. Many pedestrians are killed every year in the US during interactions with vehicles. We have laws that concern reckless operation of vehicles, such as bicycles. Not all vehicle operators who are involved in accidents that result in injury or loss of life feel remorse.

The incident at hand, on its own, is sad. I'm not sure there is anything else to say.
posted by Nomyte at 2:21 PM on April 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


Oh man... I really should not be in this thread given what's been going on in my day.

But before I bail, I have two thoughts. One is that it is worth questioning why we clamour more loudly to see cyclists charged than we do motorists. The second is that I'm a bit baffled that someone in their right mind would ride a bike without brakes in San Francisco, though it's unclear from the post (which doesn't seem to be the most reliable collection of links to be honest--there's was a Chronicle article about this a few days back that is probably worth hunting down) that that's what happened here.
posted by hoyland at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


How many people are going to look at this story and think "well there you have it, my completely asshole-ish behavior towards bikes when I am in my vehicle is completely justified"? This worries me. Douchebags like this guy fuel the most negative and damaging stereotypes of bicyclists.
posted by MattMangels at 2:22 PM on April 7, 2012 [33 favorites]


Riding anything in San Francisco without brakes is incredibly stupid.

Assholes like this are why people love to hate bicyclists.
posted by ambrosia at 2:23 PM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


According to the sfist link, it wasn't a hit-and-run:
I don't remember the next five minutes but when I came to, I was in a neck brace being loaded into an ambulance.
Also, he didn't just plow through the crowd, he tried to scrub off speed by laying the bike down (semi-controlled crash):
It was commuter hour and it was crowded as all getup. I couldn't see a line through the crowd and I couldn't stop, so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find.
It seems obvious to me that he was riding too fast to be in control of his bike. Brakes may have helped, but he should have stayed within a speed under which he could remain in control.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:24 PM on April 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


One is that it is worth questioning why we clamour more loudly to see cyclists charged than we do motorists.

I don't think this is remotely true. When I've read similar stories about motorists plowing into pedestrians, it usually gets plenty of angry coverage.

Especially when combined with such behavior afterwards.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:24 PM on April 7, 2012 [23 favorites]


One is that it is worth questioning why we clamour more loudly to see cyclists charged than we do motorists.

I've never seen that. Do you have evidence?
posted by Ironmouth at 2:24 PM on April 7, 2012 [27 favorites]


There are so many points in this story where his choice of action was not ok. What made him think that behaving this way was ok?

I'm much less bothered by the type of bike he was riding then, say, his continued recklessness in his public recounting of the whole incident. Or his treating his victim like an incidental object and the exaltation of his helmet. Nevermind going through a crowded intersection at high speed. If you can't stop, you don't just "plow through" the humans. You go down. And I guess he will.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:24 PM on April 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Fixed gear bikes don't have brakes? That seems moronic.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:25 PM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I find it interesting that while the accident is certainly newsworthy, what makes it metafilterworthy is the whole story enfolding from his postings and the social media trail. The things he has said and other people have said about him online are condemning him infront of the internet mob because they display callousness and foolishness.
Otherwise it would be just another terrible traffic accident story.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:25 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


How is it a wheeled vehicle that goes 35MPH doesn't need breaks?
posted by stbalbach at 2:26 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


To elaborate on my rather succinct post, I don't think he's an asshole because he was riding a fixie and made an error in judgement. These things can happen to anyone, no matter how conscientious. I've fortunately never made a mistake as bad as his, but I've made plenty of mistakes that have harmed other people, and those mistakes haunt me regularly.

What makes him an asshole is that he seems to be far more concerned about himself than the person he killed.
posted by Ickster at 2:26 PM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Note also that destruction of evidence is a crime. That includes online postings.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:26 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


One is that it is worth questioning why we clamour more loudly to see cyclists charged than we do motorists.

Well, I lived in San Francisco for about 5 years and as a pedestrian I had way more close calls with almost getting struck by cyclists running red lights and/or blasting through sidewalks without giving the right of way to pedestrians than I had with motor vehicles.
posted by gyc at 2:27 PM on April 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


no matter how conscientious

While true, not sure it applies here. This was the equivalent of killing someone while drag racing or something. The whole thing was a ridiculously bad idea no matter how you look at it, and it goes beyond a simple error / accident.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:28 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Note also that destruction of evidence is a crime. That includes online postings.

Seriously? But isn't it part of his right to remain silent to control what postings of his remain on the net (not a law person, obviously)?
posted by Omnomnom at 2:28 PM on April 7, 2012


Fixed gear bikes don't have brakes? That seems moronic.
That's the point of fixed-gear bikes - they are as mechanically simple as they can be without being a unicycle.
These things can happen to anyone, no matter how conscientious.
No, they don't. People who operate vehicles within their envelope of control don't typically lose control of them. People who operate their vehicles beyond the parameters under which they can remain in control are an accident waiting to happen.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:28 PM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


This guy sounds like a real douchebag.
posted by Infinity_8 at 2:29 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's the point of fixed-gear bikes - they are as mechanically simple as they can be without being a unicycle.

I thought the point of fixed-gear bikes was to have one gear. I had no idea they didn't have brakes. Seems like both of those things could exist on one bike. Anyway, I'm sort of stunned. Because, Jesus. You're riding a bike without brakes. At 35mph. That shouldn't be legal.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:30 PM on April 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


Fixed gear bicycles can be set up either with hand brakes or without. The nature of a fixed gear rear wheel is that pedal movement is coupled to wheel movement, and there are a number of techniques used to slow the bike down, but they are not as effective as hand brakes in most situations.

It is not a given that he would have been able to stop in time in that situation even if he were riding a bicycle with hand brakes, since according to his account of the incident, he entered the intersection on a yellow light. I do not dispute that he was travelling too fast.

Laying the bike down was probably the right choice to make at the time, but it came after a long sequence of questionable choices.
posted by helicomatic at 2:31 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Riding a fixed gear bike in a city without a brake is recklessly stupid. They don't have brakes because their riders live in a fantasy world. They originally didn't have brakes because the bikes were designed to be ridden as fast as possible on a closed track.
posted by polyhedron at 2:33 PM on April 7, 2012 [38 favorites]


Seriously? But isn't it part of his right to remain silent to control what postings of his remain on the net (not a law person, obviously)?

Sure, he could've remained silent...by not posting shit on the internet. Once the evidence is created, it's evidence.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:33 PM on April 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Expanding on the physics of the situation: Riding a fixed gear bike in a hilly city like San Francisco or Seattle (more hills, but less steep than SF) strikes me as a really bad idea. I don't ride fixies myself, but I understand that your only option for braking is by slowing your pedaling rate. That means that you can only slow down using the rear wheel.

If you have a bike with front and rear brakes, find an open area. Get up to speed. Apply the rear brake. Notice how your rear wheel locked up and you started to fishtail? That's bad. Rear braking is the least effective and most dangerous way to brake. Now try the front brake. Notice how you stopped much faster? You might even have tilted forward if you have particularly good brakes. So you don't want to rely only on front or rear wheels. You really need brakes on both for maximum stopping power and control. (Note that this also applies to motorcycles, and a big portion of the MSF safety classes is proper braking)

You don't get that with a fixie. Leave the fixie at the velodrome.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:35 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


It is possible for a skilled cyclist to ride a fixed gear bicycle without hand brakes safely in some cities, but not at 35 miles per hour. I think it's overstating it a bit to call it recklessly stupid in all cases.
posted by helicomatic at 2:36 PM on April 7, 2012


He seems like kind of a jerk who committed a crime.

However the online postings are being purposely taken out of context to paint him the worst way possible. If you read the link, at the time he wrote it the person he hit was expected to survive. And "Blammo" was used to describe the fact that there was a collision in general, not the specific impact with the victim.

But at any rate, his lawyer really really needs to make him shut up until he is in court.
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:37 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The nature of a fixed gear rear wheel is that pedal movement is coupled to wheel movement, and there are a number of techniques used to slow the bike down, but they are not as effective as hand brakes in most situations.

Oh, interesting. I guess I always thought that fixed gear bicycles were like the 1-gear bicycles I had when I was a kid, where there was some sort of ratchet system in the rear hub that allowed you to coast without moving the pedals, and "coaster brakes" that you could activate by apply backward pressure on the pedals.

But going without any sort of brakes at all seems like a bad idea.
posted by jcreigh at 2:38 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought the point of fixed-gear bikes was to have one gear. I had no idea they didn't have brakes. Seems like both of those things could exist on one bike. Anyway, I'm sort of stunned. Because, Jesus. You're riding a bike without brakes. At 35mph. That shouldn't be legal.
Modern street fixies evolved from or are often repurposed fixed gear racing bikes. You don't need a brake on a racing bike because there is plenty of room to slow down after the race. You don't want a brake because it adds mass and does nothing to help you go faster.

Fixes are popular urban bikes because they are simple - easier to maintain and less stuff to break or have stolen. Doesn't mean they shouldn't have brakes, but they tend not to.
posted by b1tr0t at 2:39 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, that context didn't make him look better at all, drjimmy11.
posted by found missing at 2:39 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Is it legal in CA to ride a fixed gear without brakes?
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 2:41 PM on April 7, 2012


But isn't it part of his right to remain silent to control what postings of his remain on the net (not a law person, obviously)?

He can't be compelled to help the prosecution establish the fact to a jury that those are, in fact, his postings, I would think, but I'm not a law person either.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:42 PM on April 7, 2012


A front brake weighs almost nothing and adds very little complexity to the bike. There are plenty of situations where I don't think it's recklessly stupid to ride sans brakes but in a city you're virtually guaranteed to encounter multiple potential collision scenarios daily. Relying upon machismo and a keen eye for aesthetics isn't enough.
posted by polyhedron at 2:44 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


A bike with handbrakes would not stop significantly better at 35MPH.

And the people who think that a fixie is safe because you can stop it by "skid stopping" are deluding themselves.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 2:47 PM on April 7, 2012


Expanding on the physics of the situation: Riding a fixed gear bike in a hilly city like San Francisco or Seattle (more hills, but less steep than SF) strikes me as a really bad idea. I don't ride fixies myself, but I understand that your only option for braking is by slowing your pedaling rate. That means that you can only slow down using the rear wheel.

all track bikes are fixed gear bicycles. not all fixed gear bicycles are track bikes.

my fixed gear bicycle, for instance, has both a front and rear brake (though I did ride for a time without brakes).

proponents of brakeless riding sometimes make the claim that riding brakeless outside of a velodrome actually makes you more aware of your surroundings- that is, you are supposed to anticipate with more rigor any potential dangers. I generally found this to be the case, in my own experience.

however...

as a STRAVA user, my first thought when I saw that he was using STRAVA was that he was trying to post the best time on a segment (STRAVA's social aspect includes public leaderboards, which is actually kind of fun). looks like that stretch of Castro is, indeed, a marked segment, which is absolutely fucking stupid and likely encouraged in some small way his reckless behavior.
posted by One Thousand and One at 2:48 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's also not great for a bunch of residents of a big city to walk around wondering if the speeding bikes have brakes or not.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:49 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


One unfortunate effect of technology is that nowadays, when someone is trying to get himself eliminated from the gene pool through natural selection, he runs a pretty good chance of removing perfectly good genetic specimens along with his own material.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:49 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it possible to do 35mph on a fixie? Seems your cadence would be prohibitively high and you'd have to lift your feet off and let the cranks spin. I suppose it'd be doable if it's geared to do so, but I would assume that fixies in SF are geared pretty low because of the hills.
posted by mandro at 2:49 PM on April 7, 2012


I'm not convinced he was on a fixie - he was known to ride both kinds of bike (from his posts) and he talks about "cruising" through the intersection. There isn't a bicycle where it's safe to go at 35 mph through a yellow light in a crowded area at rush hour. He was just going too fast.
posted by w0mbat at 2:50 PM on April 7, 2012


Now try the front brake. Notice how you stopped much faster? You might even have tilted forward if you have particularly good brakes.

I could swear I've always been told to use the front brake as little as possible because of the likelihood of not just tilting forward, but going endo (which totally, totally scares me).
posted by psoas at 2:51 PM on April 7, 2012


[Hi, if you're not trolling don't start arguments that haven't yet shown up in this thread. If you want to continue to have threads about bicycles, DON'T PRE-FUCK THEM]
posted by jessamyn at 2:51 PM on April 7, 2012 [20 favorites]


I amazed brake-free bikes are legal in SF, and hopefully this incident will spur change. In Ontario, all bikes, whether they are fixed-gear or not, must be equipped "at least one brake system that will make the rear wheel skid on dry pavement", along with a bell, and lights half an hour before sunset (per the Highway Traffic Act). It just seems like common sense legislation.
posted by modernnomad at 2:51 PM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


How can you lay the bike down and plow through the intersection?

He was going through one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in the city (satellite image on Google Maps) at one of the busiest times of the day.

San Francisco Chronicle, Online post recounts how bicyclist hit pedestrian:
Prosecutors are treating the post as having been written by Bucchere, said district attorney's spokesman Omid Talai. The post's author is listed as "Bucchere Chris," and the poster's account is linked to Bucchere's e-mail address.
Cyclist in pedestrian's death says he obeyed laws: "'Chris believes that he entered the intersection lawfully and that he did everything possible to avoid the accident,' [his attorney] said."

But isn't it part of his right to remain silent to control what postings of his remain on the net (not a law person, obviously)?

Hiding his postings seems like guilty behavior to me.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:54 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's bad. Rear braking is the least effective and most dangerous way to brake.

Incredibly obvious on a motorcycle as well. They teach you to use the rear break in MSF classes nowadays but accidentally using it to aggressively (in an emergency) has gotten me into more trouble than it's worth. On a heavy bike, breaking power is 70% front 30% rear or so.

Every other moving vehicle on the road requires brakes. Maybe pedaled bicycles need an update in the DMV code.
posted by dibblda at 2:56 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


"'Chris believes that he entered the intersection lawfully and that he did everything possible to avoid the accident,' [his attorney] said."

I can smell this faint smell in the air. Like a male bovine of some description has relieved its bowels all over this statement.
posted by Talez at 2:56 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rear braking is the least effective and most dangerous way to brake. Now try the front brake. Notice how you stopped much faster? You might even have tilted forward if you have particularly good brakes

Or even somersaulted forward and had your bike land on top of you. Happened once to me. Locking up the front wheel is worse than locking up the rear wheel. Brake with the rear wheel first, then the front wheel, if you don't want to eat some Tarmac.
posted by Skeptic at 2:56 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


stbalbach: "How is it a wheeled vehicle that goes 35MPH doesn't need breaks?"

Fashion is everything.
posted by klanawa at 2:56 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I could swear I've always been told to use the front brake as little as possible because of the likelihood of not just tilting forward, but going endo (which totally, totally scares me).

If you keep your weight toward the rear of the bike it's not usually an issue.
posted by ghharr at 2:57 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]



How can you lay the bike down and plow through the intersection?


It sounds like he didn't lay it down fast enough, or kept some downhill momentum even after he'd laid it down. You can slide/tumble a fair distance even after your ass hits the pavement.


Or even somersaulted forward and had your bike land on top of you. Happened once to me. Locking up the front wheel is worse than locking up the rear wheel. Brake with the rear wheel first, then the front wheel, if you don't want to eat some Tarmac.

Moderation in all things! A lot of people suggest that you practice front-wheel braking until you can do it confidently without going over the handlebars. Because as long as you don't overdo it, it really is the fastest way to stop a bike. But yeah, if you haven't figured out how hard is too hard or how fast is too fast, it's a good way to end up on your face.


Oh, interesting. I guess I always thought that fixed gear bicycles were like the 1-gear bicycles I had when I was a kid, where there was some sort of ratchet system in the rear hub that allowed you to coast without moving the pedals, and "coaster brakes" that you could activate by apply backward pressure on the pedals.

But going without any sort of brakes at all seems like a bad idea.


Well, putting it this way exaggerates the problem somewhat. Actually, a fixie with no handbrake has about the same handling and braking force as a kids' bike with coaster brakes. It's no worse than the kids' bike. The problem is just that it's no better either.

In both cases, you can generate a fair amount of braking force. But you can only apply that force to the back wheel. This means you're less likely to go over the handlebars if you overdo it (which is why kids' bikes are set up this way in the first place) but, as b1tr0t explains, it also means you're also more likely to skid and fishtail and you won't be able to stop suddenly, which makes it bad for people who are planning on riding at high speeds in places with traffic.

And to complicate things further, as lots of other people have pointed out, you really can't do a safe, sudden stop from 35 MPH no matter what you're driving. Regardless of his equipment, at that speed he was bound to wipe out one way or another — either by laying the bike down, by steering himself into a solid object, or by going over the handlebars. He chose to lay the bike down and, ooops, it turns out that wasn't the ideal choice. But really, yeah, the answer is not to ride at that speed in a crowded area, and the debate about fixies — while interesting — isn't really relevant to this particular crash.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:59 PM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


If you keep your weight toward the rear of the bike it's not usually an issue

It was an issue to me, and I had heavy sidebags...
posted by Skeptic at 3:00 PM on April 7, 2012


Well, putting it this way exaggerates the problem somewhat. Actually, a fixie with no handbrake has about the same handling and braking force as a kids' bike with coaster brakes. It's no worse than the kids' bike. The problem is just that it's no better either.

On a fixie with no brakes if your feet come off the pedals you're in a bad spot. At least on a coaster brake bike you don't run the risk of losing the use of your ineffective brakes.
posted by ghharr at 3:02 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Indeed, it doesn't seem like a brake would have changed this situation. The rider wasn't interested in moderating his speed. If he was on a fixie I'd expect that he'd disengaged from his pedals and had no way to stop. 35 MPH downhill is easily attainable on any road bike but is simply insane in a busy city.

STRAVA's probably going to have some liability here.
posted by polyhedron at 3:02 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


nebulawindphone: " Actually, a fixie with no handbrake has about the same handling and braking force as a kids' bike with coaster brakes. It's no worse than the kids' bike. The problem is just that it's no better either."

No, a fixie has no coaster brake like a kids bike. The rider has to use the force of their leg muscles to stop the wheel from rotating. This takes a great deal of skill to do correctly, and is probably impossible under the circumstances described in this report.
posted by klanawa at 3:02 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it legal in CA to ride a fixed gear without brakes?

No, not on a roadway. California Vehicle Code § 21201 (a) says "No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement."
posted by RichardP at 3:03 PM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


A bike with handbrakes would not stop significantly better at 35MPH.

