Bikelash PART II: Dirty Laundry

On the morning of March 29, 2012, while riding my bicycle, I hit and killed a man who was crossing the street.

This is not a story of who was at fault, though at first it seemed that way.

We all share a critical responsibility when we go out into the world: the duty to keep one another safe. I failed in that responsibility and, as a result, we will never get back the life of Sutchi Hui. Words cannot adequately express how sorry I am for his death and for the loss to his family. I carry that sorrow with me every day.

This story is about what happened after the accident—and it’s a story that happens all too often: High-profile cases get tried not in courtrooms, but on TV and the internet. Media fans the flames, the public quickly passes judgment, and elected officials bend the system to secure political wins—at the expense of due process and fair outcomes.

The narrative is based on court transcripts, newspaper and online articles, television broadcasts, and extensive notes and journal entries I made in the months after the accident. To protect the privacy of others, I changed some names. All else is true to my memory of what happened.

I am sharing this not for redemption or personal profit, but because this side of the story rarely gets told. To make sure our justice system treats all defendants fairly, we need to speak up when it doesn’t.

I’m Chris Bucchere.

And this is Bikelash.

PART II: Dirty Laundry

CHAPTER TEN

5 April 2012, 2:00pm—7 days since the accident

Today things continued feeling pretty surreal, but still under control. Though my teeth still didn’t line up correctly when I bit down and my bruise was turning into a horror show, my road rash had mostly healed and my head no longer ached or throbbed. My mind seemed to be functioning correctly, but as is the case with head injuries, it was hard to know when it hadn’t.

Besides, I had bigger problems to deal with than my injuries. An elderly man had died and—right or wrong—I was being blamed for it.

According to a TV news broadcast, the man, Sutchi Hui, had attempted to cross the street with his wife, Betty, on March 29, hurrying to catch a northbound 24 Divisadero bus to go pick up some eyeglasses. I was pretty sure I entered on a late yellow light and I had a lifetime of safe cycling behind me. I knew in my heart I had done everything I could do to avoid an accident while trying to exit that intersection.

Based on those feelings alone, I was pretty sure that several pedestrians crossed incorrectly, causing the accident—though I had no evidence to prove that. Criminal charges seemed far-fetched, but nonetheless, the hubbub about this in the media may have caused some ears to perk up in law enforcement. Maybe not all the cops and DAs would agree with Inspector Cadigan that this was “no big deal.”

At least I had hired some great attorneys. And Ted Cassman’s partner, Cris Arguedas, had eased my mind a bit. If my post-concussion email did fall into the wrong hands, Cris reassured me that it didn’t contain any incriminating statements.

However, things did not remain calm for long. While sitting at my terminal at work in San Bruno, IFTTT alerts came pouring in. I don’t know who first broke the story, but all at once, the news was everywhere. The Examiner, the Chronicle, and the weeklies ran headlines like Cyclist Who Struck Pedestrian At Castro: “I Just Plowed Through The Crowded Crosswalk.” Sentences like these, culled from my email, appeared all over the web. Nowhere were my words ever called an email; nowhere was it mentioned that the content currently going viral was only intended for my mom, my dad, a few close buddies, and my cycling teammates. Nor was it mentioned that I wasn’t of sound mind when I wrote it. Nor that Sutchi Hui was alive and, according to local papers, expected to make a full recovery at the time. Instead, I was now the asshole cyclist discussing the man I killed online, blogging, and defending my actions—after his death, morning my “dead” helmet instead of the dead pedestrian.

This is really fucked up.

Within minutes of the first IFTTT alert, my phone started ringing off the hook with numbers I didn’t recognize. I had to put it in airplane mode to make it stop. I checked the local news sites, and comments came surging in every couple of seconds—including many long-winded diatribes about being wronged by two-wheeled maniacs—and one simple profundity: “Now can we blame the cyclist?”

People seemed to think that my email somehow proved I was going too fast and/or cycling recklessly, even though it stated that I had a yellow light and that pedestrians filled up the crosswalk before I could finish crossing. So much for having the right of way until clearing the intersection.

When the media—print, TV news, and social—latched on to my post-concussive email, extracting catchy phrases like “way too committed to stop” and “plowed through the crowded crosswalk,” it confirmed and reinforced the prevailing narrative that everything was my fault. My high-on-painkillers attempt at protective humor was being stripped of all context and used to convict me in the court of public opinion.

At the same time, a curious thing started happening on the Mission Cycling email list. A dozen or so guys I had ridden with wrote to me privately to say how sorry they were about the accident, and they expressed their gratitude that I wasn’t more seriously hurt, along with their sympathies for the elderly man and his family. That’s what I would expect from my teammates, though it was surprising that it had to be off-list. They seemed willing to express their sympathies, but not publicly. Simultaneously, a few other cyclists from the Mission Cycling email list with whom I had never ridden—let alone even met—chastised me for my “reckless” riding, calling me an embarrassment to the team and telling me to “lawyer up.”

It was time to clear the air with MC’s leadership.

I found an empty conference room and dialed Aleph Vanderwall, one of a handful of Mission Cycling riders I knew from prior work connections. He got me in touch with Dylan DiBona, one of the two guys who devoted enormous amounts of time and energy into operating and managing the team. I had ridden with Dylan a few times, but I didn’t know him well enough to have his cell phone number. The other team coordinator, Kevin LaKritz, I barely knew at all. Dylan picked up.

“Dylan, it’s Chris. Aleph V. gave me your number.”

“Man, Chris, you’ve gotten yourself into some serious shit.”

“I know. We have a big problem here. Obviously somebody—or several somebodies—cross-posted the email I sent only to my mom and dad, a few cycling buddies, and the team list; now, it’s all over the news.”

“What the hell were you thinking sending that email?”

“I’m sorry, man. The best answer I have is that I wasn’t. I was probably still in shock, and my head was spinning from the concussion. I never should have taken two Percocet. I never should have sat down in front of the computer. I never should have cc’d the team! I’m really sorry I dragged us all into this.”

“The problem is that it’s not just the team; there are close to a thousand people on the MC email list.”

“What? Are you kidding me? I thought it was just active members, like no more than 150—”

“It’s closer to a thousand.”

