Tag Archive for slap on the wrist

Killer SF cyclist Chris Bucchere gets slap on wrist — should we be angry?

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know I can get almost apoplectic when a killer driver walks with a relative slap on the wrist.

So how should we respond when it’s a bike rider who gets the benefit of the court’s low valuation of a human life?

San Francisco cyclist Chris Bucchere faced a felony manslaughter charge for running into 71-year old pedestrian Sutchi Hui in a crosswalk while — allegedly — trying to beat his Strava time. Witnesses and security camera footage were unclear on whether he ran the red light, or entered on the yellow as Bucchere claimed.

Bucchere posted online shortly after the incident, defending his actions by saying the crosswalk filled before he could clear the intersection, and, unable to find a clear line, laid down his bike at the least populated area. At least some witnesses said he simply plowed through the crowded crosswalk, killing Hui.

Other witnesses reported that he had been riding recklessly prior to the collision, running at least three red lights prior to arriving at the deadly intersection.

Now the SF Gate reports that he’s accepted a plea deal that will avoid jail time, agreeing to perform 1,000 hours of community service.

Don’t get me wrong.

One thousand hours is a long time, and it gives him an opportunity to benefit society while serving as a warning to other riders.

But if a killer driver got off with just community service, we would be livid. At least, I would be.

Should we be any less so when the killer is one of us?

My first reaction was relief that Bucchere had been held accountable without suffering the heavy handed sentence that had been threatened. After all, he’s one of us, and it’s easy to imagine ourselves in that position.

Or not, on second though.

I never run red lights. As in, never.

I always ride within my capabilities; as thrilling as it can be to push beyond your limits, I’ve learned the hard way that the risks far outweigh the benefits.

And I never, ever ride recklessly around pedestrians. They have the right-of-way when crossing the street. And even when in the wrong, they are the only people on the roadway more vulnerable than we are.

They need, and deserve, our respect and consideration as much as we need that of the motorists we’re forced to share the road with.

So I find myself conflicted.

I’m angry that yet another killer has been let off the hook with a sentence that once again devalues the life of his victim and the consequences of his actions.

And relieved that one of us wasn’t held to a stricter accountability than similarly reckless drivers.

It’s just another slap on the wrist. And a sentence that is only fair in the uniformity of its unfairness.

Thanks to Al Williams for the heads-up.

Pasadena driver gets gentle caress on wrist for killing popular local cyclist and musician Alan Deane

Once again, a killer driver gets off with a virtual pat on the back for decreasing the excess cyclist population.

What else can you call it when the driver pleads to reckless driving, bargained down from an original charge of vehicular manslaughter? And gets off with an obscenely lenient 10 days of community labor, 400 hours of community service and a whopping $4000 in restitution and other fines.

That’s what the life of a human being is worth these days. If he’s on a bike, anyway.

Ten days. Four hundred hours. And at least $4000.

Who knows, maybe they’ll go hard on him and make it $4050.

That’s what Siddhartha Misra got from a Pasadena judge on Tuesday in his trial for the death of cyclist and musician Alan Deane.

And this for a fatal collision that was caught on video, and reportedly showed the driver failing to yield before fatally slamming into Deane on his bike.

And he apparently gets to keep his driver’s license.

So much for keeping dangerous drivers off the road. Let alone sending any kind of message that would encourage careless motorists to slow down and pay a little more attention for fear of the consequences if they didn’t.

If this is what passes for justice around here, I’ll pass.

Maybe our new DA will decide that bike riders have a right to get home alive.

Misra made a statement to the court apologizing for his actions and saying it’s a heavy burden he’ll have to live with until the day he dies.

I have no doubt that he’s sincere in his remorse. Lord knows I couldn’t live with myself under the same circumstances.

But I can assure you Deane’s family feels a hell of a lot worse.

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A 63-year old Long Beach cyclist suffers a broken hip and rib when the victim of a hit-and-run; her son reports she was trapped under the car, and the driver actually backed off her to get away.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Long Beach Police Department Accident Investigation Detail at (562) 570-7355.