Absolutely wrong. A fixed gear bike with stopped pedals only stops the rear wheel. A front brake would stop this bike considerably faster.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:04 PM on April 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


polyhedron: "STRAVA's probably going to have some liability here."

Strava removes segments flagged as dangerous for exactly this reason. But a lot of riders (myself included) complained that it wasn't effective, because people with axes to grind were flagging all segments in certain places, rendering the site effectively useless. I don't know what their policy is on dangerous segments now.
posted by klanawa at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2012


STRAVA's probably going to have some liability here.

Reminds me of those trucking companies way back when. "We explicitly prohibit you from speeding but that 100 mile run must be there in 70 minutes."

Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more guv'ner.
posted by Talez at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I could swear I've always been told to use the front brake as little as possible because of the likelihood of not just tilting forward, but going endo (which totally, totally scares me).

People have probably told you this; it's common advice among a certain segment of motorcyclists, too. The people who advocate it are, well, idiots. The way to prevent an endo isn't to avoid using the front brake, it's to learn how to apply the front brake gradually but firmly (and to modulate it once you've started braking).

(If you think about it for a second, it's obvious that braking with the front brake is going to be more effective than using the rear brake; as you slow down, more weight transfers to the front of the bike, limiting the amount of traction the rear tire has and thus the ability of the rear brake to affect your speed.)
posted by asterix at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


California Vehicle Code § 21201 (a) says "No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.".

Ah, good. Well this seems like something that would be extremely easy to enforce. Just have officers walk around, and start handing out tickets every time they see a bike without a brake.
posted by modernnomad at 3:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


What a stupid, callous, reckless, horrible person. I'm so sad for the victim and his family.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could swear I've always been told to use the front brake as little as possible because of the likelihood of not just tilting forward, but going endo (which totally, totally scares me).
Give it a try yourself - on flat pavement, with a helmet and pads and no pedestrians around. On my old steel bike, I had to lean far forward in order to make it do an endo / stoppie. In an emergency stop, I could stand up, lean back, and grab hard on the front brake and soft on the rear to minimize stopping distance.

It is possible that the more upright riding posture on a mountain bike combined with a downhill slope makes an endo more likely. But if you are going to ride fast, you should have a good handle on how to stop fast.
Locking up the front wheel is worse than locking up the rear wheel. Brake with the rear wheel first, then the front wheel, if you don't want to eat some Tarmac.
Locking up the front wheel is worse than locking up the read, but it is far easier to recover from either on a bike than a motorcycle. Unless you have huge front discs, it should be easy enough to apply progressive pressure to the front wheel and keep it from locking up. Or maybe I just spent way too much time as a kid riding BMX bikes in urban California and have internalized exceptional bike handling skills (kind of doubtful, though).
I'm not convinced he was on a fixie - he was known to ride both kinds of bike (from his posts) and he talks about "cruising" through the intersection. There isn't a bicycle where it's safe to go at 35 mph through a yellow light in a crowded area at rush hour. He was just going too fast.
Good point, I assumed that he was riding a fixie, but it really isn't clear. Either way, I stand by my point - if you plan on operating a vehicle, it is your responsibility to remain in control of that vehicle. I don't care if it is a bicycle or the Exxon Valdez


Anyway, for Sutchi Hui:

.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well this seems like something that would be extremely easy to enforce. Just have officers walk around, and start handing out tickets every time they see a bike without a brake.

Except you can skid on a fixed gear bike. A rider was ticketed a few years ago in Portland or Seattle and she contested it and they made her prove she could skid. She did it easily. Video was on Youtube a few years ago.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:09 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


35 mph is simply far too high a speed for both cars and bikes on city streets. The limit should be 20 mph (30 km/h), a speed pedestrians can live with. Stopping for traffic signals determines your travel time far more than does your speed, so there is little benefit (but much harm) in "bombing" between red lights.
posted by parudox at 3:10 PM on April 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


it's common advice among a certain segment of motorcyclists, too.

How long do they live?? I've locked the rear wheel coming to a stop more than once. I learned pretty quickly to lay off the rear break.
posted by dibblda at 3:10 PM on April 7, 2012


On a fixie with no brakes if your feet come off the pedals you're in a bad spot.

Or if the chain jumps. Also had that experience, as a 7-year-old. Pretty scary...
posted by Skeptic at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2012


Maybe pedaled bicycles need an update in the DMV code.

That's an understatement.
posted by Panjandrum at 3:11 PM on April 7, 2012


No, a fixie has no coaster brake like a kids bike. The rider has to use the force of their leg muscles to stop the wheel from rotating. This takes a great deal of skill to do correctly, and is probably impossible under the circumstances described in this report.

Right. I know they're mechanically different. But I'm pretty sure you can apply just as much braking force with your legs as the shitty little coaster brake on a kids' bike is capable of applying.

(You're right that there's the extra skill component of keeping up with the pedals, which you do have to worry about on a fixie and not a kids' bike. And at 35MPH it's a safe bet he wasn't keeping up with the pedals. So there is that.)

Anyway, someone with either set of brakes would have been fucked in this situation, because someone with any kind of brakes would have been fucked in this situation, because running a yellow light at 35MPH on a bicycle is a bad idea regardless of the gear you've got.
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:12 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


What makes him an asshole is that he seems to be far more concerned about himself than the person he ...

Definition of asshole, I think.
posted by philip-random at 3:13 PM on April 7, 2012


Putting my emotions about this bicyclist and this particular incident completely aside, I'm not sure what I can take away from this story. Many pedestrians are killed every year in the US during interactions with vehicles. We have laws that concern reckless operation of vehicles, such as bicycles. Not all vehicle operators who are involved in accidents that result in injury or loss of life feel remorse.
There's also a lot of selection bias here. "Driver of car runs into pedestrian" is so common it's not even news. It might not even be in the news if they die, unless it was a noteworthy individual or maybe a slow news day.

On the other hand, we can all agree this guy is a giant asshole.
Well, I lived in San Francisco for about 5 years and as a pedestrian I had way more close calls with almost getting struck by cyclists running red lights and/or blasting through sidewalks without giving the right of way to pedestrians than I had with motor vehicles.
How many pedestrians have been killed by cyclist in the past five years, vs. the number killed by drivers?
Oh, interesting. I guess I always thought that fixed gear bicycles were like the 1-gear bicycles I had when I was a kid, where there was some sort of ratchet system in the rear hub that allowed you to coast without moving the pedals, and "coaster brakes" that you could activate by apply backward pressure on the pedals.
I had a bike like this when I was a little kid. As in, toddler little. It didn't have handbreaks and you just pushed the pedals back to stop. I don't remember if it could coast or not... I think so. I think they assumed toddlers wouldn't be able to get up to a very fast speed.
But isn't it part of his right to remain silent to control what postings of his remain on the net (not a law person, obviously)?
...
Hiding his postings seems like guilty behavior to me.
1) A normal person will feel guilty for killing someone, even if they are not legally liable.
2) Any lawyer will tell their client to take this stuff off the internet. The prosecution will undoubtedly show it in court, but removing it from public view isn't destruction. They still exist, they're just "unpublished." If he is actually deleting them and not keeping records, there could be a legal issue.
posted by delmoi at 3:13 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


As with most everything else bike related, the late Sheldon Brown has a good explanation of effective braking technique (short version: learn use your front break, it does most of the stopping. Endos aren't inevitable, they're the result of doing it wrong).
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:14 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Okay, terminology and facts time:

1. Fixie: A bicycle without a freewheel (the part of the rear hub that lets the rear wheel turn without the pedals turning at the same time). On a fixie, if and only if the pedals are turning, the rear wheel is turning, and vice versa. Due to mechanical constraints, these bikes only have one gear (ratio of pedal speed to wheel speed). A fixie might or might not have brakes - you can stop a fixie by resisting the motion of the pedals. A sane fixie setup has a front brake, because on a brakeless fixie, if the chain snaps or your feet fly off the pedals, you are no longer able to stop the bike.

2. Track bike: A [specialized] fixie that doesn't have brakes and is set up for racing in a velodrome. Braking on a closed course with other riders nearby is incredibly dangerous, so cyclists on a track are not allowed to have brakes. This is probably how the current ridiculous hipster fashion of brakeless fixies got started.

3. Single speed: Visually indistinguishable from a fixie with brakes, a single-speed only has one gear, but does have a freewheel, so pedal and wheel motion are independent. A single-speed bike must have at least one brake to be able to stop. In a sane single-speed setup, you have two brakes in case one fails.

4. Coaster brake: A brake on the rear wheel engaged by pushing backwards on the pedals. This is different from how a brakeless fixie stops - you can't have a coaster brake without a freewheel. A coaster brake is an actual brake mechanism. Because it only works on the rear wheel, it's less effective than other brake types. Common on kid's bikes because kids don't have the hand strength required to actuate handbrakes.

5. Rear vs front braking: The fastest possible stopping speed on a bike is by braking the front wheel hard enough that the rear wheel is just about to lift off the ground. This is about 50% faster than locking the rear wheel and praying. A properly-trained cyclist will not flip over the handlebars in this situation - common errors are to lean forward, fail to brace yourself against the handlebars, or fail to notice the rear wheel lifting. Emergency stopping is a skill that cyclists should practice.

6. Brake: How you spell it, not 'break'.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:15 PM on April 7, 2012 [116 favorites]


you just pushed the pedals back to stop

Coaster Brakes, is the term we're looking for. Not a fixie feature.
posted by Panjandrum at 3:16 PM on April 7, 2012


6. Brake: How you spell it, not 'break'.

People who spell it "break" are loosers.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:17 PM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


I am seriously mystified by the antipathy towards good brakes exhibited by some segments of bike culture. I like fixies, I really do. I even get the appeal of a no-brake track bike, but it's just not the right vehicle for bombing hills. Living in North Vancouver, I loved riding my mountain bike everywhere. It could be pouring rain and I could fly down any hill as fast as gravity and my legs would take me. Light changes half a block from the intersection? No problem. Front and rear 8" rotor, 2 piston hydraulic brakes and 2.5" knobby tires, plus the geometry to use that stopping power without going over the bars allow me to stop without skidding.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 3:17 PM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


em>Hiding his postings seems like guilty behavior to me.

So does refusing to answer questions on the grounds that they may intend to incriminate you. It's a good thing "seeming guilty" isn't a crime.
posted by scalefree at 3:18 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


good stuff, 0xFCAF
posted by b1tr0t at 3:18 PM on April 7, 2012


I could swear I've always been told to use the front brake as little as possible because of the likelihood of not just tilting forward, but going endo (which totally, totally scares me).

You need this.
posted by normy at 3:20 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


In addition, some people stop/slow their bike by applying the bottom of their shoe to the rear wheel. I definitely see some brakeless fixie riders doing this on hills.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:21 PM on April 7, 2012


Fast cars have good brakes. There is a reason for this - the better you can slow down, the faster you can drive. Why does this somehow not apply to cyclists? I've recently started riding a bike a bit, after a break of 10 years or so - the bike I got (a second-hand freebie) doesn't have fantastic brakes, and the lack of decent brakes has psychologically prevented me from going fast on it, or, indeed, down steep hills, until I get those brakes fixed. I'm really struggling to understand the logic behind not wanting the best possible braking system you can have - it's got to be nothing more than fashion and bravado, neither of which should factor into the construction of a vehicle capable of killing people.
posted by Jimbob at 3:23 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I should add that a coaster brake requires a functioning chain to work, so a freewheeled bike that only has a coaster brake (I've seen this on some high-bar fashion bikes) is arguably just as dangerous as a fixie in terms of chain failure making the bike unstoppable. Arguably a geared bike with only a coaster brake is as dangerous than a brakeless fixie, because the odds of a poorly-adjusted derailer dropping the chain off the small chainring (the gears in the front of the bike) are substantially higher than the odds of a fixie having its chain fall off (nearly impossible if set up correctly) or snap (very rare).

Single-speed kid's bikes with coaster brakes, a very common setup as evidenced by this thread, are reasonably safe because:
1. Kid's bikes typically last 2 years and are then thrown away, so chain lifetime isn't an issue.
2. Kids aren't usually going as fast as adults, so a brake with lower stopping power is okay.
3. A properly-adjusted single-speed chain, just like a fixie chain, is nearly impossible to drop from the gears.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:26 PM on April 7, 2012


I was always told to not use *only* my front brakes, and not to push on them suddenly. Is there some reason you shouldn't use front and rear brakes, both?

Also this part of his description is sort of disturbing, though apparently he did not know yet that he had killed the person he hit: "The cops took my bike. Hopefully they'll give it back."

I cannot figure out why, if he was too committed to stop, he was also not able to turn right or left.
posted by jeather at 3:27 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right. I know they're mechanically different. But I'm pretty sure you can apply just as much braking force with your legs as the shitty little coaster brake on a kids' bike is capable of applying.

No, you can't. Regardless of how high or low the gearing on a fixie is, once you're going 35mph it takes a tremendous amount of strength to lock-up the rear wheel. Even if the rider has the strength and proper technique to do this, he's now skidding at 35mph, which is pretty much by definition loosing control of his bike. Think about the times you've been in a car that's skidding, it's not a safe way to stop or slow yourself.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:28 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the terminology, OxFCAF.

My addition to the set of facts is that it's actually fairly easy to stop a bike on a steep downhill from 30-35 mph. I know because I live in a city roughly as hilly as San Francisco, and indeed the ride down to the top of my road gets me up to around 30 mph. As I'm in the middle of the lane and going at the (motor vehicle) speed limit with good sightlines, this is not a big deal. There is a junction about ⅔ of the way down where it's necessary to stop, and that works fine. It's really not hard to scrub off the speed, and I don't need to start braking any earlier than I do in a car.

Sadly, there are plenty of reckless idiots on bikes too, and as it turns out, the top of my road was the site of one of the fewer than 10 pedestrian fatalities in the past decade in the UK caused by a cyclist, all too similar to this situation. It didn't make any other news than the linked article, which I find shocking.
posted by ambrosen at 3:32 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


In addition, some people stop/slow their bike by applying the bottom of their shoe to the rear wheel. I definitely see some brakeless fixie riders doing this on hills.

The legendary Ted Shred.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 3:34 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


as a STRAVA user, my first thought when I saw that he was using STRAVA was that he was trying to post the best time on a segment (STRAVA's social aspect includes public leaderboards, which is actually kind of fun). looks like that stretch of Castro is, indeed, a marked segment, which is absolutely fucking stupid and likely encouraged in some small way his reckless behavior.

Jesus christ.
posted by rtha at 3:35 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


the odds of a fixie having its chain fall off (nearly impossible if set up correctly)

That's kind of a big assumption. I actually helped a guy in front of my house this afternoon with a coaster brake-only SS Cruiser that the chain had fallen off of. Lucky for him it fell off going uphill instead of down!
posted by ghharr at 3:35 PM on April 7, 2012


Right. I know they're mechanically different. But I'm pretty sure you can apply just as much braking force with your legs as the shitty little coaster brake on a kids' bike is capable of applying.

Well, the coaster brake is actually a drum break, so it's using friction rather then trying to apply an oppositional torque. The limit is only dependent on the surface area and pressure of the break mechanism, it's totally unrelated to your own strength.
posted by delmoi at 3:35 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The speed limit on that downhill road is 25mph for cars. He would have been passing traffic at 10mph or more. I wouldn't go 35mph on that road in a car, much less a bicycle. Too many cars and bicyclists and pedestrians ignore traffic signals in that area of SF to permit a safe stop at 35mph.

I can't even give him the benefit of the doubt. GPS livestreaming to a bicycle racing site and not even a hint of concern about his downhill velocity prior to the yellow light? Speeding downhill in excess of his ability to stop safely was both intentional and reckless.

I knew a fixie rider who liked to do this sort of thing in SF. One time, they were bicycling downhill like usual – as fast as possible – and ended up unable to brake. Their feet slipped off the pedals due to a bump in the road, or something, and so they stopped the bike by impacting a solid object at 20mph. Their broken neck vertebrae healed after several months.

Thought experiment: You discover that one of your friends is a bicycle rider (or a car driver) who regularly runs yellow lights, red lights, stop signs – ensuring that someday they will maim or kill a pedestrian. What do you do?
posted by crysflame at 3:36 PM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


I was always told to not use *only* my front brakes, and not to push on them suddenly. Is there some reason you shouldn't use front and rear brakes, both?

In a non-emergency situation, applying your brakes 50/50 or 60f/40r is a fine way to stop. This is sort of like why we train drivers to only work the gas/brake pedals with their right foot, even though on an automatic you could theoretically use both feet without any problems: in an emergency, your impulse is to DO EVERYTHING NOW. On a car this is going to hit the gas and brake at the same time (dumb at best), on a bike, this is going to engage both brakes equally.

When you hit both brakes hard and equally, you will almost always skid the rear wheel and fishtail (this fishtailing is very minor if you're going straight). This isn't the end of the world if you're going on a straight line, but significantly impairs your ability to turn without wiping out. The ideal is that, in an emergency, you do a proper full-front stop, putting all your weight back and hitting the front brake as hard as possible.

On my commute, if there's no one behind me, this is how I stop at every stoplight - do a practice emergency stop from ~20 mph -> 5 mph, but last week when I did have to do an emergency stop, I still hit both brakes and locked the rear wheel. Not my proudest moment!

On preview: I actually helped a guy in front of my house this afternoon with a coaster brake-only SS Cruiser that the chain had fallen off of. - that's pretty scary. Was the chain tension set up correctly in the first place? How were you able to get it back on?
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:38 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm fine. The pedestrian I clobbered? Not so much.

rageface.jpg
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:41 PM on April 7, 2012


From the sfist:
...Although he [Bucchere] expressed some well wishes for the elderly victim who was expected to survive at the time but later died, Bucchere ended his note with an ode to his headgear, writing: "In closing, I want to dedicate this story to my late helmet. She died in heroic fashion today as my head slammed into the tarmac... The moral of this little story is: WYFH." Or, in other words: Wear your fucking helmet — a sentiment other commenters doubted, responding: "I'm not sure that's the moral of the story."
Speaks for itself, doesn't it?
posted by anewnadir at 3:42 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's really not hard to scrub off the speed, and I don't need to start braking any earlier than I do in a car.

ambrosen, using what kind of brakes?
posted by crysflame at 3:44 PM on April 7, 2012


On front vs. rear braking - I've always ridden bikes with VERY good brakes. I also ride a motorcycle and use the front brake on all stops (as well as the rear brake.) I've never come anywhere near doing an endo due to braking. (Now taking the bike down a drop I had no business trying to, well that's another story, but the brakes never had a chance to be a factor.)