Jesus. So we’ll never know how it got out. I saw the email turn up on MTBR and SF2G; at that point, it was as good as on the front page of the paper.”

“It’s also possible that someone from the media plucked it right from Google’s email archive of the list.”

“The archive is public?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, fuck, really? You need to change that setting to private!”

“I will.”

“And will you please also delete the email and all the replies from the archive? That will at least prevent people from linking to it.”

“Yes, I can take care of that.”

“And can you please tell people to stop talking about this on the email list? It only fuels the fire in the media.”

“Look, Chris. I’m not going to moderate the list or ban people from saying things. I’ll ask people to pipe down out of respect for the deceased, but I can’t guarantee that it will work.”

“That’s more than enough. Thank you. Now there’s one last thing: How do we handle my relationship with the team? It’s getting ugly out there. People are saying this whole thing was my fault, that I was reckless, and there are rumors circulating about charges, like for that last guy, Randy Ang.”

“Yeah, I know about Randy. You’re both all over the news.”

“And so is Mission Cycling. You guys need to distance yourself from me. I was a card-carrying member in 2011—but, wait! Have you sent the dues request email for 2012 yet?”

“Yeah, we sent it a while ago. Why?”

“Well, there’s your out! I never got that email. I didn’t pay my dues, so even though I ride with the team twice a week, that doesn’t make me a member. So why don’t you just disown me? I don’t want to take the team down with this ship.”

“Fine. We’ll tell people you’re not a member.”

“Thank you, Dylan. And again, I’m sorry. Let’s hope this will contain some of the damage.”

“Let’s hope.”

CHAPTER ELEVEN

5 April 2012, 5pm—7 days since the accident

A few hours later, the following text appeared on Mission Cycling’s website:

We feel it’s necessary to express what we know about the horrible accident that occurred on Market and Castro last Thursday the 29th. We’ve learned about this incident the same way that everyone else has, through a post on the Google group message board and through the reporting of that incident that is happening now. We were shocked to learn not only that this accident occurred, but also by the rider’s response to it in the post.

It should be noted that Chris Bucchere is not a member of Mission Cycling. He isn’t now and he wasn’t at the time of this accident. His reckless riding on that day is completely antithetical to the way we go about our sport. We don’t condone dangerous riding in any way. We believe it’s better to ride calmly and safely so you can enjoy a great ride with friends than to ride recklessly and jeopardize your health and the health of those around you.

Given the way this event is being reported, it’s also worth mentioning that Bucchere was alone at the time this happened and not part of any official club event. The mailing list this was posted to exists solely to allow the broader cycling community to communicate about cycling events and related topics. It was by no means an official Mission Cycling members list. Chris Bucchere’s post came as a surprise and shock to all of us who read it.

As our members and larger community of friends know, our goal with Mission Cycling has always been to promote a safe and positive approach the sport of cycling so that more people could be encouraged to try it. We believe cycling is a beautiful sport and, when done right, extremely safe. We also believe that in creating a supportive community around the sport we can most effectively spread a more positive relationship between cyclists and their surroundings. There simply is no place or reason for reckless riding.

This accident is awful and tragic. We would like to express our deepest sympathy for the family of the victim.

I had asked to be disowned, but I didn’t expect to be condemned! So now, despite being on the team for a year and riding with them hundreds of times, the sport of “non-reckless cycling” belonged to Mission Cycling riders—and not to me.

My “recklessness” was simply taken for granted and assumed to be true—even by the leadership of my own (now former) team.

Suddenly, I felt a vibration in my pocket. It was my father-in-law calling.

“Dad!”

“Chris, my goodness, this is quite a mess you’re in.”

“That’s an understatement.”

“Look, there’s something I want to mention,” he said, getting straight down to business, as he was wont to do. “You don’t have to act on it, not now or ever. Just hear me out.”

I gave him my full attention.

“You’ve got a tremendous amount of content on the internet. Facebook, multiple blogs, Twitter accounts, Strava rides, and all sorts of other writings I’m sure I don’t know about. Based on how hostile the media coverage is, journalists are probably already poring through all the content you’ve published, trying to draw false conclusions about your past that will help them illustrate your ‘recklessness.’” I could hear the air-quotes around “recklessness” even through the phone.

“That’s a good point. I hadn’t really looked at all that as a liability. I’ve never even blogged about cycling, and I’ve got nothing to hide in those Strava tracks—you know what a safe rider I am.”

“Yes, but you have no way of knowing how that data will be used and how your words will be twisted and taken out of context. The way I see it is that you have nothing to lose by taking the content down—and potentially a lot to lose by leaving it out there.”

“Thanks, Dad. That’s good advice. I’ll think about it.”

I pushed this latest thought—should I disappear myself from the internet?—on top of the stack, shoving all my other twisted, frantic thoughts, emotions, and paranoid fantasies down a bit. Just then a new thought emerged and took priority over all the others.

I need to study that intersection, ASAP.

CHAPTER TWELVE

5 April 2012, 9:30pm—7 days since the accident

By the time I had come home from work, figured out dinner, and helped my wife put our daughter to bed, it was already late, but the Castro was hopping. Moments earlier, I had affixed a zip-tie to one of the spokes on the front wheel of my commuter bike. Every time the zip-tie hit the fork, it made a solid clicking sound, indicating one full rotation of the wheel, effectively turning my bike into a linear measuring device.

I rotated the zip-tie away from the spokes and rode my bike down the hill to the intersection of Market and Castro, located less than a mile from the tiny bungalow above Dolores Park I shared with Carroll and Ashley. I adjusted the zip-tie, then starting from the southern line of the southern crosswalk (near the underground MUNI station), I walked the bike north, parallel to the western crosswalk, all the way up to the limit line a few feet north of the northern line of the northern crosswalk (near the gas station), counting each click. I repeated this three times. Two times I counted the same number of clicks; once I was off by one.

Next, I crossed the southern crosswalk, heading west to east, from the MUNI underground station to the 24 bus stop, in the same direction as Sutchi Hui and his wife, counting each click.

Once I was satisfied with these measurements, I took a seat upon the stone wall in front of the Twin Peaks Tavern, keeping my bike within arm’s reach. Holding my phone in my hand with the stopwatch running, I measured the yellow phase of the traffic lights in question, the ones that control north/south traffic on Castro Street as it crosses Market Street. I got a slew of different readings before I learned to anticipate the timing correctly.