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Big news in pro cycling — and good news, for a change — as USA Cycling finally puts women’s cycling on the same footing as men, with equal prize money and championships on the same weekend.

Now maybe the Amgen Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge will figure out a way to get a women’s peloton on the course.

Chances are, they’ll get just as exciting racing — if not more.

And maybe even fewer former (?) dopers.

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An Op-Ed in the L.A. Times says NBC Universal’s agreement to extend the L.A. River through their property is a good start — but until the other studios in the area fall in line, it’s just a start. Santa Monica considers $326,000 in improvements to the beachfront bike path through the city. Will Campbell plays Let’s Make a Deal as he just avoids the door prize, twice.

Fullerton joins with Bike Nation to develop a bike share program, as the latter seems to be developing the critical mass (lower case) for a pan-SoCal system; thanks to Lois for the heads-up. San Clemente considers a road diet — including bike lanes — on El Camino Real. Pomona replaces parking near Cal Poly with bike lanes. A Bay Area news site offers tips to ride safely following the tragic cycling death of a 12-year old girl. A San Francisco schmuck motorist hits a cyclist and drives off with his bike stuck under his car. Sonoma County Supervisors consider an L.A.-style cyclist anti-harassment ordinance; this would be the first to be adopted on a countywide basis. No really, if you’re carrying meth and a pipe after dark, put some damn lights on your bike.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking is accepting nominations for bike and pedestrian advocates and organizations. CNN discovers tweed rides and Cycle Chic — as well as our own Melissa Balmer of Women on Bikes SoCal. Honda says it’s okay to take a little nap behind the wheel. New bike-themed apartment complex opens in Denver, featuring bike storage, a repair room and even free bikes for tenants; so when can we move? Been awhile since we’ve checked in with Dottie at Let’s Go Ride a Bike; she offers a typically beautiful — for her — look at fall riding. A Pittsburgh cyclist says the driver who hit him did it deliberately. A Concord writer says he’ll take bike racks over bike lanes. Boston police warn cyclists about dangerous streets just hours before a cyclist is killed. Boston’s BikeyFace illustrates a downloadable bike safety poster. How New York can fight salmon cyclists, or not. Would you wear your medical information coded on your helmet?

Ontario townsfolk pitch in to replace a boy’s stolen bike. A Toronto physician is arrested protesting the removal of a bike lane. The London Standard says you don’t have to be Bradley Wiggins to deserve a safe ride home. Brit runners following a bike in a race end up following the wrong one. Maybe bike-friendly Bristol isn’t so bike-friendly anymore. Town Mouse’s mum would vroom away from red lights if only her town had any. After losing his license and property, an Aussie cyclist says the only thing bike helmets are proven to protect riders from is fines; my thick skull would beg to differ.

Finally, a Tennessee letter writer evidently assumes all cyclists ride as a hobby — and that local parks just magically appeared. And apparently, a British ad agency is going out of their way to develop the most offensive bike safety campaign yet; it may have been a misguided attempt at viral marketing, but at least they apologized.

Maybe instead of all this apologizing, we could try avoiding things that have to apologized for. Just a thought.

Drunken Long Beach fire captain suffers a severe slap on the wrist

Is a single year in county lockup sufficient penalty for nearly killing a cyclist with a blood alcohol content three times the legal limit?

An Orange County judge seems to think so.

Yesterday, Santa Ana Superior Court judge Erick Larsh sentenced Long Beach fire captain John David Hines to four years and four months in state prison — then suspended the sentence in lieu of one year in the Orange County jail and five years probation.

Reports could not be confirmed that Hines responded by grabbing his wrist and yelling “Ow!”

And yes, that’s slightly bridled sarcasm, as I find myself censoring what I’d really like to say.

It was almost three months ago that Hines pleaded guilty to three felony counts — driving under the influence, driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of .08, and hit-and-run, as well as sentencing enhancements for having a BAC over .20 and causing great bodily injury.