It all comes down to this, though - it doesn't matter what you are driving. You must keep control at all times and not put yourself in situations you can't get out of. He did neither of those things.
posted by azpenguin at 3:47 PM on April 7, 2012


to sir with millipedes: "A bike with handbrakes would not stop significantly better at 35MPH."

Think of it this way: one bicycle with front and rear brakes, and one with only rear brakes, are travelling at 35mph and attempt to come to a full stop simultaneously. Which bicycle is going to stop first?

The bike with only a rear brake is the fixie.
posted by mullingitover at 3:48 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hiding his postings seems like guilty behavior to me.

So does refusing to answer questions on the grounds that they may intend to incriminate you. It's a good thing "seeming guilty" isn't a crime.


In the case of Dharun Ravi, convicted for spying on the sex life of his gay roommate (who committed suicide), he was also convicted of "witness and evidence tampering — for deleting or altering texts and tweets — invasion of privacy, hindering apprehension" by lying to police, etc. So there's precedent, if not in the same state.

(life lesson for assholes: don't talk about your asshole activities on public Internet sites accessible by MILLIONS OF PEOPLE. Unless your name is Tucker Max I guess.)
posted by nicebookrack at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The speed limit on that downhill road is 25mph for cars.
Not just cars, right? I believe that cyclists are legally obligated to obey all posted signs, just like automobilists, aren't they?
posted by Flunkie at 3:50 PM on April 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


If you're travelling at ten miles over the speed limit on a steep hill approaching an intersection and the light turns yellow, you may not have time to stop in the distance and time remaining, even with hand brakes.

The problem isn't one of mechanics, it's one of recklessness.
posted by helicomatic at 3:52 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could swear I've always been told to use the front brake as little as possible because of the likelihood of not just tilting forward, but going endo (which totally, totally scares me).

THIS IS EXACTLY INCORRECT. What you were told is the opposite of what is true.

I know it's been said several times already in this thread, but it's important enough to bear repeating: All your braking power is in the front brake. The harder you are braking, the more true this becomes. You will not go over the handlebars. You will stop.

In a full panic stop on dry asphalt or concrete, if you grab the rear brake, you will skid and not stop. If you grab the front brake, you will stop.

For the safety of yourself and those around you, I urge any cyclist not comfortable with using the front brake to become comfortable doing so, as soon as they can.
posted by pts at 3:55 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


Not just cars, right?

Uh, right.
posted by crysflame at 3:56 PM on April 7, 2012


One is that it is worth questioning why we clamour more loudly to see cyclists charged than we do motorists.

Well, I lived in San Francisco for about 5 years and as a pedestrian I had way more close calls with almost getting struck by cyclists running red lights and/or blasting through sidewalks without giving the right of way to pedestrians than I had with motor vehicles.


Yup. This gets people extra riled because a lot of us---myself emphatically included---have had more close calls with reckless bicyclists than reckless drivers. And because when a driver kills someone, everyone just says "that's horrible", but when a bicyclist kills someone, certain dips leap onto the internet to whine that its terrible to think that this might lead to bicyclists being regarded poorly.

If bicycles are going to be a major transportation alternative---and I hope they will be---they need to be treated like any other form of transport: regulated strictly, with severe punishment for safety violations. Anyone riding a bicycle the wrong way down a one-way street, riding without brakes, or speeding in a bike lane should get ticketed; enough offenses, and you should lose your license to bike. The cowboy culture of bicyclists is going to end, it's just a question of how many people have to die first.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:57 PM on April 7, 2012 [20 favorites]


For the safety of yourself and those around you, I urge any cyclist not comfortable with using the front brake to become comfortable doing so, as soon as they can.

Is there some reason we should use only the front brake? Can't we just use both the front and rear brakes?
posted by jeather at 3:59 PM on April 7, 2012


certain dips leap onto the internet to whine that its terrible to think that this might lead to bicyclists being regarded poorly

It's important that the actions of a few idiots be accepted as being universal among all people that share some a common characteristic with those idiots, goddamnit.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:03 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Q: Is there some reason we should use only the front brake?
A: to become comfortable doing so
posted by crysflame at 4:05 PM on April 7, 2012


delmoi: "How many pedestrians have been killed by cyclist in the past five years, vs. the number killed by drivers?"

How many bicycles are on the road as compared to the number of automobiles?

This whole thing is contentious enough without false comparisons.
posted by jgaiser at 4:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


So does refusing to answer questions on the grounds that they may intend to incriminate you. It's a good thing 'seeming guilty' isn't a crime.

Good thing I didn't say he committed a crime.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:09 PM on April 7, 2012


All your braking power is in the front brake. The harder you are braking, the more true this becomes. You will not go over the handlebars. You will stop.

In a full panic stop on dry asphalt or concrete, if you grab the rear brake, you will skid and not stop. If you grab the front brake, you will stop.


I have endo'd a friend's singlespeed by panic stopping front brake only. Car made a sudden right turn and cut me off, I hit the front brake real hard and went over the handlebars. So it is possible. That being said, yes, two brakes is better than 1 rear brake, which is essentially what a track bike has when ridden by someone who knows what they're doing. Full disclosure - I have a beautiful 80s Pagani brakeless track bike. I ride it occasionally. Anyone who would ride brakeless in San Francisco is nuts.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:10 PM on April 7, 2012


I was just out the other day when another cyclist passed me going way too fast, then lost control and crashed straight into a third cyclist. Both left in an ambulance -- fortunately, just with broken bones. It's way too easy to buy a racing bike and go way faster than you can safely control, even with no hill involved. I love bikes, but I seriously think every cyclist should have to take a skills test. And police need to crack down on cyclists doing obviously unsafe things. No brakes? You should get a ticket!
posted by miyabo at 4:11 PM on April 7, 2012


Brakes may have helped

And it sounds like you'd need a bike with disk brakes, not just the regular pinch-da-rim style or the old coaster-lock style.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:11 PM on April 7, 2012


This legitimately made me stop and wonder whether my own life will someday be ended in 2060 by adherents of some cool subculture.
posted by steinsaltz at 4:11 PM on April 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


But if there is no reason not to use both brakes, why wouldn't I want to regularly use both?
posted by jeather at 4:15 PM on April 7, 2012


Is there some reason we should use only the front brake? Can't we just use both the front and rear brakes?

Yes. Please read the Sheldon Brown article posted multiple times in this article if you'd like to learn more about these reasons.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 4:16 PM on April 7, 2012


The guy was riding recklessly, didn't obey the rules of the road and a man died as a result. What he posted afterwards showed that he was an ass, but isn't relevant. He broke the law and should be punished accordingly.

. For Suchi Hui and my condolences to his family.
posted by arcticseal at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


This legitimately made me stop and wonder whether my own life will someday be ended in 2060 by adherents of some cool subculture.

If by 'cool subculture' you mean drone pilots - then yes it will be quite possible.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well, the coaster brake is actually a drum break, so it's using friction rather then trying to apply an oppositional torque. The limit is only dependent on the surface area and pressure of the break mechanism, it's totally unrelated to your own strength.

Okay, so when you're braking on a bike, you're depending on two things:

1) The force which the braking mechanism exerts on the wheel to stop it from moving.

2) The force of friction between the wheel and the pavement, which is what actually stops the bike from going forwards.

Different braking mechanisms may differ in terms of (1). But it doesn't matter! They're all good enough! Handbrakes can bring a spinning bike wheel to a full standstill pretty damn quickly. So can coaster brakes. So can a sufficiently strong set of legs on the pedals of a fixie. If you're capable of exerting enough force to make the rear wheel skid, you have everything in column (1) that you need, full stop, and at that point differences between braking mechanisms just don't make a practical difference.

The real limiting factor is (2). Once you've stopped the wheel spinning, how quickly will the bike stop moving forwards? And this depends on which wheel you're applying braking force to. If you're just applying it to the rear wheel, there probably won't be enough weight over the wheel to keep you from skidding. (This is an equally big problem for fixies and for bikes with coaster brakes.) If you're applying it to both wheels, you're less likely to skid and more likely to stop quickly.

If you're skilled and strong enough to do a skid stop on a fixed gear bike, it's no worse than using a coaster brake would be (though neither is as effective as a set of handbrakes used correctly).

posted by nebulawindphone at 4:19 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is probably how the current ridiculous hipster fashion of brakeless fixies got started.

I hope these assholes find it fashionable to go without helmets next. Would make natural selection more efficient, especially in this case.
posted by chomarui at 4:21 PM on April 7, 2012


How many bicycles are on the road as compared to the number of automobiles?

In UK data, cycling accounts for 1% of vehicle miles travelled (cite) and 0.6% of pedestrian fatalities (cite). Though this isn't an apples-to-apples comparison, as many of those motor vehicle miles are on highways that have no pedestrians. Taking those miles out would make it clear that per-mile, cycling is less dangerous to pedestrians in urban areas than is driving.
posted by parudox at 4:21 PM on April 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Can someone define "endo" as well? From what I can gather via a Google search, it's a term used by certain motorcycle people. I've been a longtime road bike cyclist (not a street rider, given a lack of bike lines near where I'm living) and owned a Vespa for four years, and I haven't the foggiest notion of what the hell an "endo" is.
posted by raysmj at 4:24 PM on April 7, 2012


crysflame, an ordinary set of rim brakes works fine as long as the brake arms are metal and the wheels are alloy. I'd guess that this $150 bike is the cheapest in Walmart's range that would do it easily. My own (main) bike's a 10 year old off the shelf midrange urban bike which I maintain in a fairly slapdash manner, but the brakes are really no effort to keep working fine.
posted by ambrosen at 4:27 PM on April 7, 2012


The rear brake is useful for slowing down but you will fishtail and probably crash if you jam down on it in a panic. The front brake is best for stopping, but you can endo (fly over or around the handlebars) if you are silly. If you can balance yourself on the bike, you should be able to quickly learn the habits of using your front brake safely (c.f. Sheldon Brown's very fine article).

Another braking technique I used on my old BMX is to stick one foot crosswise on the front wheel behind the forks, jamming it and halting the whole works. I practiced this for low-speed tricks but once had to do it after bombing down a steep hill (off-road) when little else I tried to control the bike worked. I landed in the dirt, winded, soon to be very bruised, but otherwise uninjured. I got lucky. Luckier as I was alone so while no one else was endangered by what I was doing, and not so hurt that I couldn't get home on my own after a bit of rest.

The stunt this guy did was deeply selfish, negligent, irresponsible, disrespectful and recklessly dangerous for everyone sharing the road with him. He got unlucky, and worse, hurt someone who didn't consent to be in the race.
posted by wobh at 4:27 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can someone define "endo" as well?

Crashing by going over the handlebars.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:28 PM on April 7, 2012


delmoi: Well, the coaster brake is actually a drum break, so it's using friction rather then trying to apply an oppositional torque. The limit is only dependent on the surface area and pressure of the break mechanism, it's totally unrelated to your own strength.

Read the Sheldon Brown article on braking that normy posted. It is easy to overcome the friction of rear wheel with pavement on either a coaster brake or on a fixed gear. For the purpose of emergency stopping power they are completely equivalent. Well, equivalent with one exception.. Fixed gear bikes are designed and ridden to go fast. Coaster brakes are safe because people don't go fast on coaster brake bikes.

[???]: The legendary Ted Shred.

YouTube comments rarely get things this right:
I think we're all a little dumber for having watched this.

crouchingturbo 1 year ago 20

Just to reiterate the general point.. If you are going to go fast (say over 20km/h or 12mph), you need a front brake. Your front brake should be your only break for day to day or emergency use. Your rear brake is only for front brake failures (either outright cable failure, or because friction between the brake pads and braking surface is reduced for some reason).
Technically, Sheldon Brown lists a couple of other scenarios for using the rear brake. The one I find most interesting is bumpy terrain.. Let's not digress into semantics though.


My two worst falls were from braking at the limit:

Once on a recreational trail..
I was exercising, so I was going fast (at least for me). A family was coming the other direction, seeing that there were kids and generally there was a crowd I slowed down a lot. As I was starting to pass them I hit the acceleration hard again, because all seemed clear. At that same moment their little boy headed my way across the centre line, so I gripped hard and went over. Panic is bad :)

Once on a slightly blind curve..
I was going pretty fast and realized that a road obstruction ahead wasn't going to clear. I applied the brakes to the point that my rear wheel was definitely off the ground. Still in control I eased off to settle the back wheel again. Then I realized I just wasn't going to stop in time so I was back on the break, and aimed around the bumper of the car in my path. I managed to stop somewhere around the doors of the car, but I fell because the front wheel finally locked up.

Which brings up a technical way to look at the over the handlebar problem..
For constant braking force, as your speed goes down, the wheel is going to come to a point where it will lock. If you still have enough energy, you will flip over the bars at this point. If you don't have enough energy you'll just jerk to a stop. Of course this doesn't normally come up, because you normally modulate braking force as speed changes. Not even really a learned thing, it is as natural as riding a bike in the first place.


People who ride fast really need to practice breaking. No, really! And by my estimation fast isn't nearly as fast as you might think. 20km/h or 12mph is a good dividing line.
posted by Chuckles at 4:31 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is a textbook example of someone going over the handlebars cause they hit the front brake too hard.
posted by nathancaswell at 4:31 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fixed-gear aspect is a red herring. The problem is with a culture of machismo in cycling and on the road in general, which encourages speed and aggression. And the way we force cyclists to compete with cars in an uneven battle for space is a big reason for that machismo.

Cut the speed, cut the aggression, and advocate for street layouts that are safe and pleasant for every transport mode. Don't get caught up in the technical details that ultimately do not matter.
posted by parudox at 4:33 PM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


The term "endo" is from "end over end".
posted by w0mbat at 4:33 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The fixed-gear aspect is a red herring.

We know!

I think the fixed-gear conversation has turned into a debate between bike nerds (or physic nerds) on what's the best way to ride safely (or calculate braking power). At this point I don't see anyone trying to claim that better gear would have prevented this particular accident.

posted by nebulawindphone at 4:38 PM on April 7, 2012


I'm a life-long cyclist and this guy needs to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for vehicular manslaughter or something similar.

And if this prosecution happens I hope it sends a strong message to the hipster urban fixed gear crowd with an attitude problem and death wish.

I know most of them truly don't give a shit about what anyone else thinks, but this culture of aggressive/lawless riding is seriously fucking bad for cycling in general. I'm tired of getting shit from drivers and pedestrians alike due to the actions and attitudes of these particularly careless assholes who treat their bikes like lifestyle and fashion accessories.

Especially now that I ride a bike that kind of looks like a converted fixed gear urban assault vehicle with flat bars and skinny tires, even though it has front and rear brakes and a 27 speed gear set, even though I ride in a calm, responsible manner.

I've noticed that people see me riding and I get a lot of looks of fear like I'm suddenly going to start launching off of stairs or start riding like an asshole even though I'm a mellow and careful rider. It's a different reaction than what I used to get on a slower-looking bike like a basic fat-tired mountain bike.

In all my life of cycling I've only come close to striking a pedestrian once, and this was years and years ago. I was chasing down a bus I needed to catch in urban traffic and trying to get ahead of the bus to get to a stop in front of it. This was already stupid. As was trying to pass the bus on the right in the gutter/shoulder of this crowded street.

As was trying to (carefully) blow the light that the bus was stopped at so I could get to the bus stop across the street.

At the last possible second I noticed the pedestrian crossing in front of me from left to right in front of the bus. I only noticed them because I could see through the side windows of the bus and out through the front windows. As soon as I saw the moving pedestrian I locked up my brakes so hard I endo'ed and intentionally crashed into the side of the (stationary) bus to kill the rest of my speed and keep from completing the endo, coming to a standing stop on my feet just inches from the front of the bus and the crosswalk.

I scared the crap out of that poor lady, who basically came into view around the front of the bus just as I was untangling myself from my endo and half-crash. I apologized profusely and told her I'd never even come close to hitting someone with my bike and I wasn't about to start now, that I was basically ready to literally throw myself under the bus to keep that from happening.

I decided that that was never going to happen again, to never trust blind corners, to not pass buses on the right in the gutter, or risk blowing lights like that. I'm really heavy/dense for my size and I could easily kill someone with my bike even in the 20-30 MPH range. (Rough calculations tell me this is about 12000 joules, which is quite a lot of energy to deliver in an impact.)
posted by loquacious at 4:42 PM on April 7, 2012 [19 favorites]


Yeah, that article states that you should use the front brake only, but doesn't appear to explain why you cannot stop short safely using both brakes.

The fastest that you can stop any bike of normal wheelbase is to apply the front brake so hard that the rear wheel is just about to lift off the ground. In this situation, the rear wheel cannot contribute to stopping power, since it has no traction.

So using the rear brake doesn't help, but it's not clear to me how it hurts. The linked rec.bicycles faq suggests using both in a 3:1 ratio, as does the bicycling street smarts article.
posted by jeather at 4:43 PM on April 7, 2012


jeather, as I explained above, if you use the rear brake in a situation where the rear wheel is about to lift off the ground, the rear wheel will skid and you will experience a reduction in control. Does that make sense?
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:44 PM on April 7, 2012


I think the fixed-gear conversation has turned into a debate between bike nerds (or physic nerds) on what's the best way to ride safely (or calculate braking power).

Eh, sorry to dig the "argh, fixie riders" argument back up again, but I've met too many of them that have serious deathwishes and a lack of care for their actions and attitudes.

As a cyclist, it's galling and chafing.

No, man. Just no. Skinny pants and getting drunk on PBR and riding your brakeless fixed gear aggressively doesn't make you more cool.
posted by loquacious at 4:46 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, braking:

In the real world the most effective braking is a mix of front and rear brakes. About 60-70 percent front to rear, in ratio. I don't know anyone who only brakes with the front and keeps the rear as a reserve like Sheldon Brown talks about.
posted by loquacious at 4:48 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


The fixed-gear aspect is a red herring.

If it turns out that his fixed gear bicycle had a front hand brake, then you are right. If it did not, then it is absolutely relevant. If he was riding his bicycle at those speeds without a front hand brake he made a wilful a priori decision to risk himself and those around him, no other details of the event need be considered.
posted by Chuckles at 4:50 PM on April 7, 2012


nebulawindphone, the junction of Castro and Market is 40 metres wide, proper use of the front brake can slow a bike down at about 0.6g, and the bike was going about 35 mph.

So it could have stopped about halfway across the junction.

loquacious, I don't think I use my back brake in day to day use. Except on my mountain bike, because my front disk brake squeals like anything under light braking.
posted by ambrosen at 4:55 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Note also that destruction of evidence is a crime. That includes online postings.