Finally, I felt I had run the test enough times to settle on a three-and-a-half-second yellow. When the yellow changed to red, an “all red” phase kicked in for another three and a half seconds, which I also painstakingly timed over and over until I was confident in my measurements. Both the yellow and “all red” phases lasted for exactly three and a half seconds, as far as I could tell with my phone’s stopwatch.

I studied the lights some more, this time qualitatively. I noticed that during the three-and-a-half-second “all red” phase, all the vehicle signals in every direction turned red and remained solid red, and all the pedestrian signals displayed DON’T WALK in every direction. In other words, the “all red” phase—at least in theory—acted as a buffer that activated after every red light to keep all opposing vehicles and pedestrians from entering the intersection until all vehicles and pedestrians had exited it. City traffic engineers undoubtedly had used some kind of formula to compute the timing for this delay. The formula had probably factored in the length of the intersection, the speed limit, and perhaps also the empirical average speed through the intersection.

I also observed and recorded what happened when three and a half seconds had transpired: The traffic lights controlling east/west traffic on Market Street turned green in unison with the WALK indicators—the red upraised hand changed to a white walking biped—those glyphs ostensibly controlling the movement of the pedestrians who somehow filled up the crosswalk directly in front of me as I tried to exit the southern end of the intersection.

As I rode back up to our tiny house on Cumberland Street, I thought about the “all red” phase (or “delayed green,” as it is sometimes called). I entered on a yellow light. Admittedly, it was a very late yellow light, but as far as the law goes, yellow means yellow.

Assuming that I entered on the very last instant of the yellow, the “all red” phase would still have granted me an additional three and a half seconds of a car- and pedestrian-free intersection before the east-westbound cars and pedestrians would get their green light and WALK symbol. It may not sound like much, but three and a half seconds is a comparatively long “all red” delay. Although many of the large, dangerous Market Street intersections feature similar light timings, I don’t know of delays this long being used elsewhere in the city.

From my memory of the seconds before the crash, I knew that multiple people converged upon me, coming from both sides. I remember seeing a gap and then, to my horror, watching it close right in front of me.

Now in possession of some data about the signals in the intersection, I was able to come up with a new hypothesis: Several of the pedestrians, including the man who died and his wife, all had crossed well ahead of the WALK symbol—and by “well ahead” I estimated at least three seconds before they were lawfully allowed to do so. In other words, several pedestrians had started crossing approximately when my light turned red, three and a half seconds before they received their WALK indicator. So even though the pedestrians had been in a crosswalk, they were jaywalking, since the California Vehicle Code states that when DON’T WALK is displayed, “no pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal.”

When I got home, I measured the diameter of my wheel, including the tire, and multiplied by pi. That, times the number of clicks, gave me the width of the intersection from north to south, which came out to approximately 150 feet. The southern crosswalk measured forty-six feet wide, or twenty-three feet counting only my lane. If the opposite lane was occupied by a northbound bus, as was mentioned in that letter to The Examiner editor and corroborated by Betty Hui on the evening news, then that would have left me twenty-three lateral feet, or only about ten feet on each side of me. A handful of people—coming from two different directions with each person moving at a different speed—had created a deathtrap for me and for anyone else I couldn’t avoid.

Those three and a half “all red” seconds—during which time opposing pedestrians and vehicles were expected to remain stationary on the curb or behind the limit line, respectively—were absolutely critical to keeping an intersection this wide safe. One hundred fifty feet was a long way to travel in three and a half seconds. In fact, a vehicle traveling at the speed limit (twenty-five miles per hour, or about thirty-six and a half feet per second) would only traverse about 128 feet before the “all red” ends and the pedestrians get their WALK symbol in the opposing direction.

Satellite photo from Google Maps, with added markings to show measurements. “a” marks the approximate location of the collision.

That means the engineer who designed the light timings for this area had cut it dangerously close at Market and Castro. They must have assumed that three and a half seconds of all red plus a second or two of reaction time, would allow enough time for vehicles traveling at around the speed limit to clear the intersection safely—before pedestrian and vehicle cross-traffic started to fill in from opposing directions. But would those timings work for bicycles as well, who may have been traveling at lower speeds?

I’m sure that most of the time—if the pedestrians always obeyed the WALK indicator and drivers never ran the red light—vehicles were given approximately five seconds (three and a half seconds delay plus a second and a half reaction time) to exit the intersection while it remained clear. At twenty-five miles per hour, five seconds buys the driver (or cyclist) 182.5 feet, putting the car (or bike) two car lengths’ past the line demarcating the southern edge of the southern crosswalk, well on its way, collision-free.

In other words, the traffic engineers had assumed that the three-and-a-half-second delay was long enough to allow vehicles that catch a late yellow to clear the intersection before the WALK indicator turned on. Likewise, I assumed that the pedestrians would obey the WALK indicator—or, if they had chosen to jaywalk and enter the crosswalk early—that they would have at least looked both ways to check for cross traffic.

The pedestrians, whether or not they had a WALK symbol, also must have assumed the intersection was clear of vehicles. Simply put: There was a whole lot of assuming going on.

And everyone knows what happens when we assume.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

5 April 2012, 11:00pm—7 days since the accident

When I got home from my measuring and timing exercise at Market and Castro, I should have gone to bed, but I felt too wired to sleep. Rather than letting another surreal day come to an end, I sat down in front of my computer.

As I sifted through the ongoing battle royale raging amid the comment forums on all the local news sites, weeklies, and local blogs, my mind ran in a million different directions. Suddenly, my mental gymnastics came to an abrupt halt. I had solved the puzzle: The final missing piece was the “all red.”

Let’s assume that I entered the intersection at the very last instant of yellow, right before it turned red. Captain Casciato made a strong implication that the pedestrians and I entered at the same time. Did that mean that pedestrians jumped the WALK symbol by three and a half seconds? The “all red” delay should have allowed my clear passage through the intersection—as long as the DON’T WALK symbols were respected by the pedestrians.

At this juncture, I felt some amount of relief knowing that, if Captain Casciato was telling the truth, several pedestrians had definitely jumped their WALK indicator, and they had done so egregiously.