Those charges stemmed from a bloody, drunken and reportedly urine-soaked April Fools Day episode that left cyclist Jeffrey Gordon struggling for his life.

And no, it wasn’t the least bit funny.

The scion of a leading Long Beach firefighting family, Hines spent the morning drinking at the Schooner or Later bar in Long Beach before climbing behind the wheel of his truck and attempting to drive home, despite a BAC measured at .24 over two hours later.

The legal limit in California is .08.

The bar should bear at least some responsibility for allowing Hines to get that drunk at their hands. Let alone letting him drive after serving him so much alcohol knowing full well how drunk he had to be at that point.

I hope Gordon has a great lawyer; if not, I’ll be happy to recommend a few. If there’s any justice, he’ll own the bar before this is done.

And hopefully, the first thing he’ll do is change that damn name.

As he reportedly wove his way across the roadway on Westminster Blvd, Hines lost control of his truck, drifting into the bike lane to hit Gordon’s bike from behind at an estimated 60 mph. The rider was thrown 70 feet through the air before landing in a crumpled, bloody heap.

His injuries were severe enough to require two weeks hospitalization, as well as limited mobility, and speech and memory loss that continues to this day. Then again, given the speed and severity of the impact, it’s a miracle Gordon survived at all.

Meanwhile, Hines continued to make his merry way to his Huntington Beach home, either unaware or unconcerned that he had nearly killed another human being. He was followed by two witnesses who reported his location to the police.

According to the Belmont Shore – Naples Patch, Billy Chisholm was a passenger in one of those pursuing vehicles.

“I was sick to my stomach the whole time,” Chisholm recalled. “He just hit him and left him to die like he was a skunk in the road. He had to have known he hit him because his truck was all busted up. That was a human being he left there to die. It’s not right.”

When police arrived, they found Hines in an obvious state of drunkenness, with a strong urine odor coming from his clothes. His parked pickup showed major damage to the front-end and hood — including blood spatter from the victim.

As so many scoundrels do these days, he immediately entered rehab after his release from jail, spending over five months in an alcohol rehabilitation facility.

Like Schrodinger’s Cat, whether that was a badly needed attempt to gain control over his apparent alcoholism or a blatant attempt at gaining leniency from the court depends on your perspective.

He also served a 90-day diagnostic evaluation — make that 86 days — in state prison to determine whether he is suitable to serve a sentence in the state penitentiary.

Maybe I’m just not up on current sentencing practices. But I doubt many gangbangers or bank robbers enjoy such sensitivity from the judge after pleading guilty.

Then again, not many felons come from such prominent fire fighting families.

And last but not least, Hines was ordered to pay $102,000 in restitution — most of which has already been eaten up in medical costs.

According to the Los Alamitos Patch, Gordon prepared a written victim impact statement to be considered at sentencing.

“I am a very active person who enjoys being outdoors with my family. I also have a very mentally and physically demanding job that I love. All of that was taken from me in just seconds.

“As a result of the impact, I was seriously injured, receiving an 18-centimeter head laceration, cranial bleeding, three broken vertebrae, a bruised kidney and multiple cuts, scrapes, and contusions over a large area of my body. Medical expenses are piling up from the long hospital stay and treatment from so many specialists… so far reaching nearly $65,000. The doctors are not yet sure when or if I will recover enough to return to full duty at work or to the quality of life that I had before.

“I have found myself becoming more and more upset by the possibility that the negligence of another person may have lasting effects on me, but the person who is responsible may suffer little or no consequences for his actions.”

An anonymous source who was in the courtroom for part of the sentencing hearing offers this assessment of Hines professional position, who has been severely criticized by many — including me — for causing exactly the sort of injuries he was trained to treat.