Seriously? But isn't it part of his right to remain silent to control what postings of his remain on the net (not a law person, obviously)?


No. He didn't remain silent at all. He talked. He did not exercise that right. Furthermore, the right to remain silent pertains to his questioning by police or the DA.

Guy is an idiot who will go to jail. And should go to jail. His reckless indifference ended the life of someone else.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:00 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


California Vehicle Code § 21201 (a) says "No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement."

FYI I've been drafting updates to our state bicycle law this week, including taking a look at the brake statutes, and it turns out that this "make a wheel skid" standard is a pretty bad one, though common in U.S. city and state traffic law.

The reason is that skidding isn't a sign of particularly effective brakes. What makes the rear brake skid on a bicycle (or motorcycle) is that as you apply brakes, front or back, weight shifts forward towards the front wheel--and simultaneously off of the rear wheel.

As soon as enough weight has shifted off the rear wheel it de-weights and basically starts to lift off the ground a little and so as it de-weights it starts to skid.* At that point the stopping power of the rear wheel is pretty close to nil. It is skittering across the stop of the ground with scarcely any downward force on it at all.

So the rear wheel skidding is a sign of that wheel's brake becoming essentially useless from there on out and not a sign of the 'strength' or effectiveness of much of anything. CF the physics of static vs sliding friction.

A better standard for bicycle brakes, though still not perfect, is from the Uniform Vehicle Code:
Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake or brakes which will enable its driver to stop the bicycle within 15 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.
This has some potential problems, too, but at least it makes some kind of requirement as to how well the bicycle's brakes work rather than just how well they fail.

It also takes the spotlight off of what particular device is causing the braking and onto how effective the braking is. For example a fixie certainly has a braking mechanism--every fixie rider slows down by resisting the pedal motion to slow the bike. The question isn't whether it can brake--it can--but whether this braking mechanism is effective enough to stop the bike safely. As others have pointed out above, the fact that a fixie can skid is not a good indication of whether or not it has sufficient braking power to operate safely.

Reference.

And FYI it's not really that easy to draft a bicycle brake statute of complete universal applicability because it must fit everything from small kids' bikes, where a relatively weak rear coaster brake is a perfectly reasonable option even though it is pretty weak (but the bike+kid doesn't weigh much and won't be going that fast, either, and children aren't going to have the hand size or strength to operate a better type of brake), to fast racing bikes, fixies, tandems, and everything in between. Some of those had better have decent stopping power when descending a steep mountain pass at 50 mph and others had just better not go 50 mph (or even 25 mph) under any circumstances . . .

*Note: Informal discussion/loose language warning. If you'd like to have a technically correct physics discussion of the forces involved, feel free.
posted by flug at 5:03 PM on April 7, 2012 [13 favorites]


nathancaswell: "Here is a textbook example of someone going over the handlebars cause they hit the front brake too hard."

Also a textbook example of careless riding. It pains me to say this, but the proportion of idiotic cyclists riding beyond their abilities is probably just as high as idiotic drivers driving beyond their abilities.
posted by wierdo at 5:04 PM on April 7, 2012


In central LA it's not so much hipsters riding brakeless fixies, it's mostly teenagers. Largely boys (though not entirely). I once sat next to a couple of them with their (brakeless) bikes on the red line where they went on about how brakes are for the weak. It was as if their masculinity was tied to the presence of a hand brake. And here's where me and my cranky 30 yo bike friends wonder wtf to do. In the way that smoking is "cool", riding brakeless is cool to some people. On the one hand, it's awesome that so many kids are excited about bikes. On the other, when I see some boy struggling to stop his bike at a light, he is usually riding brakeless. Not to mention riding brakeless is another reason for the cops to give the kid a ticket, which is a whole other discussion.

Based on what kids yell out to me when I'm riding around LA (on my geared bike), I think for a certain subpopulation, fixie is another word for bike at this point. They're, relatively speaking, cheap and easy to maintain (yeah yeah yeah, chain tension). Components cost $.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


nebulawindphone, the junction of Castro and Market is 40 metres wide, proper use of the front brake can slow a bike down at about 0.6g, and the bike was going about 35 mph.

Fair enough. Maybe the gear debate is relevant to the story after all. I still think he was going irresponsibly fast for a busy city street, but it's possible that a good enough rider with good enough gear could have handled the situation.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:11 PM on April 7, 2012


(As long as we're talking about the word 'endo'--the way BMX/freestyle/trials/etc. riders use it, it doesn't imply crashing.)
posted by box at 5:24 PM on April 7, 2012


This and the other death over on 18th and Hartford make me extra skerred in our sketchy scary intersections. (I am a resident slash daily pedestrian of the neighborhood.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:36 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


(plus lots of times I am walking two dogs, which adds to the anxiety/experience
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:37 PM on April 7, 2012


The guy was riding recklessly, didn't obey the rules of the road and a man died as a result. What he posted afterwards showed that he was an ass, but isn't relevant. He broke the law and should be punished accordingly.

Actually it's extremely relevant to state of mind and intent, which could very well be the difference between gross negligence vs. regular negligence. In not-lawyer speak, that's 2 to 4 years, vs. 4 to 10 years.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:38 PM on April 7, 2012


Are people operating under the illusion that drivers who kill pedestrians get charged with crimes? In 2011, 91% of the drivers who killed pedestrians in the Bay area weren't charged with anything.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:40 PM on April 7, 2012 [25 favorites]


I only use the front brake on my motorcycle because it forces me to use it in emergency situations. Closest (knock on wood) I've come to going down was when I got into a fish-tailing skid because of rear-brake lockup and almost reached the limit of my steering lock (not a concern on a bicycle, I don't think).

Front brakes are good. You can use them surprisingly hard if applied in a controlled fashion.
posted by maxwelton at 5:42 PM on April 7, 2012


Well, putting it this way exaggerates the problem somewhat. Actually, a fixie with no handbrake has about the same handling and braking force as a kids' bike with coaster brakes. It's no worse than the kids' bike. The problem is just that it's no better either.

Totally incorrect, as others have pointed out. Coaster brakes have lots of mechanical advantage.

On the other hand, trying to stop a fixed gear bike through sheer force of will is impossible. You can only apply as much force as you weigh, and when stopping, the large tire spinning the small gear spinning the larger gear puts you at a tremendous mechanical disadvantage. The bike will push your feet whether you like it or not.

Watch the video- the guy is going pretty slowly and still travels pretty far in the skid. That's because he has next to no weight on the rear tire. If you try that at speed, you will fall before you stop.
posted by gjc at 5:49 PM on April 7, 2012


You can only apply as much force as you weigh

This isn't true at all. Perhaps if you're riding breakless fixed without toe-clips or clipless pedals (which I'm sad to say I've seen multiple times), but it's certainly not the norm.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 5:56 PM on April 7, 2012


Strava removes segments flagged as dangerous for exactly this reason. But a lot of riders (myself included) complained that it wasn't effective, because people with axes to grind were flagging all segments in certain places, rendering the site effectively useless. I don't know what their policy is on dangerous segments now.

ANY segment where the best posted times can only have been achieved by exceeding the speed limit on that segment are evidence of dangerous riding on the face of it. They are proof of illegal riding. All of these segments should be removed. The interest in this website doesn't trump the law.

For me, though, having spent a fair amount of time in San Francisco, the initial damning part of the statement is the words "web entrepreneur".

If you keep your weight toward the rear of the bike it's not usually an issue.

You're saying I have a fat ass, aren't you?
posted by Fnarf at 6:05 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are people operating under the illusion that drivers who kill pedestrians get charged with crimes? In 2011, 91% of the drivers who killed pedestrians in the Bay area weren't charged with anything.

I'll bet the percentage is considerably higher when the pedestrian is in a crowd of people crossing the street, and the car is going 35 through that intersection.
posted by Fnarf at 6:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [7 favorites]


Bucchere ends his account by dedicating the story "to my late helmet."

To repeat: Christ what an *.
posted by ericb at 6:24 PM on April 7, 2012


One Thousand and One writes "as a STRAVA user, my first thought when I saw that he was using STRAVA was that he was trying to post the best time on a segment (STRAVA's social aspect includes public leaderboards, which is actually kind of fun). looks like that stretch of Castro is, indeed, a marked segment, which is absolutely fucking stupid and likely encouraged in some small way his reckless behavior."

If those leader boards are for roads open to the public then they are straight up aiding and abetting street racing.
posted by Mitheral at 6:46 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Just for the record: I misspelled "homicide" above (and feel like an idiot for it). I looked it up, and here's California law:
In the state of California, depending on the degree of recklessness and whether alcohol was involved, a person could be charged with progressively more serious offenses: vehicular manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or second-degree murder. In any of these cases, the prosecution must prove that the driver committed some wrongful act (which could be a felony, a misdemeanor, an infraction, or a lawful act that might cause death) and that the wrongful act caused the accident and the death of the victim. Murder charges are usually reserved for the most egregious cases, such as a convicted DUI offender who drives recklessly and while intoxicated and thereby causes a fatal accident.
I think his behavior qualifies as "a lawful act which that might cause death", at the very least, so I suspect our friend is going to spend a rather long time behind bars.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:59 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This sounds like a legal fiasco in the making.
posted by Meatafoecure at 7:23 PM on April 7, 2012


I've read all the news stories about this accident and there isn't a clear indication of what kind of bike he was riding, everyone seems to assume he was on a track or fixed gear bike.

If the STRAVA data is accurate and he was going 35mph, it seems extremely unlikely to me he was on a track bike. Hill or no hill you are bound to the speed of your gear ratio, to hit that speed you would need something like 52:13 (105.2 gear inches) at a cadence between 110-115 rpm. That's what dudes racing in the Worlds pull on a velodrome, not what a (no offense) pudgy looking programmer from SF takes out on his morning group ride in Marin. It's tough to ride that ratio on a flat, it's hard as fuck to take up a hill and terrifying to take down. Spinning out downhill (hitting the max speed/rpm of your gear ratio) is a scary, out-of-control feeling on a reasonably geared track bike (70-80 gear inches) and would most certainly been happening to him at this speed well before he got to the intersection. Unless he was a pro-lever rider or a very, very competent messenger most weekend-warrior type riders would be too nervous to go this fast in traffic on a fixed gear.

Now, the ratio he would need for that speed is very common as the bottom gear of newer road bikes on which its much easier to achieve 35mph and feel in control of your machine. This seems much more likely, especially considering it's far more appropriate equipment for the group ride he was supposedly returning from.

Either way, he was reckless in operating his bicycle regardless of type and speed. If STRAVA is wrong and he was going slower, his clear disregard for the safety and well-being of his victim and others makes him a huge asshole. I hope he gets the book thrown at him.
posted by fidgets at 7:30 PM on April 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's very sad, and dude's lack of utterly abject and sincere remorse are going to at least double his sentence.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:34 PM on April 7, 2012


It's strange, if this happened here on the east coast there would already be talk of heavy safety regulations...but that being said cycling isn't nearly as popular this way so easier to enforce. I cannot fathom what this guy was thinking while travelling at those speeds near pedestrian traffic...bike or any kind of vehicle.
posted by samsara at 7:37 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


How would you react if you killed someone in an accident? Yeah he's a "jerk," but from his actions post-accident it looks like he may not be dealing with this well. I worry for him. Too bad he didn't have some good, perceptive friends who picked up on this and who could have helped him moderate his behavior afterward. We love to hate the guy who just doesn't give a shit about people, but are you really sure that's what this story is?
posted by victory_laser at 7:50 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


If the STRAVA data is accurate and he was going 35mph, it seems extremely unlikely to me he was on a track bike. Hill or no hill you are bound to the speed of your gear ratio, to hit that speed you would need something like 52:13 (105.2 gear inches) at a cadence between 110-115 rpm.

Others have pointed this out, and it is a really good point. It is hard to see how he could possibly have been riding a fixie.

I have to wonder about your numbers though.. Surely even pudgy programmers can spin at 125 fairly comfortably? I'm not cool enough for a fixie myself, and I know it changes things when you are strapped in and have no choice, but for me 125-130 is really not that big of a deal. It doesn't explain the discrepancy, but I think you should be erring on the side of caution when you make these statements.

In fact, let's do some more explicit math...
C = wheel circumference
about 2.15 meters

v = 55km/h

RPMwheel = 55km/h / 2.15m /60
=426.4

RPMwheel/RPMcrank = required gear ratio
426.4/120 = 3.55
So by my figuring 52/15 or even 52/16. Anything lighter than that and the cranks are spinning really fast.

Can anybody comment on what ratios typical SF fixie riders use?
posted by Chuckles at 8:16 PM on April 7, 2012


I'm going to reserve passing judgement on this one until more facts come to light. As fidgets posted, it seems extremely unlikely that the guy was riding a fixie at 35 MPH, so I smell FUD. Also, I think any cyclist in a crowded urban setting can attest to the fact that pedestrians can be really, really dumb when it comes to bikes moving at speed. People see a cyclist coming towards them and time their jaywalking as if it were a retarded duck limping up the street, as opposed to a 200 lb. object traveling at 20+ MPH with finite braking and swerving ability. I say this as a cyclist whose kung-fu swerving technique has probably saved at least one pedestrian's life.
posted by GIFtheory at 8:29 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I should take the circumference at 2130mm (for 25mm tires), that seems most likely. At 2130mm, a cadence of 124, and 52/15 for the gear ratio, you hit 55km/h.
posted by Chuckles at 8:31 PM on April 7, 2012


I think he could have avoided this accident by riding more safely, however, I wouldn't judge anyone by their failure to perceive a situation correctly after a crash, because they're probably stunned or in shock.
posted by zippy at 8:33 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, where's the FPP about the teen who plowed his SUV through a family on bikes, killing a man and his daughter? It's linked from the same page.
posted by GIFtheory at 8:40 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I actually think the social media angle -- especially the Strava stuff -- the the most interesting part of this story. I'm not sure I'm ready to fully demonize Chris Bucchere quite yet -- presumably he's a human being and, thus, a crooked timber like the rest of us.

But as someone interested in social media including the effects of the "gamification" movement on our culture, I find Strava's role fascinating. And a great example of "gamification" being applied to something haphazardly and without thinking through the negative consequences...

(Yes, I fucking hate the word "gamification," but that's all I can think of.)
posted by chasing at 8:56 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


And a great example of "gamification" being applied to something haphazardly and without thinking through the negative consequences...

(Yes, I fucking hate the word "gamification," but that's all I can think of.)


The legal concept of Attractive Nuisance seems to vaguely fit.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:15 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


pedestrians can be really, really dumb when it comes to bikes moving at speed

This is not a fault of the pedestrians.
posted by Fnarf at 9:29 PM on April 7, 2012 [12 favorites]


@GIFtheory - If you feel so passionate about that story, why don't you post about it?

As others have pointed out, this story isn't so much about the fixie, it's about the tremendous asshole that was riding it and killed a man.

Also, bicyclists in NYC and SF commonly act like assholes, with little regard for traffic laws, pedestrians, or decent behavior. The cycling community needs to police itself and not revel in their dickish actions, and they especially need to not be surprised when non-cycling folks call for crackdowns and removal of bike lanes. Why would anyone want to make it easier for pricks to ride like pricks?
posted by ged at 9:54 PM on April 7, 2012


From the rider's post, reprinted in the SFist article:
The light turned yellow as I was approaching the intersection, but I was already way too committed to stop.
He's straight up admitting lack of vehicle control, even before the light turned yellow. This guy is going to be crucified.
posted by Aquaman at 10:05 PM on April 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've ridden a bike down that hill, it's a steep motherfucker. My bike had brakes though, and I used em going downhill everywhere in SF. You could 'bomb' it at 4am, but 8am? that's murder or suicide.

I had a friend that lived up that narrow street to the southwest of that intersection, up by the Randall museum, and that you could take going downhill at night pretty fast, because you could see car headlights coming uphill, but once you get down to the bottom, Castro's always busy, and it's steep above -- west of -- Market. (I've also had one of my scary old vans break down right there and lose power steering, but I got it into that gas station ok.) You know a hill in SF is steep when the sidewalk has steps.

Yeah, this guy needs to account for his actions, and bikes without brakes should be banned on SF streets.
posted by Catblack at 10:07 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can anybody comment on what ratios typical SF fixie riders use?

I think that "52/15 or even 52/16" is highly unlikely. If he's riding as low as 15/16 then he's gonna be under 50 on the chainring, imo. Otherwise, no way he was stopping doing 20mph, let alone 35. I don't ride fixed but I ride 47/16 on a single speed; many riders I know that do ride fixed are in a similar ratio.

I believe that in the MASH SF film one rider comments he's riding 48/17 and those are some very experienced riders.

As for wheels, most riders I know are on 700c wheels, which are 622mm. Fastest my bike has ever gone is 28mph, but I'm in Toronto and the hills aren't as steep.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 10:12 PM on April 7, 2012


Also, bicyclists in NYC and SF commonly act like assholes, with little regard for traffic laws, pedestrians, or decent behavior.

Same thing goes for drivers. especially taxi drivers.

The cycling community needs to police itself and not revel in their dickish actions, and they especially need to not be surprised when non-cycling folks call for crackdowns and removal of bike lanes. Why would anyone want to make it easier for pricks to ride like pricks?

Just like there is no "driving community" to police the actions of asshole drivers, there is no "cycling community" to police itself. It sure sounds great, but I'm not sure how anyone imagines this is supposed to work.

That bit about bike lanes does not compute for me. Bike lanes definitely encourage people to bike on the street (and increase the numbers doing so), but just how do they make it easier to ride dangerously? The people who are afraid to cycle when there are no bike lanes are hardly going to be the ones riding recklessly.
posted by parudox at 10:13 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Re pedestrian jaywalkers: they weren't jaywalking. They were crossing with the light.
posted by rtha at 10:14 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


This isn't true at all. Perhaps if you're riding breakless fixed without toe-clips or clipless pedals (which I'm sad to say I've seen multiple times), but it's certainly not the norm.

You can't press down on the pedals any harder than you weigh. It's just physics. (But yes, this is in the context of a brakeless fixed.) Doesn't matter how your feet are attached, unless your torso is strapped down, you are limited by your weight.
posted by gjc at 10:17 PM on April 7, 2012


I've been commuting on a fixie (with a front brake) for about 10 years. I think the fixed gear is a legitimate brake, but also that any vehicle needs redundant braking systems (like a car's emergency brakes).

About 5 years ago I had a scary incident reinforce my belief when my rear cog came unscrewed as I was braking downhill towards a busy intersection -- it felt to me like I'd hit ice, but in fact my chain became disconnected from the rear wheel. There's a locknut to try to prevent that, but it's on the receiving end of a lot of force. My "oh crap" moment was thankfully non-fatal when I grabbed for my front brake and stopped before entering the intersection.