But whatever relief I felt from this revelation dissipated as I dove back into the internet comment forums. The debate was still heated, but already getting old.

If only bikes needed to have licenses, then they could be held accountable! But what about little Bobby who’s only twelve and rides on the sidewalk—does he need a license? Cars kill so many more people than bikes—why is this story getting all the attention when cars do so much more damage?

The commenters peppered their generalizations with micro-vignettes that represented one or another version of the following: One time, this cyclist blew a stop sign and nearly hit me while I was crossing the crosswalk, and I want the DA to go after this guy to send a message to all those scofflaw cyclists.

Someone who gets hit by a car would never think to blame all drivers for their carelessness. Yet how quickly people jumped to the conclusion that this reckless, speeding, red-light running monster represented all cyclists. Behind a cloak of pseudonymity, the cycle of accusation and condemnation continued, seemingly without end.

Suddenly, all this gobbledygook swirling around in my head vanished when I saw my very own words appear on Twitter—not put there by me. “Take risks. There’s plenty of time to make mistakes, learn from them, and start over again stronger and better off than you were before.”

What. The. Fuck?

A few Google searches later, I traced the source of this tweet to someone excerpting from a transcript of a 2002 interview I gave with the Stanford Career Development Center. With the “career advice” context removed, it made me sound like a risk-taker, when in fact, I had been encouraging recent grads to join startups rather than big companies early in their careers.

Every character I had ever typed on the internet, every tweet, every forum post, every blog post, every website to which I had contributed—relevant or not—could now be used against me.

My father-in-law was right: I needed to disappear from the internet.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

6 April 2012, 1:00am—8 days since the accident

The evening waned, midnight came and went, and a new day began as I sat, hunched over my computer, hunting down and exterminating every last trace of my digital self. As my father-in-law had said, each tentacle of my far-reaching online identity had become a liability.

I had been running my own businesses since 2002. But years before that, I began establishing myself and, later, my employees as experts in a family of enterprise software products. My team and I were frequent contributors to online forums, user groups, and conferences. I wrote hundreds of blog and forum posts, providing code samples and other technical advice. I spoke at conferences, and clips of my speaking engagements had often been posted online. Now those clips had been defaced with comments like, “Who did you kill today, you fat fuck?” and, “Nice shirt, murderer.”

I hastily deleted all my personal and professional websites, videos, and blog posts, wiping out the abusive graffiti along with them. I nuked my Facebook and Twitter accounts and scores of other sites that contained my personal information. If I couldn’t delete my accounts, I marked over all my data with Xs. Then I submitted more than 400 individual content removal requests to Google to make sure that no trace of this stuff could be dredged up from the search engine’s cache.

I didn’t have control over all the nonsense being produced about me by others, but at least I could stop the bleeding when it came to my own content. As I did so, I felt sick to my stomach. Yes, I was protecting myself—but I was jeopardizing my professional reputation at the same time.

The sky had already started to glow with pre-dawn blues by the time I had finished my first pass. I knew I would need to spend many more hours following up on the content removal requests to make sure they were honored. I also needed to reach out to other people to ask them to take down their own content in which I appeared, before it was defiled by hate speech from trolls. For each account I deleted, I reopened the same account eponymously to claim the space before it could be hijacked by potential identity thieves. I emailed a professional photographer friend of mine, asking him to share a cease-and-desist letter that I could send to TV networks and websites that were unlawfully using photo and video copyrighted by me.

My content would never be completely gone from the internet, but I had made it very difficult to dig up anything that could be used to support the foregone conclusion that I was a monster.

This mass deletion meant that the internet footprint I had been creating for years was also gone. All that remained of me was what the media had created—a reckless, negligent cyclist who ran a red light, carelessly slaughtered a pedestrian, and then raced home to blog about how he cared more about his helmet than the man he killed.

I had inadvertently removed nearly everything positive about me—all my professional and personal contributions that showed I was, in fact, not a monster.

I hoped I wouldn’t come to regret this later, but I figured I probably would.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

6 April 2012, 7:00am—8 days since the accident

After just a few hours of sleep, I awoke feeling even more paranoid about the media and the internet in general, which seemed to be conspiring to bring ruin upon me and my family. I told work I was coming in late. I needed to run a few errands.

My first stop was an ATM on Castro Street, two blocks from where the accident took place. I swiped my card four times and withdrew $3,200.

Next stop: a mobile phone provider’s retail store, where I purchased two pay-as-you-go flip phones registered under fake names. I paid in cash. These phones could be reloaded, using cash, at any of the provider’s stores. This was about the closest I could get to private communications.

Next stop: a big-box electronics store to buy a four-camera video surveillance system of my own. I hoped the TV news wasn’t going to show up on my doorstep, but I wanted to be prepared in case they did.

Last stop: emergency survival backpacks for each member of the family.

As I drove down 280, I called a family friend and asked her if she would pick up our aging dog in case we had to leave town suddenly. Carroll and I had each already packed an overnight bag, plus one for Ashley. We had left a car parked outside the mouth of the cul-de-sac on which we lived, so we couldn’t be blocked in. If we needed to disappear, we’d turn our iPhones off, stop using credit cards, and meet at a predetermined rendezvous point nearby, but outside the city. We tried to eliminate the need to communicate as much as possible, but if we had to, we always had the flip phones. We weren’t taking any chances.

Feeling a bit more ready for what might come, I started mental preparations for another conversation I needed to have with Ted Cassman. No matter how many times I ran the numbers—the 150 feet, the three-and-a-half-second “all red,” the pedestrians closing in from both sides—I could not envision any scenarios that would have given the pedestrians the right of way. Despite what the media was saying, I was pretty sure that the pedestrians caused this accident, which could have been avoided if they had simply obeyed the DON’T WALK symbol or bothered to look for cross traffic before starting to cross.

My freedom might just depend on being able to prove it.

I arrived at the office, but before clocking in, I caught up on the latest developments on the internet. Amid the media furor, a small handful of very vocal commenters—all but one complete strangers to me—challenged the veracity of the prevailing narrative by asking questions: What actual color was my light? What color was the WALK/DON’T WALK indicator for the pedestrians? How fast was I actually going? How many people were in that southern crosswalk? Doesn’t the “blog post” imply that the pedestrians entered too soon?