I wish to point out that although Hines undoubtedly responded as part of a pre-hospital care team to the type of vehicular crime he committed, he was not the one who would have been providing hands-on care to patients.  As a captain, he directed others on the response team.  In fact, Hines is not a paramedic; he holds only an EMT certificate (pending review), and this is probably the bare minimum medical education requirement for a person of his position within his agency.  At EMT level, he cannot even administer painkillers.  With his certification, he would not likely be the one in the back of an ambulance with a puking head trauma victim like the one he created last April, because injuries of that magnitude require paramedic-level response.  He could monitor vitals and provide oxygen in such situations, and that’s about it.

My opinion is that his interest in public safety is less about his interest, if any, in humanity than in the salary & inherent reputation of a firefighter, and the protection that such a reputation affords him as an alcoholic.  But this is just an opinion.

Meanwhile, the OC Weekly offers a scathing report on the lenient sentence.

As they suggest, current jail overcrowding problems make it highly unlikely Hines will serve the full year, joining local public enemy #1 Lindsey Lohan in the revolving door of SoCal jurisprudence.

And I’m sure her wrist is just as sore.

On the other hand, Hines acted as self-appointed judge and jury in sentencing the victim to a possible life sentence of disability.

As disgusted as I am by the apparent leniency, I honestly don’t know if a long prison sentence is the right answer in this particular case.

Alcoholism is an illness, and punishment in prison will do little or nothing to reform a dangerous drunk and return him to a productive member of society.

But I do know that until judges start taking cases like this seriously — and impose sentences that will serve as a warning and deterrence to other drivers — we’ll continue to experience the ongoing carnage on our streets.

And not everyone will be as lucky as Gordon.

First review of County Bike Plan for Santa Clarita Valley; driver gets one year for LA DUI fatality

The first draft of L.A. County’s draft bike plan just dropped late last week, and already the first review is in.

Writing for Santa Clarita Valley blog SCVTalk, Jeff Wilson says the plan highlights the current deficiency of biking infrastructure in area, as well as how the plan would go a long way towards correcting that.

Currently there are only 3.3 miles of bicycle lanes in unincorporated SCV. If adopted and built-out completely, the County’s bike plan would add 45 miles of Class I and Class II bike lanes and 101 more miles of Class III Bike Routes in unincorporated SCV.

Among the more exciting aspects of the plan: a Class II bike lane from Castaic to the Newhall Pass along the Old Road (13 miles), a Class I grade-separated bike path along Castaic Creek in Castaic (5.5 miles), and a Class I grade-separated bike path near Highway 126 all the way to the Ventura County line (10.2 miles), which would be a very positive step forward in bike-path-to-the-sea dream some of us cyclists have had.

The 100+ miles of Class III routes aren’t as exciting because they are merely lines on a map. Few or no alterations to roads are permitted (save for signage), and cyclists are expected to ride in the shoulder or in the traffic lane if that is not possible. The plan puts Class III routes on some of the more popular roads outside of town, including Bouquet Canyon and Sierra Highway.

He notes that the plan says it’s essential to that county bikeways connect with bikeways in Santa Clarita, although many of the existing lanes and routes aren’t on roads that go out of town, especially on the west side. And that just because something is on the map, that doesn’t mean it will be built, as other projects in other areas have been given a higher priority.

So what do you think?

Download the bike plan and take a look at the areas you ride — or would like to ride. And let me know what you think.

Or more importantly, attend one of the workshops or respond online.

And let the county know.

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An L.A. man who killed a 72-year old motorist while speeding at 20 mph over the speed limit — and twice the legal blood alcohol limit — gets just one year in jail because his victim may have made an illegal U-turn.

And if Mark David Skillingberg completes his probation without incident, the felony conviction could be reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged from his record.

According to the L.A. Times:

Judge Katherine Mader expressed sympathy for the victim’s family but referenced a probation report that concluded that Skillingberg was not a danger to the community and will learn from the experience.

“Mr. Skillingberg was obviously drunk and he made the decision to drive,” she said. “But he is not going unpunished.”

So let me get this straight.

Someone who gets drunk, gets behind the wheel and takes the life of another human being isn’t a danger to the community. And it’s okay to kill someone, as long as you promise to learn from the experience.

