As a cyclist this news story sends chills down my spine. A cyclist was sentenced for manslaughter for fatally striking a pedestrian. Basically he killed someone with his bike. Chris Bucchere was riding about 30 miles per hour downhill when he ran a red light and struck 71-year-old Sutchi Hui. Through a plea bargain, Bucchere was sentenced to three years probation and 1,000 hours of community service. He could have gotten six years in jail.
This was in a busy intersection, but guess why Bucchere was going so fast? Apparently he had a GPS device that compared the speed records for different areas. It's believed that he was trying to break that record. Why anyone needs to break a speed record on the street is beyond me, but I don't have the right to judge Bucchere. I've struck a pedestrian ... twice.
The first time I was riding back from my morning workout in the park. I turned on an intersection where I saw about three people jay walking in the middle of the block (it's a short block near a coffee cart and a subway stop). I tried to dodge them all, but I misjudged one of them and ran into him. He was a big guy, and when I knocked him down, the impact sent me flying over my handlebars. (Amazingly he got up before I did.) He was fine, thank goodness. But I still felt horrible. Lesson learned -- now I ride earlier in the morning when there are fewer people around, and I always take that turn slowly, knowing that people treat it more like an extra-wide sidewalk than a street.
The second time was during my morning ride again, this time in the park. There's a lane for bikes, a lane for runners, and a narrow buffer zone between the two. I looked down at my gears just a couple seconds too long and it was enough for me to veer into the buffer zone, where a runner had wandered as they sometimes do. I swiped his arm and shoulder. Again, he was okay and I was (deservedly) thrown off my bike. I was going uphill so I wasn't going very fast. But I still felt horrible -- again. I work harder now to keep my eyes on the path at all times.
Just like driving a car, riding a bike is a responsibility. Someone's father and grandfather died because of the carelessness of a cyclist. Regardless of the sentence, Bucchere will have that on his conscience for the rest of his life. No one should be speeding through city streets -- it's just too risky, and there are too many unpredictable factors. Sometimes accidents are unavoidable -- that's why we call them accidents. I've learned that you have to ride under the assumption that at some point, someone is going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if you're riding at a reasonable speed and paying attention, at least you can minimize the damage you do.
Do you think Bucchere's sentence was too harsh or just right?
Image via knehcsg/Flickr