A single point of failure is going to get you eventually. I feel awful for everyone involved. Hopefully there will be lessons learned, and not Balkanization.
posted by dylanjames at 10:25 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you're skilled and strong enough to do a skid stop on a fixed gear bike, it's no worse than using a coaster brake

Until your feet slip out of the pedals through some freak accident, and you can't get them back in to stop because they're spinning too fast for you to get a grip in time. (See previous about friend with broken neck as a result.)

With coaster brakes is that you can apply braking no matter how fast the bike is going, as long as you still have one hand on that handlebar.

Braking force is 0.0g if you can't get your feet onto the pedals after a mishap. The comparison of g-force is irrelevant.
posted by crysflame at 10:28 PM on April 7, 2012


A single point of failure is going to get you eventually.

.
posted by crysflame at 10:29 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, where's the FPP about the teen who plowed his SUV through a family on bikes, killing a man and his daughter? It's linked from the same page.

There's been plenty of FPPs about drivers being assholes and plowing through crowds of cyclists.
posted by Talez at 10:50 PM on April 7, 2012


I'm with the "operating a vehicle unsafely in the first place, enough said" crowd (actually, more extremely, in the "having a collision is sufficient evidence that you did something wrong", so it doesn't matter, but: I'm not sure I understand the rationale that being able to skid the back wheel by resisting pedal motion is evidence of adequate braking ability.

It takes some strength to straighten your leg and stop the pedals, but it's doable. That stops the back wheel and guarantees a skid. Skids don't stop you very well; that's why ABS was invented for cars. It would take a lot more strength to slow the pedals significantly at just under skid force. I doubt most people have that strength at any common biking speed, much less 35 mph.

Demonstrating that you can completely stop and skid the back wheel (while completely de-weighting it by leaning forward) tells me nothing about your ability to stop your bicycle effectively.
posted by ctmf at 11:19 PM on April 7, 2012


People have probably told you this; it's common advice among a certain segment of motorcyclists, too. The people who advocate it are, well, idiots. The way to prevent an endo isn't to avoid using the front brake, it's to learn how to apply the front brake gradually but firmly (and to modulate it once you've started braking).

I've been cycling for more than 20 years, and braking comes as second nature - of course you use your front brake to slow down, and shift your weight over your rear wheel to both give your rear brake more power, prevent your rear tire from skidding, and prevent an endo.

As a father of two young children who depend on me for everything, there is no way I am going to be cruising at 35 mph through busy streets.

The man who died is the same age as my father. It just makes me sad and mad.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:59 PM on April 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why don't you have laws requiring bikes to have brakes, lights, bells? Bikes are vehicles.
posted by mumimor at 12:08 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd also like to add that motorists need to be kinder to cyclists and pedestrians, and cyclists need to be kinder to pedestrians. We once got around on foot, and it's a real shame our communities now are designed for the automobile.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:25 AM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Bikes need to be regulated like cars. We tried the alternative and it's not working. If you're planning on taking a vehicle on our city streets you should have to go to the DMV, take a test, inspect your equipment regularly for safety, register it with the local government, and have the potential to lose the privilege (and cops need to start writing tickets). It's not that I don't trust cyclists; I don't trust anyone.

- a pedestrian
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:28 AM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Testosterone Kills.
posted by quarsan at 12:51 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


All your braking power is in the front brake. The harder you are braking, the more true this becomes. You will not go over the handlebars. You will stop.

As someone who has gone over his handlebars as a result of using only a front (disc) brake, I'd respectfully dispute this assertion.
posted by rhymer at 1:42 AM on April 8, 2012


so does the front wheel *ever* skid on dry, clean pavement?
posted by dongolier at 1:47 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen the connection made here yet, but recently the European Commission proposed a Right to be Forgotten. A new privacy right that gives citizens the ability to remove personal data about themselves from any online source. It goes back to the idea of the "right of oblivion" in French law.

I was originally a fan of this new privacy right, although it does conflict with free speech in many ways. But this incident highlights another potentially negative aspect of the right to be forgotten.

Speaking of European vs American attitudes. Everytime I'm in a cycling thread and I see cyclists supporting their dickish behavior with excuses of the horrible car culture we have in the US, I can't help but think they're just transferring that culture to a different vehicle.

I fully support cyclist rights, and mass social change and infrastructure spending to support alternative modes of transportation. But too many of the most vocal advocates seem to be carrying over the same negative aspects of car culture.
posted by formless at 1:53 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everyone talking about braking, reread flug's comment.

The maximum braking available is limited by two things. The first is the ability of the brake mechanism to slow and stop the wheel. The second, and far more important, is the friction between the wheel and the ground.

It is critical, when stopping, not to skid the wheel that is braking. Not because you might fall, though. Whn the wheel is braking, but not skidding, you have static friction in play. When you are skidding, that's dynamic friction -- and it is less. If a wheel is skidding, it is not braking as well as it could.

On clean, dry pavement, with decent tires, it is basically impossible to skid the front by braking. In this case, the best braking is going to be front only, because as inertia tries to move you forward, the rear wheel unloads.

However, in less that optimal conditions, the front can skid on braking well before the rear is unloaded. That represents a maximum braking level. Since the rear, in this case, will still have some traction, you want to use both brakes, because it will be more.

The skill needed is modulation. You pull the brake lever increasingly hard until you are braking enough to stop in the required space, or you feel the wheel start to skid. If it does, you *must* reduce the braking to make the wheel regain traction.

This is a skill that takes some practice, but once you have it, you will find that you are front braking only in good conditions, because you are getting so much braking out of the front that there is almost no traction on the rear wheel, and thus, braking with it is useless - and you feel that and don't brake and keep the rear from skidding. In less than ideal conditions, you feel that front is starting to lock, so you let up a bit there, and since you don't have as much braking there, the rear wheel is still loaded, it has more traction, and you pull the rear more - because you don't feel it skidding.

Basically, the correct amount of braking is "as much as that wheel can brake."

Finally, you want two brakes in case one breaks. One brake is better than none. That's a big part of why a fixed gear on the road *needs* a front wheel brake, and should have a rear wheel brake that isn't tied to the drivetrain.
posted by eriko at 3:17 AM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Blame the asshole, not the fixie. I would say that going downhill the fixie is inherently more safe than a freewheeler due the speed brake imposed by your body's cadence limits, that is unless that itself causes a loss of control. Anyway, some jerk who recklessly causes an accident which results in death and then callously posts (brags?) about it online after the fact shall be rewarded appropriately for his behavior, hopefully.
posted by caddis at 4:04 AM on April 8, 2012


About 5 years ago I had a scary incident reinforce my belief when my rear cog came unscrewed as I was braking downhill towards a busy intersection

My worst "oh shit" moment was somewhat similar, years and years ago when on a early Saturday morning riding down the small hill (well, bump more like) to the postal sorting office at some speed, the rear frame snapped through and my back wheel was only held on by the bike chain and promptly folded itself against my right leg. Luckily that was on a separate bike path with nobody else nearby.

Bikes with backpedal brakes used to be very common in Holland and still are a sizeable minority here (e.g. those black granny/opoe bikes). I've always found it easier to brake quickly on one of them than on bikes with hand brakes. With the latter there have been a few times in which I had to brake so fast I managed to snap the connection from the handle to the brake cable...

Might be more of a feature of the cheapness of the bikes I've ridden than the usefulness of hand brakes though.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:09 AM on April 8, 2012


Put me down on the list of non-cyclists who are entirely in favour of cycling and very critical of arseholes on bikes.

I have, of late, very poor vision in my right eye - it's effectively useless. I also happen to live in a country where people drive on the left. This means that when I'm crossing a road, I can't see someone close to me who's moving very fast down that road on my side as I step off the pavement. Obviously, I look first, and obviously I favour pedestrian crossings with lights or other devices which give me some protection.

About once a week, on average, I nearly get hit by cyclists. Normally, they're going through a red light. Normally, given what utterances of theirs I hear, they expected me to see and avoid them, and they are critical of my lack of ability so to do. It's not always on a pedestrian crossing, true - sometimes it's on the pavement, sometimes it's just in the road.

I fully expect to get hit by one. Short of assuming that all cyclists are arseholes and only crossing a road when I am absolutely sure that nobody on two wheels is within range, there's no way of avoiding this. I hope I don't get permanently injured as a result, but hey - we'll see.

I don't know what it'll take to persuade arseholes on bikes that they are being arseholes on bikes and should stop. Whatever it is, sign me up.
posted by Devonian at 4:44 AM on April 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


Beyond the horrific specifics, the most disturbing aspect of this story is just how deep into the labyrinth of self involvement our species has descended.
posted by fairmettle at 5:48 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are people operating under the illusion that drivers who kill pedestrians get charged with crimes? In 2011, 91% of the drivers who killed pedestrians in the Bay area weren't charged with anything.

Arguing that because *drivers* are allowed to kill pedestrians without hindrance or penalty, cyclists should have the same privilege is probably not the best way to approach this debate.

I'm not sure that I trust the statistics from that website, either. Society often frowns on killing people (even if they are just worthless "peds" who are old, and would have died soon anyway, so you probably even did them a favor!) so the argument that most vehicular homicides aren't prosecuted is hard to accept.
posted by jrochest at 5:52 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


@ Devonian, I have a lige-long problem With my right eye. I have had near-misery with, cars, bikes, trucks and a U.N. convoy. I Always look. But I can miss things. Scary.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:54 AM on April 8, 2012


Devonian: "I don't know what it'll take to persuade arseholes on bikes that they are being arseholes on bikes and should stop. Whatever it is, sign me up"

I have anecdotes too! And despite not being phrased as lengthy as yours, they basically break down as "I ride and I walk and I drive, and I've never had a problem."

My anecdata is worth just as much as yours.
posted by barnacles at 6:06 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


But this incident highlights another potentially negative aspect of the right to be forgotten.

I dunno, seems to me once the cops subpoena his computer/mobile device and his provider records they'll be able to remember what he wrote just fine. And if he's currently trying to erase stuff from his computer, he'll almost certainly pay the price for it later.
posted by mediareport at 6:30 AM on April 8, 2012




Bikes need to be regulated like cars. We tried the alternative and it's not working. If you're planning on taking a vehicle on our city streets you should have to go to the DMV, take a test, inspect your equipment regularly for safety, register it with the local government, and have the potential to lose the privilege (and cops need to start writing tickets). It's not that I don't trust cyclists; I don't trust anyone.


The concern I have about this is that we already have the example of helmet legislation - bike helmet laws discourage bicycling, especially among poor populations and people of color. This is because 1. the laws are disproportionately enforced against people of color, especially young people, many of whom are quite rationally anxious to avoid run-ins with the cops; 2. the costs of the helmets and the potential tickets put biking out of reach of poor families. Think of it like this - little Oliver forgets his helmet and bam! your family is on the hook for a fine when you're already budgeting tightly to make rent. Or Jose bikes to his shitty poultry-processing job and the assholes he works with think it's funny to steal his helmet. Jose still has to bike home to his family, and there's a ticket. Plus a run-in with the cops. The research consensus is that the public health damage by discouraging cycling exceeds the public health damage of helmetlessness.

(Cyclists of color and working class cyclists are largely invisible in bike discourse - there are lots of folks who have to bike cause they have a big work commute to an out-of-the-way location and that's all they can afford, but most conversations about biking focus on people who bike for fun.)

Here in Minneapolis we actually dropped our bike license requirement (it was just a license for the physical object, not any kind of test) after a series of scandals about how it was being used to harass black guys on bikes and confiscate their property.

It's all very well to say that in utopia we could regulate bikes, but my concern is that in the actually existing world of budget cuts, job losses and lack of will to regulate the police, bike licensing would be implemented in a way that would do maximum harm to vulnerable populations while doing very little to the type of rich, entitled cyclists who cause most of the problems.

I also wonder - I mean, cars are licensed too, right, and there are still so many asshole drivers. Or just stupid drivers - the SUV driver who was speeding and killed those people was 17 and almost certainly just stupid and thoughtless and young. It's incredibly tragic and horrible.

Based on what worked on my campus, I think that bike speeding tickets might be the way to go. If there were particular enforcement zones based on safety concerns, speeding tickets would be unlikely to impact lower income cyclists and children, since most of the people who get up to dangerous speeds are trying to do so and can afford gear and fancy bikes.

On my campus, we have had both unenforced and enforced cycling rules, and to tell the truth, I prefer the enforced ones. It removes temptation. Intermittent campus-cop ticketing in crowded spots cuts the problem behavior right out, I've found.
posted by Frowner at 6:36 AM on April 8, 2012 [23 favorites]


as a STRAVA user, my first thought when I saw that he was using STRAVA was that he was trying to post the best time on a segment (STRAVA's social aspect includes public leaderboards, which is actually kind of fun). looks like that stretch of Castro is, indeed, a marked segment, which is absolutely f***ing stupid and likely encouraged in some small way his reckless behavior.

I agree that there is much more to this than the physics of braking, but it's so tempting to reduce a complicated social problem to an equation. It makes me sad that this 71-year-old man probably died because he couldn't move fast enough to get out of the way of this idiot cyclist.
posted by mecran01 at 7:46 AM on April 8, 2012


I've been hit by cars and bicycles in the years I've lived in Chicago.

A car hit me while I was crossing the street as a pedestrian. It was a hit-and-run. My leg was bruised and I was otherwise unharmed, but I could have easily been killed. Everyone I told about the car accident assumed I was on a bicycle at the time.

The time I got hit by a moron on a fixie with no brakes, I was on my bicycle, stopped at a traffic light, just like any other law-abiding user of the road. I wasn't hurt, but if a truck or bus was behind me at the time, I could have easily been killed.

Bottom line: you can be killed by anything on the road. As a cyclist, I am absolutely in favor of holding cyclists to the same legal and safety standards as other users of the road. Bicycles are different from cars and deserve their own lane with their own specific laws about yielding or stopping, but these laws should be enforced.

That said, I don't think licensing makes sense. Vehicles have emissions standards and other safety regulations that need to be tracked in government records. A bicycle doesn't need that much overhead to hold a cyclist accountable for his or her actions. Charge the dangerous cyclists with reckless endangerment, and let the consequences of breaking the law serve as their own dire warning.
posted by deathpanels at 8:33 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this guy was off the pedals? Any normal fixed gear will be geared low enough that the pedals will be spinning helplessly at 35 mph, particularly one designed for use in hilly conditions. It's possible that this guy was particularly strong and had a higher gearing, but given his general recklessness I wouldn't bet against the possibility that he was just off the pedals. This means he couldn't have possibly even tried to slow down.

Incidentally, a fixed-gear bicycle is less able to turn at high speeds than any bicycle with a freewheel, because you can't hold the pedals in a fixed position. This prevents you from leaning very far into a turn before you risk striking a pedal, which is even nastier on a fixed gear than it is on a normal bike.

So, while I think the guy was doing something that would have been dangerous regardless of what he was riding, ignoring his choice of bike doesn't seem to make sense. Particularly since there is almost no reason outside of fashion to not have a front brake on a fixed gear bicycle.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:06 AM on April 8, 2012


In todays Chronicle -

Police sources tell us the file forwarded to the district attorney includes the name and number of a motorist who reported seeing Bucchere and another cyclist fly through several red lights and stop signs before the deadly Castro district crash.
posted by iamabot at 9:09 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bicycle threads seem to be a real lightning-rod here...

thread is tl; dr.... did we establish exactly what type of bike Mr Bucchere was actually riding?

Bikes need to be regulated like cars. We tried the alternative and it's not working. If you're planning on taking a vehicle on our city streets you should have to go to the DMV, take a test, inspect your equipment regularly for safety, register it with the local government, and have the potential to lose the privilege (and cops need to start writing tickets). It's not that I don't trust cyclists; I don't trust anyone.

I can't agree with this. I consider bicycle ownership and riding to be a right, not a privilege (for comparison, i consider vehicle driving to be a privilege, hence subject to testing and regulation). Bikes are efficient, liberating transport that just about any can afford and use. Although a helmet advocate, I'm not even in favour of helmet laws, since this could be a barrier to someone who can't afford an up-to-date helmet to use with their $10 bike, or discouragement to someone who won't otherwise leave their car for a bike.

That being said, of course I still think cyclists must be subject to the law, and responsible for their actions. And I'm not above throwing an elbow or hip-checking cyclists who endanger me on the sidewalk or at pedestrian crossings.

(Yes I'm a cyclist, but i don't get to ride as often as I'd like)
posted by Artful Codger at 9:16 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Artful Codger, I mostly agree with you, although I have to quibble with one part: It's absolutely wrong to throw your elbow or hip-check an antisocial cyclist.

I wouldn't have mentioned it if I just disagreed with what you're doing, though. What I object to is that that kind of behaviour strikes me as being much more inclined to reinforcing the self-righteous jerkishness than discouraging it.

My proposal: to sincerely and directly express what you'd like them to change. The best way to do this is shouting "Oi! Don't do that!" (if you can catch their eye, "Don't do that, please!" is better.). This is what I do if I'm feeling socially transgressive enough to call people on antisocial behaviour.

But the whole way that people approach transport as though it's the vehicle that matters rather than the person is appalling. When riding on shared use bike/pedestrian paths, I always make eye contact with oncoming pedestrians, and slow down to near walking pace when approaching from behind, before making my presence known indirectly by making my bike change gear loudly, or failing that, a calm "Hello". So often, however, these people who are enjoying their right to use the river or canalside path just like I am jump directly and apologetically out of the way. Because they have a fixed hierarchy which says the bigger the vehicle, the more rights.

And it's this pernicious subconscious thought which creates, at best, this hostility between people using different modes of transport. At worst, as in the original post, it leads to reckless disregard and, if the holes in the swiss cheese line up, death. A significant proportion of traffic deaths, and thus a significant proportion of all avoidable deaths. No wonder it's an emotive subject.
posted by ambrosen at 9:43 AM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I say this as a cyclist whose kung-fu swerving technique has probably saved at least one pedestrian's life.

It's exactly this sort of mindset that is the problem. You're not "saving lives" you've already put them at risk needlessly. As a car driver, you know you're capable of killing bicyclists and pedestrians very easily, and therefore have to anticipate and defend against stupid behaviors like jaywalking between cars or bikes trying to pass you on the right when you're making a right turn. I don't even get upset by this stuff, you just have to expect it in a busy city.