When these concerns about separating “fact” from “allegation” got posted to sfgate.com, they were buried by hateful comments from trolls.

Exasperated, I stepped away from the online shouting matches and tried to focus on work.


Later in the afternoon, two emails and a text message from people I didn’t know arrived on my phone.

This media lashing is becoming too personal. I need to look out for the safety of my family. I need to make sure that they don’t end up on TV.

I headed back to my cube after a meeting broke up, wondering if something new in the media had prompted those threats.

In a story on sfgate.com, I found out that the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition had set up a pop-up outreach booth at Market and Guerrero to remind people that they “do not condone reckless behavior” and “pedestrians always have the right of way.”

This may have been well-intentioned, but it flew in the face of everything I knew about the California Vehicle Code. I’ve known since my teens that pedestrians do not always have the right of way. Just like it is for vehicles, pedestrian right of way is entirely situation-dependent. Pedestrians don’t have any form of right of way on interstate highways, nor when they disobey traffic signals, nor when they jump out suddenly into harm’s way, nor when they cross outside of a crosswalk or intersection, nor when they cross when there are “vehicles lawfully within the intersection at the time that signal is first shown.”

Suddenly an alert came in from a local blog called San Francisco Citizen.

I feared these alerts the most. Corporate media definitely spin the facts, but they usually can’t get away with claims that are demonstrably false. Bloggers, however, are not subject to that limitation.

James Herd, the blogger behind sfcitizen.com, took a screenshot of a page from Strava’s website and marked it up. He then linked my accident to an unrelated cycling death that took place in 2009. The only connection between these two events was that the other cyclist Kim Flint and I—like millions of other cyclists and athletes—both used the same online tracking system, Strava, to record our workouts. Herd’s theory was that Strava had somehow influenced my behavior while descending Castro Street—that it had a hand in causing the death of Sutchi Hui.

Since joining Strava in 2010, I had posted hundreds of rides and runs—including the morning of March 29th. I posted all of my rides and runs on Strava, even my short commutes. I like keeping track of my fitness data, not just for sentimental reasons but because I like to analyze it. Strava let me see how I was doing versus my PR (Personal Record) or versus the KOM (King of the Mountain). Strava is not a racing system; it’s a tracking system. But that’s not the way Herd spun it.

According to Herd, Strava pitted riders against themselves or other riders, scofflaws ignoring the rules of the road while racing for street cred. His claim was a misrepresentation, if not a perversion, of what fitness tracking programs actually do.

After Herd published this false connection, the weeklies and local papers picked up the story and ran with it. It didn’t take long for a heated debate to ensue: Strava is turning our fair city into a racecourse for cyclists!

As my phone lit up with alerts leading to stories all over the web about how I was racing against other people—or myself—on Strava, angry mobs of commenters swarmed in, unleashing I-told-you-so screeds. I was having trouble keeping up and, at the same time, trying to stay focused on work.

Then my phone rang. It was a neighbor calling to tell me that he had spotted two news vans—with telescoping antennae and all—loitering near our home. That was the tipping point.

I thanked the neighbor for the warning, hung up, and then sent a text to my wife. “911” it read. When I received the same text back from her, I put the iPhone in airplane mode, turned on my pay-as-you-go flip phone, stuffed my laptop into my bag, and high-tailed it down to my car.

It was time to get the hell out of Dodge.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

6 April 2012, 7:30pm—8 days since the accident

Bay Area residents don’t usually expect June gloom in early April, but nonetheless, a thick fog had descended upon the small, quirky beach town of Pacifica, just a few miles south of San Francisco. I waited in the parking lot of a hotel that bore a strong resemblance to the famous Del Coronado in San Diego. I didn’t want to use any of our expensive prepaid minutes, and I didn’t plan on turning on my iPhone’s radio features until the media had moved on, so I sat in silence, staring into the gray abyss, waiting for Carroll and Ashley to arrive per our predetermined evacuation plan. I couldn’t believe it had come to this.

After some time, I saw the familiar headlights of my wife’s car pierce through the fog. She pulled up, with our daughter buckled into her booster seat. I slid into the passenger seat of Carroll’s car, where I was greeted by a look of utter bewilderment on her face. Without saying a word, my wife’s expression conveyed one simple question: Has the world gone mad?

Too scared to return home and become fodder for the evening news, we booked a modest hotel in downtown Oakland, consolidated our overnight bags into the bigger car, and set off for the East Bay. Hours later, with our daughter fast asleep on a hotel-issue cot beside the room’s queen bed, my wife and I talked in muted tones about our new, frightening reality.

Throughout that day, my phone had interrupted me to bring updates on the narrative being woven. Reckless blogger/cyclist bemoans the death of his helmet after killing an innocent, law-abiding elderly pedestrian while racing on city streets. The stories took on lives of their own, racking up comment counts by the hundreds and sometimes thousands.

I tried not to feel sorry for myself. A man had died, and somehow I lived. Yet as the accusations got more and more outlandish, I found myself thinking less about the man who died and his grieving family and more about defending myself from attacks from every direction.

They claim I’m a monster—and I’m starting to feel like one!

How frustrating it was to have the facts distorted and then spun out of control. The media had taken my email and removed all context—they called it a blog post, rather than an email to friends, teammates, and family. The changed allegory to fact. They made it sound like I wrote it after Mr. Hui died.

The result: Stupid, heartless cyclist says he cares more about his helmet than the pedestrian he killed while racing.

It was exactly what you would expect from the worst-case stereotype of a cyclist. I had to wonder—were they crafting precisely the cliché they knew their audience wanted? Was this just feeding the lions? Did no one care to get the facts right? Do facts even matter?

This story, despite its faults, delivered an outrageous—and effective—punchline. Before long, there were articles about how big of a story this was becoming. Yahoo News said I was “blowing up on the Web,” and indeed I was—internationally, even. I didn’t read all the comments this time; there were thousands and thousands of them, undoubtedly just various reprises of: See, I told you so. Cyclists are assholes!

