So, another pedestrian was killed in San Francisco – the 11th this year. Of these 11 deaths, 10 were caused by motor vehicles and one by a bicycle. The most recent death occurred on Saturday evening in the Tenderloin and was caused when a taxi driver allegedly ran a red light and struck the pedestrian. This story warranted a total of four paragraphs in SFGate – while there are at least seven discrete articles relating to the death of a pedestrian who was struck by a bicyclist in March.
I only learned of the most recent pedestrian death via the news crawl on KTVU this morning. And it’s really infuriating. Pedestrian deaths by automobile receive barely a raised eyebrow, yet when a bicycle is the culprit, the pitchforks and torches are out in an instant.
Don’t get me wrong – Chris Bucchere, the cyclist who is accused of driving recklessly and is facing felony manslaughter charges, appears to be completely culpable in the death of the pedestrian he struck when allegedly running a red light. But why did that particular case warrant such an inordinate amount of coverage? Simply because he was cycling – had he run the red light and killed a pedestrian while driving a motor vehicle, no one would even know Chris Bucchere’s name.
I think people, regardless of mode of transportation, should be held accountable when their negligent behavior causes death or injury. But there also needs to be acknowledgement – both legally and culturally – that bicycles and automobiles are very different. Bicycles are statistically and demonstrably less of a danger to pedestrians. Being hit by a 2000 lb. automobile traveling at 30 MPH is more likely to cause severe injury or death than being bit by 30 lb. bicycle – this is not my opinion, it is a fact, based on the laws of physics. Yet the anti-bike folks in SF continue to trot out anecdotal evidence of how terrible bike riders in the City are and the level of risk they present.
This is why cyclists like me tend to roll our eyes when we hear the breathless accounts of the rampant lawlessness of the biking community in SF, of our constant and intentional menacing of all pedestrians – these complaints are not based on reality. “Oh, well, just this morning I was nearly run over by a guy on a bike who didn’t stop!” That may very well be true – but it’s likely that 1o people had the exact same experience this morning with a motor vehicle, but since cars remain king (and more ubiquitous than bikes), it’s not even remarked upon.
Frankly, those who shout loudest about the exaggerated “danger” of bicycles should also be shouting the loudest about more and better dedicated bike infrastructure, which would keep bikes separated from cars and more effectively manage interaction with peds. However, the anti-bike crowd seems to care only about issuing more citations to cyclists or blocking the creation of new bike lanes that might result in fewer parking spaces or travel lanes for motor vehicles. So, as a biker, I am left to conclude that anti-bike sentiment is purely visceral, not based on facts and simply a reflection of the complainers’ bias.
Of course, that’s just a long-winded way of saying I think the anti-bike folks are, in fact, stupid.