As a bicyclist (like a motorcyclist) you have to expect that most pedestrians and car drivers aren't expecting you to be there, so I think an even more defensive mindset is necessary. You may be legally allowed to blow through a yellow light, but if you are incapable of stopping when someone starts crossing early I have trouble putting all the blame on the pedestrian. It'd be great if pedestrians were always aware of their surroundings and never broke the law, but bikes (especially fixies with no brakes) just don't provide the same level of control that cars do at higher speeds, and most pedestrians aren't anticipating small, poorly-controlled vehicles speeding through yellow lights or stop signs.

Bikes are obviously in the middle ground here, defenseless against cars but dangerous for pedestrians, so I understand the difficult position bicyclists are in. But anger and bravado have no place in a mode of transportation - it's all people out there, so let's leave the kung-fu in the dojo.
posted by lubujackson at 9:56 AM on April 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


Bottom line: you can be killed by anything on the road. As a cyclist, I am absolutely in favor of holding cyclists to the same legal and safety standards as other users of the road.

guns can kill people, fists can kill people ... yet one of these is quite a bit more lethal than the other. It makes sense to take this kind of thing into consideration when drafting up laws, standards.
posted by philip-random at 10:14 AM on April 8, 2012


Reading his own account of the crash, this clearly indicates recklessness to me. Even in that contentious "99% of drivers who kill pedestrians don't get charged" link (btw, seems to be injured rather than killed, which is a huge difference!), recklessness still leads to charging them:
Shaana Rahman, a lawyer who represents victims of traffic crashes in civil court, explained that injuring or killing a pedestrian due to negligence has traditionally been categorized as a civil offense rather than a criminal offense, which requires “intent to harm.”

“What I have seen in my practice is unless there’s an issue where a driver or cyclist is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or driving recklessly and willfully, such as drag racing or something of that nature, by and large there are no criminal charges filed against folks who injure other people in those situations,” she said.
Where I live, we have those cameras up to keep people from running red lights. Sometimes, the yellow light is too short. Motorists, at least one we know personally, have won cases when they documented (through video with time mapping) the yellow light was shorter than the state-mandated 4 seconds. That's considered ample time for a car to stop for the red light here.

We don't have near as many cyclists here, but my understanding is the rules of the road apply equally to them. If he saw the yellow light just before he entered the intersection and didn't have time to stop before it turned red, he was going way too fast not to be considered reckless, or the yellow light was too short, or it was really red already. Should be easy to check how long that yellow light at Castro and Market lasts. Anyone know?

If that's not enough to convince anyone, bear in mind that a whole bunch of pedestrians, including a 71 year-old man, had already had time to react to the light, register it was green and start walking, which suggests this light had not JUST turned red anyway.
posted by misha at 10:23 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I lived a few blocks from this intersection for 7 years or so. I find it highly unlikely he was riding a fixed-gear bike, both for the cadence reasons people were pointing out above, and because the approach down Castro to Market is a big hill (here's a street view; if you look to the side you can get an idea of the anlge based on looking at the bottom of the houses). I've been in situations where I wind up moving too fast at the bottom of a hill myself, it's one of the things that's fun (and dangerous) about riding a bike.

That said, going through the intersection at speed is not just an act of reckless disregard for the people in the intersection, it's near-suicidal for the cyclist himself. Market and Castro is the bustling heart of the Castro district, the sidewalks are always thronged with residents and tourists, there are always delivery vans double-parked on the side of the road, taxis are stopping to let people out, people are coming and going from the MUNI metro stop and the F line, the busy 24 bus is slowly trundling along, etc. People are constantly jaywalking and car doors are constantly opening and closing. You can imagine how much worse it is around rush hour. And regardless of how much speed you built up on the Divisadero / Castro hill, there's a four-way stop-sign just a block past Market at 18th, which is if anything more dangerous because the foot traffic is more dense because the streets are narrower.

After that, Castro quickly becomes a significant uphill climb way up to the top of the hill at 22nd or so. So you could potentially use some of the downhill momentum you gained on the approach to Castro to ascend the hill on the other side, but in order to do that you'd need to be going really fast through one of the most densely-trafficked blocks in the city, completely blow through at least one stop sign, and put both yourself and everyone nearby at the risk of grave bodily harm.
posted by whir at 10:40 AM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "If bicycles are going to be a major transportation alternative---and I hope they will be---they need to be treated like any other form of transport: regulated strictly, with severe punishment for safety violations. Anyone riding a bicycle the wrong way down a one-way street, riding without brakes, or speeding in a bike lane should get ticketed; enough offenses, and you should lose your license to bike. The cowboy culture of bicyclists is going to end, it's just a question of how many people have to die first."
Funnily enough, in the countries with the highest proportion of bikers (who, coincidentally, also have accident rates way lower than the US) the opposite is the norm. Draconian bike laws does not make for a nice mass bike culture.
posted by brokkr at 10:46 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Brokkr: Citation? When I was in Europe, and particularly in the bike-heavy city of Amsterdam, I never saw a bicyclist going half as fast as I normally see cyclists here in Brooklyn, and never saw anything even approaching the level of aggression. But I could certainly believe that this was a result of culture, rather than regulation. Which then brings up the question of what would change the awful, entitled culture of bicyclists here in the U.S.

Because mostly what I see here is stuff like the above poster's ridiculous assertion: "I consider bicycle ownership and riding to be a right, not a privilege (for comparison, i consider vehicle driving to be a privilege, hence subject to testing and regulation)". Newsflash: Riding any vehicle is a privilege. Bikes are vehicles. You can kill people on them. I have as much sympathy for bicyclists who don't want to be ticketed for speeding as I do for gun owners who resent trigger locks.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:18 AM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Today's article that iamabot linked to above includes the information that the bicyclist has hired Arguedas, Cassman & Headley, a top criminal defense firm. Cris Arguedas worked on the OJ Simpson defense team, for example, in addition to being married to a former state legislator. In other words, dude is taking his defense very seriously, and has the resources to pay for it.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:26 AM on April 8, 2012


I can't agree with this. I consider bicycle ownership and riding to be a right, not a privilege

Something that is a right rather than a privilege does not mean it is unfettered from regulation. And whether cycling is a right or a privilege, riders must still behave responsibly.
posted by rtha at 11:30 AM on April 8, 2012


Bikes need to be regulated like cars. We tried the alternative and it's not working.

Revamping a system that doesn't work by conforming it to a system that BARELY works doesn't sound like progress to me.

If you're planning on taking a vehicle on our city streets you should have to go to the DMV, take a test, inspect your equipment regularly for safety, register it with the local government, and have the potential to lose the privilege (and cops need to start writing tickets).

If you make me go through the motions of being a car, then I'm going to act like a car and take the lane. It's only fair.
posted by hermitosis at 11:35 AM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: Which then brings up the question of what would change the awful, entitled culture of bicyclists here in the U.S.

I don't think the problem is entitlement, I think it's embattlement; cyclists feel like the laws and public opinion are against them in all cases, so sometimes they get hostile and defensive. Cyclists in the US are sort of the 'omega vehicle' that gets a lower status to everything; you are theoretically a vehicle with all of the road rights and such that it entails (except a couple of exceptions such as the use of interstate highways), but god help you if you try to actually invoke those privileges, the road traffic will kill you. So you try to be a pedestrian instead, except that's actually illegal and the pedestrians are no more willing to share than the cars. So you go onto the mixed-use paths and trails, where you once again enjoy the lowest status (cyclists are normally expected to yield to everyone), and pedestrians feel that they should be allowed to use the trails however they want regardless of the impact on other users. Want to walk 4x1 and block the entire path? Sure, why not.

So while I don't think it's unreasonable that there are rules for cyclists and they should be expected to follow them, I do think that the rules should be written in a more equitable manner, and enforced at the times they would benefit cyclists, not just to their detriment. Combine those things with a better public opinion of cycling and I think you might see some improvement.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:53 AM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Which then brings up the question of what would change the awful, entitled culture of bicyclists here in the U.S.

More cyclists.

When there's greater number and diversity of cyclists they are more likely to subject themselves to acceptance of mainstream norms of behavior rather than able to foolishly perceive themselves as trendy rebellious urban outsiders as they (a few, anyhow) currently do.

When there's more cyclists, non-cyclists are more likely to be friends with or related to regular cyclists and so find it more difficult to see cyclists as the other and therefore demonize them.
posted by normy at 12:04 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


But I could certainly believe that this was a result of culture, rather than regulation. Which then brings up the question of what would change the awful, entitled culture of bicyclists here in the U.S.

Safe, comfortable spaces for cycling at moderate speeds, in a network that covers the city. Normalize cycling by making it an attractive mode of travel for everyone rather than an extreme sport for men. Here's how the Netherlands does it. (See also this great video on how the Dutch got their cycle paths.)
posted by parudox at 12:58 PM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:bQGeb1B8oCsJ:allisonchris.blogspot.com/2010/10/off-topic-how-to-turn-great-bike-into.html+&cd=17&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a
Here's the Google cache of the rider's now-deleted blog. It shows his fixie is a converted road-racing bike that he purposely removed the front brake from, along with several awful statements like "I still have a near-death experience every time I go down even low-grade hills. Any tips on how to descend properly on a fixie?"

However, he probably wasn't riding that bike at the time of the incident, as he was returning from a Sunday morning ride with a road biking club, meaning that he was probably riding his expensively-equipped road bike also mentioned in that post.
posted by akgerber at 1:06 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


... the awful, entitled culture of bicyclists here in the U.S.

Before I started bike commuting to work, I also thought there was a single "bike culture" in my city (Seattle). It didn't take me too long once I started riding, and observing other riders, to realize that there are several distinct subcultures and that they really don't interact much.

In fact, since they're competing for a lot of the same infrastructure, they don't tend to like each other much. The athletes out for a high-speed ride don't like having to pass the creaky commuters every 30 seconds, though some of them seem to get a charge out of it. A lot of, shall we say, "image-conscious" riders don't seem to enjoy being verbally reminded to put away their damn cell phones and stop swerving while they're biking down crowded paths. Commuters are generally just out there to get from point A to point B and would be a lot happier if everyone else were out there for the same reason.

In other words, cyclists are just about as diverse as drivers. We could talk about "car culture", but what in the world would we mean by that?
posted by gurple at 1:11 PM on April 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


(I made the ridiculous assertion:) "I consider bicycle ownership and riding to be a right, not a privilege (for comparison, i consider vehicle driving to be a privilege, hence subject to testing and regulation)".

Newsflash: Riding any vehicle is a privilege. Bikes are vehicles. You can kill people on them. I have as much sympathy for bicyclists who don't want to be ticketed for speeding as I do for gun owners who resent trigger locks.


I wasn't clear enough, sorry. My assertion above was in response to the person who thought that bike riding had to be a tested and revokable privilege like driving a car.

In my opinion, cycling is a right but this does not mean cyclists are free from traffic laws or from responsibility for their actions.

and I will keep my elbows in more
posted by Artful Codger at 1:29 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


RichardP: "No, not on a roadway. California Vehicle Code § 21201 (a) says "No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement.""

You Should See the Other Guy: "Except you can skid on a fixed gear bike. A rider was ticketed a few years ago in Portland or Seattle and she contested it and they made her prove she could skid. She did it easily. Video was on Youtube a few years ago."

There isn't an "or" in the sentence - you can't even get past "equipped with a brake", if the bike is not, well, equipped with a brake.
posted by Bokononist at 1:40 PM on April 8, 2012


GJC: You can't press down on the pedals any harder than you weigh. It's just physics. (But yes, this is in the context of a brakeless fixed.) Doesn't matter how your feet are attached, unless your torso is strapped down, you are limited by your weight.

The foot that isn't pushing down is pulling up. If you could only apply your weight, no one could stop a brakeless fixie at anything faster than quick walking pace (try taking one foot off a pedal and putting all your weight on the other one. the cranks will keep rotating and lift you up, doing very little to stop the cranks from rotating. Your weight vs a counter force may apply on a seesaw, but not on a geared bicycle. The forces are completely different).
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 1:55 PM on April 8, 2012


you can't even get past "equipped with a brake", if the bike is not, well, equipped with a brake

The counter-argument I've usually seen from fixie enthusiasts (and which I don't buy, personally, but here it is) is that being able to push back on the cranks is a de-facto "brake," even though it's not a separate braking mechanism like a hand-brake or coaster brake. Maybe someone more familiar with the fixie case You Should See the Other Guy mentioned could comment about the legalities invloved, although of course that would be either Oregon or Washington law and not necessarily applicable to California.
posted by whir at 1:56 PM on April 8, 2012


How many people are going to look at this story and think "well there you have it, my completely asshole-ish behavior towards bikes when I am in my vehicle is completely justified"?

20 million.

I know most of them truly don't give a shit about what anyone else thinks

See?
posted by mrgrimm at 2:33 PM on April 8, 2012


...of course that would be either Oregon or Washington law and not necessarily applicable to California.

In the California jurisdictions with which I am familiar the local authorities take the position that to comply with the law you have to be able to point to a component of your bike that the original manufacturer advertises as a brake (i.e. they take the position that the rider's legs or the bike's crankshaft, rear wheel, etc. don't qualify). Here are couple of quick articles I found about how law enforcement in California treats this.
Sacramento: The city police and district attorney’s office both contend, on the other hand, that legs don’t count as a braking mechanism.

UC Davis: A “fixed gear” bike with no brakes does not meet this requirement no matter how skilled the cyclist.I don't know what the legalities are in Oregon or Washington.
posted by RichardP at 2:35 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are people operating under the illusion that drivers who kill pedestrians get charged with crimes?

Seriously. If he were in a car, he would get sued. That's about it.

In other words, cyclists are just about as diverse as drivers.

Diverse, yes, but a much higher percentage of car drivers are dangerous compared to cyclists.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:36 PM on April 8, 2012


Here's what I don't understand: If you enter an intersection on a yellow light, shouldn't cross traffic still have the red light? Cars frequently enter intersections on a yellow light and I don't think that they then need to stop inside the intersection to let cross-traffic pass. So if this guy entered the intersection on a yellow light and cross traffic got in his way then it means that he was too slow...except that everyone os arguing that he was too fast (even faster than the cars). The story just doesn't add up.
posted by patrick54 at 2:55 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This morning's SF Chronicle: SUV kills father, daughter on bikes... Driver, 17, faces 2 felony counts, said to be speeding.

It is absolutely reasonable to be outraged about the pedestrian struck and killed by a reckless cyclist in San Francisco. What is irritating to me is that there aren't metafilter posts with 250 comments every time some reckless motorist in a car mows down a pedestrian/s.

I think the main reason there's a post and comments here at all is because this sort of reckless cyclist / bystander death story is *so unusual*. Some folks are ready to get out the pitchforks and execute this guy, but in reality people are unfortunately killed all the time by other people who run red lights, speed, and are otherwise criminally careless. The fact that a cyclist was at fault in this case is far less relevant, to me, than the fact that our roads seem to be crowded with dangerous, distracted fools.
posted by pkingdesign at 3:13 PM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


>Are people operating under the illusion that drivers who kill pedestrians get charged with crimes?

Seriously. If he were in a car, he would get sued. That's about it.


I checked into California law and the Vehicle Code. My understanding (IANAL) is that if someone is killed in the course of a crime, even if you didn't do it yourself, you are charged with murder. A good example of this was a long time ago in LA, a fugitive in a high speed chase was pursued by two police helicopters. They collided, he was charged with murder of the pilots.

But under the CA Vehicle Code, a violation like not having brakes is an infraction, not a criminal offense. Reckless Driving would bump it up to a misdemeanor but it might be hard to make it stick, especially if murder charges depended on it. You can be charged with Vehicular Homicide and even Murder, as long as you committed a wrongful act that caused the death, even if that act was a mere infraction, or even if it was not an illegal act.

Anyway, California has a long history of horrible pedestrian deaths. When I lived there in the 80s, everyone said that due to the disadvantages pedestrians had against cars, special laws were created. When a pedestrian stepped off the sidewalk, anywhere, even jaywalking, they automatically had the right of way and vehicles were required to stop. And they would, it was amazing. But I can find no laws that require this.

This morning's SF Chronicle: SUV kills father, daughter on bikes... Driver, 17, faces 2 felony counts, said to be speeding.

17 year old driving a 10 year old SUV. Look for a lot more incidents like this, as worn out SUVs enter the used car market or are handed down to kids.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:45 PM on April 8, 2012


It is absolutely reasonable to be outraged about the pedestrian struck and killed by a reckless cyclist in San Francisco. What is irritating to me is that there aren't metafilter posts with 250 comments every time some reckless motorist in a car mows down a pedestrians. I think the main reason there's a post and comments here at all is because this sort of reckless cyclist / bystander death story is *so unusual*.

No. You sound like a National Review columnist wondering why people are upset about George Zimmerman when there's so much black-on-black crime.

There are so many posts and comments here because it is utterly uncontroversial that if you kill someone by being reckless behind a wheel, you will have your driving privileges revoked. You must be tested to be allowed to drive. Police love to ticket drivers for speeding or reckless driving, because it brings the department money; it's one of the few times where police financial incentives actually do line up with what's best for society.

But when a bicyclist does this, too many other bicyclists say their primary worry is that this will lead to stereotyping, or smirkingly say "Yeah, I've had some times where it was hard to brake too". Not every bicyclist---plenty are responsible people rightly horrified by the times they've been out of control. But right now, too many bicyclists operate in a semi-lawless zone, where they have no compunction about---and no reason to avoid---speeding and reckless vehicle operation.

People are posting at length because a lot of people's experience is simliar to mine: Every time I've seen a driver being reckless, they've been pulled over by a cop eager to bring in revenue. But I've seen countless cyclists speeding, going the wrong way on one-way streets, and coming scarily close to hitting slow-moving pedestrians with nothing to discourage them.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:11 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sorry ThatFuzzyBastard, but a couple things don't add up from your comment.

First, police where I live (near San Francisco, and I bike in San Francisco 5 days a week) the police love to ticket cyclists along with car drivers for reckless driving. I've seen numerous cyclists pulled over and cited for running red lights in the past year alone. It's true that you can't lose your license to ride a bike because one isn't required, but requiring a cycling license seems well beyond the scope of reason here. Cyclists are ticketed for driving recklessly in San Francisco, end of story. It's difficult to know if this ticketing happens at the same rate, but I wish both were ticketed more frequently and uniformly.

Later on you write "Every time I've seen a driver being reckless, they've been pulled over by a cop eager to bring in revenue." Really? Every time? What part of your comment isn't hyperbole if you're willing to state this? It's not even "uncontroversial" that you'll lose your driver's license if reckless driving results in one losing their license. I wish that were the case, but it's trivial to imagine instances where someone was driving like an idiot and had an "accident", killed someone, and then their lawyer convinces everyone it was an honest mistake.