In this moment, I became acutely aware of the awesome power of the media. They have the ability to craft narratives and the distribution channels to influence readers, watchers, and listeners. The HuffPost reported that the media coverage caught the attention of the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. Assistant DA  Omid Talai told the press that they had seen the “posts”—my email had seemingly multiplied into “posts”—and that they found them “troubling.” This was not at all surprising, given the spin with which they had been pitched.

In just a few short days, I had transitioned from being a nobody doing nothing all that interesting to a viral phenomenon whose infamy was severe enough to require a statement from law enforcement about it.

As our daughter slept, blissfully unaware, Carroll and I sat like shipwrecked companions in a tiny lifeboat and watched my reputation being decimated, scuttled by my own foolish words, cleverly re-told by the media. I had promised Ted I’d stay silent, but I felt like I had to say something.

Earlier that day, Ted had released a very terse statement that we co-wrote:

Chris is devastated by the accident last Thursday and by the tragic death of Sutchi Hui. Also injured in the accident, Chris gave a statement to the police while still receiving treatment at a hospital, and has continued to cooperate fully with their investigation. Chris believes that he entered the intersection lawfully and that he did everything possible to avoid the accident. His heart goes out to Mr. Hui’s wife and family for their loss.

But as the media gale raged all around us, I didn’t think that was enough. To that end, I wrote a detailed statement for the press. I revised it several times and, when I felt it reflected what I truly wanted and needed to say in the face of this tragedy and the vitriol being directed at me, I slept on it.

I went to bed no longer feeling like the monster I had been reading about—the one who shared a name with me. Speaking my mind brought me back to the family man I was, the one who cared deeply about the hurt inflicted upon another family and who wanted to tell the world that this was a huge mistake and that perhaps we could work together to do something productive about it.

Date: Apr 7, 2012, at 7:54 AM
To: Ted Cassman, Cristina Arguedas
From: Chris Bucchere
Subject: Turning the media attention into something positive

Hi Folks,

As you well know, we’re caught in the middle of a media firestorm. Yahoo! covered this on a national news blog and they make it look like a reckless hit and run, making no mentions of my evasive action, my injuries, or my claims of innocence. The public outcry is bigger than a tsunami. 3,500 people on yahoo are calling for blood. I’m getting death threats via email and SMS.

Putting my legal issues aside (and considering the fact that I might not actually have any legal issues), we have a PR disaster on our hands. I want to address that problem and I want to address it while there is so much negative energy focused on this story. Putting my head down and hiding behind my counsel may have worked before the days of social media, but I don’t think it’s a good idea now.

I would like to publish a longer statement in The Chronicle that takes the focus away from the facts of the case and redirects the focus on a call toward ending the vitriol and starting a fundraising campaign to fund an engineering and traffic study to improve the safety of that intersection. Do people really care this much about this story? Can they put their money where their mouths are? We’ll see. I will match contributions up to $10,000 and then donate the fund to the city’s public works department in Mr. Hui’s name while advocating fixing that intersection and/or other dangerous ones like Van Ness and Market or Octavia and Market.

Let’s turn the current internet meme of “kill Bucchere and all cyclists” into something positive. We need to strike while the iron is hot.

Ted’s name turned up on my cell phone within minutes of hitting send, even though it was eight o’clock on a Saturday morning. He didn’t mince words when he said: never in a million years. The message was too long, confusing, controversial, not at all media-proof, and generally just not appropriate. He didn’t stop there: This will make things a lot worse. There’s nothing we can do about the media. We have to keep our heads down and weather the storm, letting these things run their course. What matters is making sure you don’t get charged and we’re doing everything we can on that front.

And so on and so forth, Ted proceeded to talk me off the ledge. I reluctantly accepted his advice, so I never got to find out if this would-be press release would have made things better, made things worse, or kept things about the same. I tried to fight it. But in the end, my limited experience with the media couldn’t hold a candle to Ted’s thirty-year history tackling high-profile criminal defense cases; he knew that when it comes to the criminal justice system, rarely can any good come from a defendant’s interactions with the press. The potential for blowback was astronomically high.

Ted was probably right, but that didn’t make it any easier. Not being able to defend myself was torture.

The life and reputation I had worked for and created was being set on fire, and there was nothing I could do to extinguish it.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

8 April 2012—10 days since the accident

I awoke Sunday morning with that weird panic response of realizing that I was not in my own bed. Any traveler has had this experience—it’s easy to wake up in San Francisco and think you’re still in New York. But Oakland was still Oakland, and we were still holed up in a shitty hotel room, hiding from the media.

I would occasionally question the decision to avoid the media—ask why we shouldn’t face them, head on—I didn’t break any laws, and we have nothing to hide!—but invariably I would get rebuked by my wife, by Ted, or by my own sense of good judgment. I could not bear the thought of my family being ambushed by reporters and ending up on the nightly news.

Regardless, it still troubled me deeply that Ted wouldn’t allow me to talk to the media. But even if he did, what could I possibly say to them? The media seemed to have made up its mind, and I suspected that whatever came out of my mouth that didn’t support my role as villain would end up on the virtual editing room floor. The remaining juicy bits would be chopped up and inserted as sound bites right into the places where they needed me to sound dumb or heartless or reckless, making sure I stayed in-character.

“Even if you rescue a dozen babies from a burning orphanage right now, people are still going to hate you,” Ted told me. He was probably right.

Thinking about this stuff was beginning to drive me mad. I needed a break from the dramatization of my real life unfolding in the mainstream and social media. Because we had lied to our daughter and told her we were having a “fun weekend getaway,” we decided to take her to Children’s Fairyland in Oakland. While the girls got ready, I went for a quick run around Lake Merritt.

Oakland, a true melting pot, bustled with all sorts of people. Throughout the run, I never had trouble navigating around them. But strangely, in Oakland’s Chinatown, I had to make several last-minute maneuvers on and off the street to make it through the few blocks without running into anyone. It could have been the density of the shops, or the fact that Chinatown was more crowded on this particular Sunday morning than the rest of downtown Oakland, or it could have been something else I observed: Most people, especially the elderly ones, seemed to stare directly at their feet while they were walking. Could there be a cultural component to my accident? I remembered my surprise when Jacques, the personal injury lawyer, assumed the pedestrian was Asian. But was he actually on to something?