The primary cause of the other driver’s death wasn’t a U-turn — legal or otherwise. It was a speeding drunk behind the wheel.

And how will any of us be safe on the streets as long as the courts refuse to take that seriously?

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WeHo Daily asks if Stephen Box can beat incumbent CD4 City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. The dreaded Hudson River on L.A.’s future 4th Street Bike Boulevard may have finally run dry. The prolific Rick Risemberg asks cyclists to get involved in the Bike Plan Implementation Team to help turn the new bike plan into a ridable reality. Exploring Los Angeles on two wheels, including good advice on using transit and riding safely. Mark your calendar for Bike Night at the Hammer Museum on April 14th. C-Blog thanks a Mercedes driver for the near-miss wake-up call.

Temple City is next up on the list of local bike plans under consideration. Claremont cyclist offers a lesson in cycling lingo. Hermosa Beach cyclists are about to get new artisan bike racks in high traffic areas; thanks to Jim Lyle for the heads-up. A columnist for the Long Beach Press-Telegram says no one uses those new bike lanes, and no one is asking for them; note to Doug Krikorian — if you don’t know anyone who bikes in Long Beach, maybe you need to expand your circle of friends. Orange County gets another ghost bike amid calls for improved bike safety and more sharrows. The OC’s cdm Cyclist interviews Jeff Mapes, author of Pedaling Revolution.

The Bakersfield Californian says if L.A. can embrace bicycling, they can too; let’s not get carried away though — L.A.’s recent bike love still exists primarily on paper, not on the streets. The country’s healthiest and happiest city continues to invest in the bike infrastructure that helps make it that way. Overcoming a fear of bike commuting. Evidently, I’m not the only one who’s dreamed of opening a combination bike shop/brew pub. Placer County will pay you to buy a new bike. Forget cell-phone using drivers; nearly 20% of drivers admit to surfing the internet while they drive. How to ride in the rain. Ten articles for beginning cyclists, including one from our friend the Springfield Cyclist. Bike Biz asks if the bike industry gives bloggers enough love; hey, I can always use a little more. If you want change, write a letter.

The Colorado man accused of attacking a group of cyclists with a baseball bat has been found guilty. Dottie offers her typically lovely look at Chicago’s spring thaw. In a horrifying story, a New York cyclist is arrested, physically abused and thrown in jail for nearly 24 hours for allegedly running a red light. Despite the backlash, New York cyclists are ahead of the curve, says the Wall Street Journal, while Bike Snob says history is repeating itself. The much criticized Prospect Park West bike lanes have tripled the number of riders and slowed speeding traffic — while adding one second to the average commute. The New York Times looks at cyclists who build their own frames. A look at riding in New York from a Dutch perspective. Brooklyn cyclists plan a ghost bike in honor of the victims of unreported collisions. A 13-year old cyclist is attacked after asking a driver who buzzed him to put his cell phone away and look out for cyclists; thanks to Al Williams for the heads-up.

How to tell when it’s time to get back on your bike after illness. Bicycling looks at this week’s Race to the Sun. After 18 months, a Brit water board can’t seem to find a dangerous road hazard, let alone fix it. Turns out that one of London’s most popular — and threatened — cycling bridges could be closed to cars without adversely affecting traffic. Remarkably, an Edinburgh court finds it more credible that a motorist made an emergency stop, then drove off in fear — with a rider’s bike still stuck under his car — than the possibility that the driver hit the cyclist. Rising French star Fabien Taillefer is the latest rider to admit to doping. A Singapore physician calls for banning recreational cyclists from the road. Even the Chinese People’s Daily is reporting on L.A.’s bike plan.

Finally, I received an email from New York music website Break Thru Radio, promoting a new performance video from guitarist Brian Bonz. In a segment they call Hear & There, the site asks their artists to immerse themselves in an unusual environment; Bonz chose New York bike shop Zen Bikes for his song Terror in Boneville.

And thanks to everyone who has sent me the link to the NY Times article about Janette Sadik-Khan; evidently, the Times registration program was created specifically to keep me out.

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