I wrote that pedestrian death's caused by cyclists are unusual compared to pedestrian fatalities caused by cars and, therefore, draw a lot of attention. The facts here seemingly couldn't even be disputed. Please back off - I stated an opinion about disproportionate attention that bothered be and referenced a story from today's news. I simply wish careless driving was a bigger deal to people, not that careless cycling was less of a big deal.
posted by pkingdesign at 4:32 PM on April 8, 2012


Every time I've seen a driver being reckless, they've been pulled over by a cop eager to bring in revenue.

Whew, so not my experience. I live in SF, I drive to work (30 miles each way, mostly freeway) and occasionally in the city. I can count the number of times I've witnessed an asshole driver being pulled over by the cops on the fingers of one...finger. Earlier today, I drove for an errand (acquiring 40 lbs of cat litter) and saw, I dunno, at least three drivers bomb through yellow lights, change lanes with no signal or even a sign of checking their mirrors, and making an improper left turn. Nary a cop in sight.
posted by rtha at 4:33 PM on April 8, 2012


The Chronicle is now reporting that a witness saw him running red lights and stop signs before the crash.
posted by w0mbat at 4:37 PM on April 8, 2012


This is not a fault of the pedestrians.

fnarf, I don't blame pedestrians for their own stupidity. I do, however, blame people who insist on perpetuating that stupidity. Cyclists and pedestrians alike need to recognize that bikes are potentially deadly weapons--contrary to popular belief, which asserts that bikes are children's toys, to be operated by children at low speeds in parks and such.

Implying that cyclists are always to blame in pedestrian-cyclist collisions just provides fodder for the hateful biases that make the roads more dangerous for everyone. That said, it's entirely possible that the cyclist in this case is entirely at fault, but I don't care to render judgement myself. That's why we have juries instead of lynch mobs.
posted by GIFtheory at 4:50 PM on April 8, 2012


fnarf, I don't blame pedestrians for their own stupidity.

For god's sake, according to the cyclist's own posting, the pedestrians had the full right of way. They weren't being stupid. They were obeying both the cultural and actual law.
posted by rtha at 4:53 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


rtha, I'm not defending the cyclist in this particular case, hence:

That said, it's entirely possible that the cyclist in this case is entirely at fault, but I don't care to render judgement myself. That's why we have juries instead of lynch mobs.
posted by GIFtheory at 5:18 PM on April 8, 2012


Okay, it's possible that this is an NYC vs. SF thing---here, I see drivers ticketed constantly, and cyclists never. Maybe SF is the opposite---never spent much time there, so I don't know. I wonder, actually, if this is a large-scale NYC vs. SF difference: Here in Brooklyn, the bike lanes got a lot of support when they were put in, but incredibly assholish behavior by cyclists has killed a lot of goodwill in this very pedestrian-heavy city. And after a little cool down, I recognize that the Zimmerman comparison is a little overheated.

ButI stand by my assertion that any time (okay, most times) I've seen drivers being reckless or breaking the law, they've been ticketed (for the record, bombing yellow lights is legal and fine, running reds isn't), and cyclists aren't. I see so, so many cyclists going the wrong way on one-way streets, cutting corners at high speeds, bombing through red lights because they don't want to stop, and it just seems to be considered normal behavior by people on bikes. Which, fuck that. Meanwhile I still see a lot of unearned sanctimony and refusal to judge a guy who was pretty clearly---by both witness accounts and his own admission---breaking the law, and killed someone doing it, in a way I don't think I'd see with a driver who'd done the same. Bikes are, as GIFTheory says, potentially deadly weapons, and that means people on them need to be treated like wielders of deadly weapons, not noble road warriors in the battle against fossil fuel consumption.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:21 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


rtha, I'm not defending the cyclist in this particular case, hence:

I invite you to look at the language you've used in this thread: regarding the cyclist, it's neutral; regarding pedestrians, you use words like stupid and dumb. Please think about what message that sends, even unintentionally.
posted by rtha at 5:36 PM on April 8, 2012


Also, just to play devil's advocate: a light at any sane intersection doesn't turn green the instant cross-traffic gets a red, exactly to prevent situations such as these. So, if the cyclist got a red while in the middle of the intersection, it's entirely possible that the pedestrians were crossing when they still had a red.
posted by GIFtheory at 5:36 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, it's possible that this is an NYC vs. SF thing---here, I see drivers ticketed constantly, and cyclists never.
That certainly doesn't mean it isn't happening.
posted by akgerber at 5:43 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


bombing yellow lights is legal and fine

The CA Driver's Handbook says of yellow lights "stop if you can do so safely. If you cannot stop safely, cross the intersection cautiously." I don't think that's a license to barrel through at full and unchecked speed.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:47 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


it's entirely possible that the pedestrians were crossing when they still had a red.

Initial reports of the accident said the cyclist may have run a red light. At this time, the only public account that Bucchere entered the intersection on a yellow is from Bucchere himself.
posted by jamaro at 5:48 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


ButI stand by my assertion that any time (okay, most times) I've seen drivers being reckless or breaking the law, they've been ticketed

Having driven in NYC, and being an enthusiastic cyclist, motorcyclist, and car driver (as well as truck crew), this is completely contrary to my experience.

Pick any intersection of two major arteries, or a major and minor artery, and sit at a bench on the corner. Take it in. You'll see vehicles of all shapes and sizes regularly violating the written law. But for wheeled, powered vehicles, that behavior is normalized. Most people simply don't notice it, it fades into the background.

Not to say cyclists get ticketed - probably one of the best things the police could do to deter cyclists from recklessly operating on city streets is to enforce the law for them as vehicles - but to say that most car or truck operators that break the law get ticketed is not confirmed by my experience.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:12 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


fnarf, I don't blame pedestrians for their own stupidity.

We have multiple reports here in this thread from people with poor eyesight. Those people are not stupid, and they are perfectly legitimate pedestrians; their right to access to shared public space is the same as any cyclist. Cylists, like motorists, need to be cautious AT ALL TIMES.

Even well-sighted, non-"stupid" pedestrians can have difficulty judging the speed and trajectory of relatively small far-away objects that are hurtling towards them. The slalom-like tendency of cyclists to weave in and out, and the lack of any obvious consensus on where they are headed -- unlike cars, which can usually be assumed to be in a lane -- makes it even more difficult. People freeze, they start and stop, they go back, they behave unpredictably. That's not their problem -- it's YOUR problem. YOU are the one who is expected to adjust and to give way.

In that intersection you are in their space, period.

Cyclists do, in fact, frequently assume that they can "bomb" not just yellow lights but every other road condition under the sun. This is not correct. The onus is on YOU; a pedestrian, even if he or she is old or blind or stupid, has the absolute right of way in the intersection.

This is the entitlement that people get upset about. Cyclists think that their special urban skills take precedence, and they think that people who are on foot or in cars are "stupid". The subject of motorist entitlement is an interesting one, but it's a different subject than what we're talking about here.
posted by Fnarf at 6:15 PM on April 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


This morning's SF Chronicle: SUV kills father, daughter on bikes... Driver, 17, faces 2 felony counts, said to be speeding.

FWIW, that story *is* getting more coverage on local TV news here than the Bucchere case.

The Claycord blog dug up social media; comments there are the usual cesspool.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:46 PM on April 8, 2012


All vehicles on the road are supposed to be "in control" at all times and driven according to prevailing conditions. So, even if the cyclist did enter the intersection on a yellow he apparently wasn't in control, or within a speed suitable to the conditions. Car, or bike, that's not responsible driving.

Safe driving is more than simply having the legal right-of-way.
posted by Artful Codger at 6:55 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


You have to be REALLY BAD or colossally unlucky to get pulled over in NYC, as a driver or a cyclist. The handful of times I've seen someone get pulled over, I always think "Jesus, what did they do??" because of what you see happen every day right in front of your eyes that goes fully unintercepted, if not outright ignored.
posted by hermitosis at 6:59 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Bombing does seem to be at the heart of it, and it gets to one basic problem of bikes: They don't hold still very well. Anyone on a bicycle will try really hard to avoid having to stop, because you have to put your feet down in a way that's uncomfortable. But of course, a vehicle that doesn't like to stop is an inherently dangerous vehicle.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:14 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


What is irritating to me is that there aren't metafilter posts with 250 comments every time some reckless motorist in a car mows down a pedestrian/s.

There's a good chance there would be a Metafilter post about a fatal car accident if the driver were to jump on the web immediately after the accident and happily detail his recklessness with near total disregard for his victim, and if the specifics of the accident were captured and revealed via a social networking app, and if there were already an on-going dialogue here about the sort of car he may have been driving.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:26 PM on April 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, I think you're just trying to find fault with bikes now. It's no problem at all for someone to stop one.
posted by ambrosen at 7:27 PM on April 8, 2012


I read a vehicle that doesn't like to stop as meaning a bike with no brakes, in this context. And of course it's sometimes a problem for someone to stop one, as evidenced by this incident.
posted by rtha at 7:48 PM on April 8, 2012


ButI stand by my assertion that any time (okay, most times) I've seen drivers being reckless or breaking the law, they've been ticketed

Having driven in NYC, and being an enthusiastic cyclist, motorcyclist, and car driver (as well as truck crew), this is completely contrary to my experience.


Seriously. In SF, police will watch a driver run a red and do nothing. I don't think I've ever seen a driver pulled over for running a red light. Cameras go off, sure, but never seen a cop pull one over. And I'm on the street every day.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:17 PM on April 8, 2012


That Nuri family story is a literal nightmare. :(
posted by mrgrimm at 8:20 PM on April 8, 2012


ThatFuzzyBastard: "Brokkr: Citation?"
30 years of living, working and riding bikes in northwestern Europe, including 11 years in Copenhagen biking to and from university and work. I've done my share of jayriding and other stupid shit (riding the entire 5½km from home to my work at the post office at 4:30 in the am without touching the handlebars once, except when stopping at the end comes to mind) when I was in my early twenties. I got stopped once by a cop for turning right on a red light and got a stern talking to, and once a police cruiser slowed down and honked beside me when I was on my way home from work in the middle of the night without lights on my bike. I got off my bike and started walking, they drove off and I got back on my bike.

If either of those episodes had resulted in a fine and/or the revoking of my biking privileges, I'd have bought a car much sooner. If you make people go through the same trouble to ride a bike as to drive a car, the attractiveness of the former isn't going to rise.
"When I was in Europe, and particularly in the bike-heavy city of Amsterdam, I never saw a bicyclist going half as fast as I normally see cyclists here in Brooklyn, and never saw anything even approaching the level of aggression. But I could certainly believe that this was a result of culture, rather than regulation. Which then brings up the question of what would change the awful, entitled culture of bicyclists here in the U.S."
Less aggression is a good place to start in general, but I don't have much hope for the US on that count. It seems to be part and parcel of the American Way of Life™.

Better bicycle infrastructure goes a long way. I'm less enthusiastic about biking since I moved to Germany three years ago, where the "bike lane" is just the rightmost two feet of the right-hand lane, denoted by a dotted line. The trucks can't not drive in it. Compare with the segregated bike lanes in Copenhagen or the Netherlands.
posted by brokkr at 5:48 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


@paradux - "Same thing goes for drivers. especially taxi drivers."

Yeah, but I don't know about you, but I don't see drivers or taxi drivers commonly running red lights as they go full speed through an occupied pedestrian crossing, going the wrong way down a one way street, and riding on the sidewalk.

If bicyclists want to be taken seriously then they need to obey the rules of the road. You don't get to act like an asshole just because you're riding a bike.
posted by ged at 8:59 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that's a false dichotomy. We take car drivers seriously even though huge, gigantic numbers of them fail to obey the rules of the road. (That's not the only reason we take drivers seriously, of course, but it's not a reason to *not* take them seriously.)
posted by rtha at 9:06 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not to defend car drivers but it doesn't take much effort with a big piece of steel to kill a pedestrian. A momentary lapse of judgement is all it takes to take a life even when driving at the speed limit and obeying traffic signs. A cyclist, OTOH, needs to really try hard and drive suicidally to kill a pedestrian. Pedestrians are always at the losing end of any match between them and a machine. You can't equate Bucchare with a car driver that makes a mistake that accidentally costs a life. This is premeditated. This is insanity.
posted by JJ86 at 9:12 AM on April 9, 2012


Yeah, but I don't know about you, but I don't see drivers or taxi drivers commonly running red lights as they go full speed through an occupied pedestrian crossing, going the wrong way down a one way street, and riding on the sidewalk

Honestly, I see that all the time. YMMV, of course. (Riding on the sidewalk, no, of course, because they don't fit, but parking on the sidewalk, shit, every block almost.)

One problem is that the 99% of us sane and safe cyclists seem to get defined by the 1% who are usually way less dangerous (to others) than pretty much any teenager driving a car.

Another problem is that cars and bikes are not comparable. The only reason most small (not major city grids) streets are one-way is because two cars can't fit. Bicycling down a deserted alley to a spot so you don't have to ride all the way around the block is different than biking the wrong way down a busy one-way thoroughfare like Bush.

Cars are built with strong brakes and strong acceleration. Stopping at a stop sign or red light is no big deal. Letting a bicycle treat certain of those situations as "yield" is a huge deal. The assholes are going to fly through no matter what the rule is.

If bicyclists want to be taken seriously then they need to obey the rules of the road. You don't get to act like an asshole just because you're riding a bike.

So just because 1% acts badly, or let's be generous and say ... 20% ... none of us get to be taken seriously? What is your requisite percentage of non-asshole cyclists so that we are allowed to be "taken seriously" (which now that I think about it, matters as much as a wank).

The best advice I have for everyone: motorcylists, bicyclists, truck drivers, car drivers, even pedestrians--slow down.

Like I said, I'm on the streets all the time, so I've seen some CRAZY behavior of all sorts, but to be fair, bicycling does seem to be getting worse. I just figured it's because more juniors are getting fixies instead of a sports cars these days.

But someone flying through the intersection of Castro and Market (or perhaps even worse, Castro and 18th) at 35mph is nearly inconceivable to me. The worst I ever saw was a guy fly through a crowded crosswalk in Oakland, but again, 35mph? That's pretty fast on a bike. I've been at that speed going downhill on a bicycle before, but not in a congested area. I have a hard time fathoming it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:20 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every time I've seen a driver being reckless, they've been pulled over by a cop eager to bring in revenue.

No, no, no. I don't know how you could be a pedestrian, cyclist or driver anywhere in the United States for more than a few days and say that with a straight face.

As a pedestrian, cyclist, and driver, I see reckless drivers almost every day of my life, and I see drivers pulled over for it maybe once every 3 months.
posted by gurple at 9:21 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: Bombing does seem to be at the heart of it, and it gets to one basic problem of bikes: They don't hold still very well. Anyone on a bicycle will try really hard to avoid having to stop, because you have to put your feet down in a way that's uncomfortable. But of course, a vehicle that doesn't like to stop is an inherently dangerous vehicle.

What sort of bike are you riding? Stopping on a bike means standing up for a little bit, basically, but with the option to support yourself partially on the bike frame. Granted, people vary, but it's not really reasonable to expect standing to be uncomfortable for most...
posted by Dysk at 9:49 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but I don't know about you, but I don't see drivers or taxi drivers commonly running red lights as they go full speed through an occupied pedestrian crossing, going the wrong way down a one way street, and riding on the sidewalk.

No, of course you don't see drivers doing the "asshole cyclist" things -- you (or at least the rest of us) see drivers doing "asshole driver" things. Cutting off other drivers, turning left without giving pedestrians at the crosswalk the right of way, speeding, not stopping at stop signs, texting while driving, driving drunk, driving in bike lanes, etc. And because it's all being done with a very heavy vehicle, each of those behaviors kills people every day.
posted by parudox at 9:57 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also this:

San Francisco's bicycling community is bracing for a backlash following the second recent case of a cyclist hitting and killing a pedestrian

The other "recent" case was Randolph Ang, last July 15. Before that, it had been 5 years before a pedestrian had been killed in the Bay Area by a bicycle accident.

Two men were killed by drivers in San Francisco last week on one day alone.

Nothing excuses the behavior of flying through a crowded intersection at 35mph. I mean, that must be a bit of hyperbole? I have registered that on a spedometer on a large hill, but this video demonstrates 36mph. That is flying.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:02 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uh, mrgrimm... wtf?

(text box at top)
posted by gurple at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2012


Every time I've seen a driver being reckless, they've been pulled over by a cop eager to bring in revenue.

Not even close, in my experience. I have to drive around town almost every day, and I am so used to idiots not signaling, ignoring stop signs and running red lights that I just expect the other drivers to make incredibly stupid moves. If I didn't drive that defensively, I could easily end up in an accident several times a week, no exaggeration.

We were driving home the other night and the police were re-routing all the traffic around an accident. When they go to the trouble to shut lanes off completely here, it almost always means the accident involves a fatality.

Police cars and fire rescue vehicles surrounded the intersection. A uniformed officer directed drivers to a side road where they could make U-turns.

As we came up to the light, my heart sunk: in the midst of all the flashing red lights, lying on its side in the middle of the intersection was a motorcycle. A car, the front bumper crumpled, had not yet been cleared from the roadway.

The next morning I read that the driver of the car, a 55 year-old woman, attempted to make a left turn and hit the cyclist as he was proceeding through the intersection.

The motorcyclist had the green light and he was wearing his helmet at the time of the crash. The 28 year-old, recently engaged man had recently become engaged; heand his fiance had a child together. He died from the result of his injuries.

The driver of the car was cited for failure to yield the right of way. She walked away from the accident.

I'm well aware that careless drivers are responsible for their share of accidents, and that often pedestrians and cyclists are doing everything right and still die as a result of that carelessness.

Cars are built with strong brakes and strong acceleration. Stopping at a stop sign or red light is no big deal. Letting a bicycle treat certain of those situations as "yield" is a huge deal.

I disagree. If you don't follow the rules of the road on a bike, you're the one most likely to end up dead as a result. If you don't have time, on a bicycle, to stop for a light, you are just going WAY too fast. It's not a "huge deal" to stop, it's just inconvenient.

I drive defensively, and you should ride defensively, whether it is convenient or not, so you don't end up dead in some intersection.

Even then, there's no guarantees.
posted by misha at 10:21 AM on April 9, 2012


Uh, mrgrimm... wtf?

lolz. Did one of you do that?

(I have no connection to that video--just looking for an example of a bike near 35mph)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:26 AM on April 9, 2012


It really doesn't matter if the bicycle was geared or fixed, or whether it had brakes or not.