Sure enough, a few Google searches back at the hotel turned up a study from 2010 that examined 7,354 traffic accidents in New York City, from 2002 to 2006, that resulted in serious injury or death. At all age groupings up to and including sixty-five years, pedestrians were hurt or killed at about the same rate, regardless of ethnicity, culture or gender. However, the study then stated, “Residents over 65 years of age in the Asian/Pacific Islander group have the highest fatality rate, 7.8 per 100,000 population, nearly double the average for the over-65 age group.” This was the only significant ethnicity-related conclusion drawn in the entire report.

I closed my laptop and loaded myself and my family into the car. For a few hours, we wandered through Fairyland, surrounded by eerie creations ostensibly put there to help fairy tales come to life. Meanwhile, the news media was bringing to life their own tale about me. What if this bizarre finding from NYC somehow became part of the story?

A short while later, at a restaurant, my daughter lost her very first tooth on a slice of flatbread, a special occasion for our young, one-child family. I tried to compartmentalize the thoughts swirling around in my head.

I had the law on my side and some pretty compelling statistics, too. But my daughter had lost her first tooth—I should be allowed to celebrate this. And yet, the poor family of the pedestrian must be in shock, grieving. I felt stuck between two worlds: my life as I once knew it with my wife, my daughter, and the milestone of losing her first tooth; and the dystopian version in which a reckless cyclist massacred an innocent pedestrian. Somehow, some part of me connected with and touched both worlds; yet I felt comfortable in neither.

We arrived back at the hotel, carefully-wrapped tooth in tow. I sent the study from NYC to Ted. He told me to forget I had ever read it.

“There will be a time and a place for you to say what you need to say, but for the time being, it’s still no comment.”

While the media continued to tell their fairy tale, we hid in a tiny hotel room, telling our daughter that we needed a vacation. All I could do was focus on clearing my name. I couldn’t bear the thought that I might be in jail when my daughter lost her next tooth.

After lights out for the girls, I did a few more Google searches, my laptop’s screen providing the only illumination in the tiny room. It didn’t take me long to ascertain that the media situation had gone from bad, right through worse, and straight to downright horrible. The big story in the local papers was that a witness had come forward claiming that I blew through “several red lights and stop signs.”

Immediately I found this suspicious—first and foremost, because I knew for a fact that I hadn’t.

One of the lights the witness claimed I ran was at 15th Street, which controls traffic right in front of an elementary school. Not only was I sure I didn’t run that red light, I was sure I would never do anything so stupid and dangerous—at 8 a.m. on a weekday when there would be kids present and a crossing guard. To “race” through a red at such an intersection would be unconscionable, and certainly something I would never even consider. I was a parent of an elementary school student, for crissake!

And why is this witness coming forward now, ten days after the accident?

Also suspicious: There was only one stop sign on Castro Street from where it forks off from Divisadero, at 16th Street and Castro. Still, these allegations could be problematic. I needed to tell Ted.

The unnamed witness—who claimed I ran “several red lights and stop signs”—was worrisome, but he certainly wasn’t the only problem. More searching turned up another widely-reported fabrication, this one emerging from an online bike forum. They claimed I was riding a fixie—a fixed-gear bicycle with no brakes—and that’s what caused the accident.

But my road bike, currently in police custody, has brakes and gears.

These lies kept piling on, each one damaging my reputation and threatening my innocence in a different way, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I needed to get some sleep, but it would be hours before I finished compulsively reading all the stories and many of the comments, which left me questioning the nature of humanity.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

9 April 2012 —11 days since the accident

Seeing as how the media volcano—which on Friday had erupted into national coverage—seemed to be simmering down, we felt cautiously optimistic about returning to our home on Cumberland Street after school and work. Other than the business cards of TV anchors from different news programs stuffed into the doorjamb, we didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. From what I’d seen on TV, at least one eager group of newscasters had dragged a camera crew up forty stairs to knock on the door of our temporarily-evacuated residence. Carroll and I shot each other a look. We dodged a bullet.

Is this what we do to people in the news, I thought, hound them in their homes and places of work, just to get a snippet of footage for the nightly broadcast? I felt a new sense of empathy for anyone in the public eye—for any reason.

Our homecoming turned out to be uneventful, but another problem soon reared its ugly head. Ever since the story had gone national, thousands upon thousands of enraged comments had flooded the internet. Too committed to stop? Typical hipster cyclist attitude. Cyclists never follow the law—this guy’s the perfect example. I hear they like those cyclist bitches with shaved legs in jail. With each big wave of media coverage came more death threats.

I knew the media had manipulated the story to produce maximum outrage, so it was hard to blame people for their anger. Still, did they really have to go this far?

My first inclination was to do nothing. These people are just blowing off steam, I thought. They’re not going to act out their insane violent fantasies.

My wife felt differently. She was genuinely scared for herself and Ashley—scared to live under our own roof, where we were sitting ducks for whoever might come looking.

Not really knowing what to do, I called Ted. We quickly dispensed with the pleasantries.

“People are sending threatening emails and text messages to me and Carroll. Lots of them.”

“I’m so sorry Chris.” He said it like he really meant it—and I believed he did. “How many?”

“Maybe a dozen emails, a couple of texts, and some suspicious phone calls—no voicemails.”

“Don’t respond to any of them and send them all to me. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“You also need to print them and file a police report.”

“Wait a minute. You want me to talk to the police?”

“Yes, but don’t tell them anything about the accident. If they ask about it, just tell them to refer to the existing case file or contact me if they have any questions. Tell them as little as possible, just enough so that they’re able to file a report on the threats.”

I had very little experience dealing with police and even less dealing with the criminal justice system, but from my education and my career, I had developed a healthy distrust of any authority, especially any kind of authority that presents itself in uniform. Badges and uniforms disrupt the balance of power. Inspector Cadigan, by dressing in plain clothes and downplaying the accident with her assurances, had gotten me to open up and talk about the events that day. In retrospect, I should have said only one word to her, the only word anyone should ever say to anyone in law enforcement: “lawyer.” If only I hadn’t hit my head so hard.

In light of these circumstances, it felt very strange to invite an SFPD officer into my home, but I went through with it on Ted’s advice and asked the officer to take and file a report. I had to explain to him why people were threatening me and my family, but the minute he started asking probing questions about the accident, I asked him to leave. I was polite and courteous, but not exactly hospitable.