The rider is responsible for maintaining a safe speed for the conditions, following traffic signals, and avoiding collisions, just like any other vehicle on the road. Unless, it can be shown that the pedestrians left the curb before the green light and created an unavoidable hazard, the cyclist (just like a car would be) is at fault.

As a cyclist, the part of story that does't fit with reality is the idea that a rider could have entered the intersection in a yellow at speed, and that the pedestrians were in his path before he crossed through. At even moderate speed (15mph), it's less than a second to cross. I've gone through yellow lights and never has a pedestrian walked into the street while they are still being shown the Don't Walk sign. Let alone it being "crowded as all getup" while the light is still yellow.

I'm sure more facts will surface to clear things up, but it is difficult to see a situation where the cyclist will be found to be not at fault.

A sad situation anyway you look at it.
posted by Argyle at 10:52 AM on April 9, 2012


Ugh, this is so hard. This guy was a total jerk. On the other hand ... knowing that intersection I can see how this would happen.

For instance:

I've gone through yellow lights and never has a pedestrian walked into the street while they are still being shown the Don't Walk sign. Let alone it being "crowded as all getup" while the light is still yellow.

That is totally possible here and it has happened to me more than once when the light is still GREEN. Pedestrians look for cars. They don't look for bikes. If a car had run the yellow at that intersection, the peds would have thought he was a jerk, but they also wouldn't have kept walking. I've been going downhill here with a green light and had people wander out in front of me. And then I yell at them. And then they think cyclists are mean. I don't think that makes it a good idea to hit them (and I am generally prepared to stop if necessary), but yea, I can see how this happened.

Plus then you have the fact that, outside Valencia Street (where the lights are timed at 13 mph for bikes), the traffic signals here, especially on Market, have yellows that are way too short for even responsible bikes. Where Sanchez crosses (a few blocks down from the accident), the light is so short and the street so wide, that as a bike crossing the line when the light turns green, you can't even make it across the intersection before it turns yellow.

None of this is to say this dude wasn't being reckless and he didn't write a pretty tone-deaf post about it. But given what I know about that intersection and pedestrians, he didn't have to be a monster for this to happen. He had to be careless and unlucky.

Finally about the speed. It is really not hard to get up to 35 on some of these hills. I have used Strava to track speed (because I am curious not because I am a total street racer), and for instance, coming down Polk, it is trivial. There are lights, not stop signs, and if traffic is light ... You don't have to be a careless jerk. This guy was but it is because he wasn't riding appropriately for the conditions and didn't know his route well, not because he was going a certain speed.
posted by dame at 11:08 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


The other "recent" case was Randolph Ang, last July 15.

Yup. And as part of a plea deal that the family agreed to, he got 3 years of probation, a bunch of community service, and has to pay restitution to the victim's family. (He was late for work and ran a red light; the woman he killed was in a crosswalk.)
posted by rtha at 11:15 AM on April 9, 2012


"One problem is that the 99% of us sane and safe cyclists seem to get defined by the 1% who are usually way less dangerous (to others) than pretty much any teenager driving a car.

I think you're vastly underestimating the number of bicyclists who are acting like assholes. I've only ever seen 5 (5!) cyclists stop at a red light in NYC. That's in 10 years. And I see dozens of cyclists on a given day.

"Another problem is that cars and bikes are not comparable. The only reason most small (not major city grids) streets are one-way is because two cars can't fit. Bicycling down a deserted alley to a spot so you don't have to ride all the way around the block is different than biking the wrong way down a busy one-way thoroughfare like Bush."

The excuses that so many cyclists make for poor behavior is just galling. The point is not whether it's sometimes more convenient to ride your bike like an asshole. The point is that you're acting in a dangerous way when you're zipping the wrong way down a street. You're breaking the law, and you're hurting the cause of cyclists throughout the city.

Why would any pedestrians want to make cycling easier or to increase the number of cyclists? They aren't keeping up their end of the bargain and they seem to spend all of their time feeling like the rest of the world owes them something.
posted by ged at 11:20 AM on April 9, 2012


Cyclists ignore transit infrastructure to the extent that transit infrastructure ignores cyclists. If you want less cyclist conflict, you're honestly better off advocating for more cyclist-appropriate laws. You can rant until you're blue in the face about how these assholes should like just follow the law, man, but if you want real change, there need to be laws that understand the difference between a bike and a car and a pedestrian, and cars and pedestrians need to look for bikes and understand they are equal users of the streets. Because yeah, when people feel outside the system they don't see much point in propping it up — even if you think they should.
posted by dame at 12:16 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's still not an excuse for the reckless behavior this guy demonstrated. This simply boils down to the operation of a machine or vehicle, regardless of size, in an unsafe manner.
posted by samsara at 12:45 PM on April 9, 2012


Los Angeles cyclist intentionally hit from behind in hit and run. Driver not yet found.
posted by GregorWill at 1:30 PM on April 9, 2012


Also that cyclist was in LA's brand new "green bicycle lane" on Spring Street. So much for good bicycle infrastructure protecting bicyclists.
posted by GregorWill at 1:32 PM on April 9, 2012


I'm sure that cyclist had just committed a minor traffic infraction of some sort, so it's completely justified. Hell, they should have doubled back and finished him off.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:55 PM on April 9, 2012


Honestly, that's not what I would call "good" infrastructure. Better than no lane? Maybe. I don't see it on StreetView, so it is hard to say. But I am thinking more like lanes separated from traffic by a parking buffer or at least soft hits. (I think these also encourage peds to look for bikes because they are a space denoted "Bike Goes Here.") But a real change is a lot more wholesale — It's an Idaho stop law so cars stop getting so bent our of shape when bikes (reasonably! based on on mode of transport!) yield at stop signs*. It's driver's ed being clear about how you turn right across a bike lane, how you pass a bike, and being super clear that bikes have a right to a lane and you need to just pretend they are grandma going slow and use the other lane to pass. It's cops citing drivers for behavior that endangers cyclists and traffic engineers taking cycling into accounts in light cycles.

There is a lot of conflict because there are bad laws teaching people to behave badly. None of this has a ton to do with Chris Bucchere except that a longer yellow or pedestrians actually *looking* before walking maybe have helped to avert an accident, even *with* a cyclist making the bad judgements he did.

* Additional bonus: Cyclists don't get used to breaking bad laws; might actually pay attention to the ones left.
posted by dame at 1:58 PM on April 9, 2012


I've only ever seen 5 (5!) cyclists stop at a red light in NYC.

And I've see 10-20 cyclists stopping at red lights in about an hour of walking around NYC. If they didn't, in many places they would get hit by cars. Duh.

You're simply not seeing the cyclists behaving responsibly because they are invisible to you.

The point is that you're acting in a dangerous way when you're zipping the wrong way down a street. You're breaking the law, and you're hurting the cause of cyclists throughout the city.

Sorry, dead wrong here. I can't see how coasting 5mph down an empty alley is hurting anyone. Friends tell me to be careful of pedestrians (who are not expecting a vehicle going the wrong way), so of course I am. I've done it once a day, every weekday for 9 years. There has never even been close to an incident.

People are gonna hate on cyclists anyway. They are just drooling for stories like this one. Check CNET:

Cyclist hits pedestrian, posts eulogy for helmet online

Los Angeles cyclist intentionally hit from behind in hit and run. Driver not yet found.

That's really one huge difference between bicycles and cars. I can't conceive of a bicyclist hitting a pedestrian intentionally, but drivers hit bicyclists on purpose all the fucking time. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 ...) it's so common I'd bet there are tons of incidents that never make the news.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:17 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


"You're simply not seeing the cyclists behaving responsibly because they are invisible to you."

You're not listening. I make a real point of noticing cyclists in NYC. I used to be a cyclist myself. I see cyclists every day on the street and usually they're either blowing through red lights, running red lights after having stopped, running red lights by making a right/left turn after stopping,etc.

In my time here I've seen 5 cyclists properly stop at a red light. Maybe today I'll see a sixth.

People hate on cyclists because they see cyclists act like assholes. Plain and simple. It's especially galling when cyclists then try and defend their bad behavior.
posted by ged at 2:32 PM on April 9, 2012


That's really one huge difference between bicycles and cars. I can't conceive of a bicyclist hitting a pedestrian intentionally, but drivers hit bicyclists on purpose all the fucking time. (5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 ...) it's so common I'd bet there are tons of incidents that never make the news.

And that's wrong, and people like that should obviously be punished severely. That doesn't give cyclists license to flout traffic laws.
posted by ged at 2:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


You're not listening. I make a real point of noticing cyclists in NYC. I used to be a cyclist myself. I see cyclists every day on the street and usually they're either blowing through red lights, running red lights after having stopped, running red lights by making a right/left turn after stopping,etc.

So your anecdata in the only right one, and mrgrimm's anecdata is therefore false. Okay then.
posted by rtha at 2:47 PM on April 9, 2012


rtha, since mrgrimm was commenting on my inability to observe the world around me, I was pointing out that he doesn't know me and without following me around he has no business claiming that I'm not seeing what I'm seeing.

I made no such claims about his observational skills.
posted by ged at 5:56 PM on April 9, 2012


The point is that you're acting in a dangerous way when you're zipping the wrong way down a street. You're breaking the law, and you're hurting the cause of cyclists throughout the city.

Sorry, dead wrong here. I can't see how coasting 5mph down an empty alley is hurting anyone.


My Dad's a cyclist and I am sympathetic to motorists not always being considerate of cyclists, but this is just so ridiculous I can't let it stand.

If you--just you!--go the wrong way down a one-way street (which you have now redefined as an empty alley), YOU might not hurt anyone. So what? If EVERY cyclist does it, absolutely people are going to get hurt! Do you want motorists using this kind of logic--it's okay for ME to break the law because I'm not intending to hit anyone!?

That's why everyone who breaks the law should get cited, to prevent accidents *before* they happen. Not every motorist gets ticketed for speeding, running red lights or going the wrong way down that road, but that's not because the police are giving them a free ride, it's because there are so many more motorists than cyclists. It would be impossible to cite them all.

If you really think it is just fine for you to break the law every day, why not motorists? I'm sure it would be really convenient for some of them to take shortcuts down one-way streets, too. How many get to do that before you feel it is a problem? One, two, three?

Isn't it better to prevent anyone from breaking the law than make exceptions just for that one motorist, or that one mrgrimm, because of course we know HE doesn't mean any harm?!

The more motorists AND the more cyclists we have on the roads, the more important it becomes for everyone to follow the law, for everyone's safety.
posted by misha at 6:40 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you--just you!--go the wrong way down a one-way street (which you have now redefined as an empty alley)...

I'm not sure why you've decided to take issue with mrgrimm's characterization of an empty alley. An alley or laneway is not a disparaging name for a street, it refers to a narrow roadway behind a block of buildings, meant to provide service or garage access. Pedestrians, cars, and trucks share such spaces at low speeds and usually in low numbers. They're often one-way because there's not enough space for two cars to pass. That's not a problem for bikes.

In Paris, when streets are too narrow for two-way car traffic, you can now find signs saying "no entry (except bikes)". In North America, we haven't yet figured out that rules designed for motor vehicles don't always make sense for bicycles.
posted by parudox at 7:42 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


In North America, we haven't yet figured out that rules designed for motor vehicles don't always make sense for bicycles.

But they should still be followed. If they're so wrong then act to change them.

What is it going to take to convince you that bicyclists should follow traffic laws? Is there any way to do that? Or are you just so certain that your awesome skills make you exempt from the same rules everyone else follows that no amount of discussion would ever convince you of what the rest of us have known for some time?
posted by ged at 7:59 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is it going to take to convince you that bicyclists should follow traffic laws? Is there any way to do that? Or are you just so certain that your awesome skills make you exempt from the same rules everyone else follows that no amount of discussion would ever convince you of what the rest of us have known for some time?

I like how you assume that I'm a Cyclist (and not like "the rest of us") who breaks all the rules, even though in the above discussion I had not referred to myself. What it would take to convince me that cyclists should follow all traffic laws is a decent set of traffic laws. Certainly they should follow most of the existing ones, like not running red lights and not speeding. (Not that drivers follow all of them, with their speeding, or pedestrians with their jaywalking -- itself a disparaging term created so that cars could take over the streets. But I digress.)

If they're so wrong then act to change them.

I do what I can. Policy change like this takes top-down political interest in making cycling a substantial component of the transportation system.
posted by parudox at 8:36 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Video surveillance footage taken when a bicyclist ran into a 71-year-old pedestrian crossing San Francisco's Castro Street, killing the man, is raising questions about the biker's account of the crash.

The video shows Sutchi Hui of San Bruno and his wife stepping into the intersection at Castro and Market streets just as Chris Bucchere rides in from the north side, said a law enforcement source who has viewed the footage.

"The biker is going fast and looks like he is hunched down. He hits the victim dead-on. There is never a moment where he looks like he is trying to slow down," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because police are still investigating the March 29 crash.

Hui died of his injuries four days later.

Bucchere, who was also injured, apparently posted his version of the accident online that same day after being released from the hospital.

"I was already way too committed to stop," the post says. "The light turned red as I was cruising through the middle of the intersection and then, almost instantly, the southern crosswalk on Market and Castro filled up with people coming from both directions.

"I couldn't see a line through the crowd," the post adds, "and I couldn't stop, so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find."

According to our source, however, the video shows only three or four people in the crosswalk when the collision occurred.

"It's not like there is a sea of people crossing," the source said.

One thing the video does not show was whether the light was red or yellow when Bucchere entered the intersection. The light was out of the camera's view.

posted by rtha at 8:09 AM on April 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


S.F. bicyclist in fatal crash may face felony
posted by rtha at 12:52 PM on April 25, 2012


"The biker is going fast and looks like he is hunched down. He hits the victim dead-on. There is never a moment where he looks like he is trying to slow down," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because police are still investigating the March 29 crash.
I'm thinking this means he wasn't on a fixie at the time.
posted by Chuckles at 1:20 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


In North America, we haven't yet figured out that rules designed for motor vehicles don't always make sense for bicycles.

But they should still be followed. If they're so wrong then act to change them.


Isn't that like kinda asking me to stop growing and using marijuana until it's legalized?

Bad laws should not be followed. Some traffic laws make bicycling more dangerous and should not be followed.

If you--just you!--go the wrong way down a one-way street (which you have now redefined as an empty alley), YOU might not hurt anyone. So what? If EVERY cyclist does it, absolutely people are going to get hurt!

Empty conjecture.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:39 PM on April 25, 2012


S.F. bicyclist in fatal crash may face felony

Enforcement of bicycling/driving laws seems a bit analogous to the old crack vs. cocaine sentencing guidelines.

If he were a car driver, he would be cited and sued, with no ticket and no criminal charges.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:41 PM on April 25, 2012


I don't think you can say that as if that's always the case, mrgrimm, because it isn't. And remember the Muni driver who killed a pedestrian in the Castro? Facing vehicular manslaughter charges.
posted by rtha at 2:56 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ya there is an observation bias at work. A car killing a pedestrian is so pedestrian that it'll barely make the news. Certainly follow ups like sentencing will often be buried. A cyclist killing a pedestrian? That veers into man bites dog territory.
posted by Mitheral at 4:17 PM on April 25, 2012


mrgrimm: "Bad laws should not be followed. Some traffic laws make bicycling more dangerous and should not be followed."

Which ones are those? The only class I can think of that arguably makes cycling more dangerous are those that require a cyclist to use a bicycle lane and don't account for conditions, which I don't think applies in more than a few states.

Certainly laws which forbid cycling on sidewalks and the wrong way on one way roads do not fall into that class. In the latter case, I would buy it if you said they made cycling less convenient, but less safe? Give me a break.
posted by wierdo at 8:58 PM on April 25, 2012


Which ones are those? The only class I can think of that arguably makes cycling more dangerous are those that require a cyclist to use a bicycle lane and don't account for conditions, which I don't think applies in more than a few states.

There are a couple I advocate in general, you won't like them though, I'm sure..

In downtown intersections Cyclists should proceed before the green light at every opportunity. By which I mean, once the opposing direction is yellow, and the traffic is clear, and assuming there is no advance turn signal for oncoming traffic, a cyclist should proceed. Doing this you can be well into the next block before the car traffic is trying to pass you, drastically reducing the chance of being "rubbed out on the boards" when the curb on the far side of the intersection closes in on you. As the intersection gets larger (6 wide lanes instead of 4 narrow ones, for example), this gets to be much less useful.

The other is no right turn on red signs (and associated stop on red before proceeding with turn rules). Cyclists are much better off just getting the hell out of the way on right turns regardless of the signal. Always yielding of course. Trying to make space for yourself among right turning cars in the same lane is just not a good idea, so getting on with it instead of hanging around makes sense.


Of course that logic invariably leads to treating 4-way stops as yields, which makes a lot of sense to me, but no doubt not to you. To me, impatient drivers and timid cyclists add up to it being better for cyclists to maintain momentum and get through 4-way stops as soon as possible. This one rings as so unfair to poor disadvantaged car drivers that I don't bother speaking up for it very much, but it is still fairly sensible. It is also noteworthy that half the cars on the road assume that's what is going to happen, and cause a stand off when cyclists actually try stopping at 4-ways.

And then down the rabbit hole we go... Personally, I don't think the letter of the law is very important for either drivers or cyclists. Being sensible, thinking about what you are doing, and yielding to life are all that really matters.
posted by Chuckles at 1:04 PM on April 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Chuckles: " Personally, I don't think the letter of the law is very important for either drivers or cyclists. Being sensible, thinking about what you are doing, and yielding to life are all that really matters."

In the abstract, I think that's a fine way to approach things. Problem is that the last thing you want to do when on a bicycle is to do something surprising. That is what, in my experience, leads to unpleasantness. It's unfortunate that you choose not to see that you can ride perfectly safely while obeying all relevant traffic laws, because your bad riding gives me a bad name. Should it? No. But the fact of the matter is that people do stereotype and other people's bad behavior means that I get to be on the receiving end of their frustration at having almost killed a different cyclist yesterday.

You want to go ahead of everybody else? Get any conflicting laws changed (relatively easy in most states if it's a topic nobody cares about) and get your city to paint some bike boxes next time they repaint the lines on the street. Again, pretty easy to get done if nobody else cares.

Personally, I don't care for them, but we don't have a system of mandatory bike lanes here. We do have on street bike routes and occasional bike lanes along with a passel of MUTs. If I feel that safety requires I take a whole lane, I do, and the law is behind me.
posted by wierdo at 3:24 PM on April 27, 2012


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