Leaving this personal matter in the hands of the SFPD made me queasy, but short of going into hiding and taking my family with me, there seemed to be little else I could do.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

April 10, 2012 —12 days since the accident

Today I was greeted by a rousing condemnation from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. It made sense that they would trash me—the SFBC believes the common misconception that pedestrians have the right of way, period. But even those who should have known better—the police, the DA’s office, Walk SF, Mission Cycling, and the media, social and otherwise—followed suit by summarily disparaging me and my actions and words. It was hard to take, especially because I was almost certain that I hadn’t broken any laws.

I imagined these condemnations to be a house of cards, all of which would soon come toppling down. The moment the authorities measured the intersection, did the math, and arrived at the conclusion that I was swarmed by a crowd of jaywalkers after challenging a yellow light, all the angst would be put to rest, and this entire affair would blow over, with apologies from all sides for the many different misunderstandings.

My optimism, however delusional, was bolstered by a tweet that my internet dragnet turned up the day prior. It was from another cyclist (whom I didn’t know) who tweeted the following observation shortly after sfcitizen.com’s fake Strava meme went viral. While it wasn’t enough to shut down the idea of cyclists “racing” through the city streets, it did point out that my average speed over three trips down that hill was fourteen miles per hour, hardly race-worthy.

Whatever positive feelings I had met an abrupt end on my drive home from work that evening. On my radio—tuned to the all-news station KCBS, as it had been on every car ride since the accident—I heard a teaser for a story about me. I flipped on my phone’s recording device and listened to a very concerned-sounding Holly Quan reporting on the twelve-day old accident, interspersed with the voice of a man who turned out to be George Gascón, San Francisco’s District Attorney.

George Gascón: “We’re still in the process of reviewing all this.”

Holly Quan: “The key, he says, is whether there was simple negligence, meaning a violation of traffic laws, or gross negligence characterized by wanton disregard, something that could be charged as a felony.”

GG: “I don’t want to be conclusive about that, but it certainly begins to appear that way.”

GG: “You know eyewitnesses are a key to this, right? Because it gives us the context of the ability to be able to see whether the bad behavior was just localized to that intersection or there was preceding bad behavior, meaning was there other speeding or riding unsafely even prior to getting to that intersection. That is very helpful especially when we’re doing the analysis to try to determine whether we had gross negligence or not.”

I thrust my finger into the radio dial, and all became silent but for the sound of the wind rushing by. As I drove up 280, it became undeniably clear to me that the DA of San Francisco, who hadn’t even been presented the case by the SFPD, said he was contemplating gross negligence—a felony!—rather than the misdemeanor charge for simple negligence given to Randy Ang, who had admitted to running a stale red light.

Even more alarming, the DA seemed fixated on charging me before he had seen any of the facts.The coroner hadn’t yet prepared a report to determine cause of death. Any reasonable person, especially this early in the ongoing investigation, would argue that fault was still in question—because of all the conflicting accounts: Had my light been red or yellow, and had the pedestrians walked on the WALK or the DON’T WALK symbol? But Gascón wasn’t deliberating between charging me and not charging me at all. He had already definitely decided to charge me. Now he was trying to decide how much to punish me. And he wanted a felony.

My head was spinning. I tried to focus on the road, but I couldn’t keep my thoughts from boiling over.

Gascón seemed to take for granted that what happened in the intersection was entirely the result of my “bad behavior.” That, in and of itself, was a problematic and scary statement, but, stepping back for a moment, why was he on the radio, telling KCBS about an ongoing police investigation that hadn’t been finished yet?

Also, where did this “riding unsafely even prior to getting to that intersection” stuff come from? Did he hear that from Mr. “Several Red Lights and Stop Signs?”

Still not able to comprehend what I had heard, I called Ted.

“Something crazy just happened,” I said, sounding like I was on the verge of a panic attack. “I think I just heard the DA tell KCBS that he’s trying to decide between simple and gross negligence and that he’s leaning toward a felony charge. The concept of not charging me looks like it’s off the table.”

“Wait, are you sure that’s what you heard? That he wants to charge you with a felony?”

“Yeah, he said something like ‘it’s beginning to appear that way.’”

“But his office told me that they haven’t seen the case yet. And that nobody has decided that they’re even pressing charges. This is very strange. Can I hear the newscast?”

“I recorded it on my phone. I’ll send it right now. Call me back after you’ve listened to it—I could be mistaken.”

I pulled over on Dolores Street and sent him the recording. A few minutes later, Ted called me back.

“Chris, he definitely said he’s leaning toward a felony. That’s a big problem, especially this early in the process. Another problem is that he went to the media first. We haven’t heard a peep from his office, and now his tongue is wagging about felony charges on the radio? That’s kind of unbelievable. It means we can’t fight a fair fight. It’s shameful, really. I’ll put a call in to his office right now and find out what’s going on.”

The next day, Sharon Woo, an ADA reporting to George Gascón, called Ted back and explained to him that Gascón was “misquoted” and that the SFPD hadn’t completed the case and presented it to the DA’s office yet—so no, of course they weren’t taking a formal position on felony vs. misdemeanor because they still didn’t have the police report, and yes, of course the option of “no charges at all” was still on the table.

But that “misquoting” didn’t feel like an accident.

Did the DA really already jump to the felony conclusion and announce it to the world before the coroner released a cause of death and before the police finished the report and presented it to his office?

There was, however, a silver lining: The radio broadcast mentioned that the police and/or DA might be examining video taken by a surveillance camera belonging to a business at the site of the accident.

A video is precisely what I need right now—something that will clear up all the ambiguity and show, once and for all, that my light was yellow and that the pedestrians’ signal said DON’T WALK.

I hung my hopes on this video. Eyewitnesses can be unreliable, but it’s impossible to argue against a videographic record—or is it?

CHAPTER TWENTY

April 11, 2012 —13 days since the accident

Whatever hope I felt quickly disappeared the moment this San Francisco Chronicle headline popped up on my phone: Video of fatal S.F. crash may contradict bicyclist.

“‘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 [law enforcement] source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because police are still investigating the March 29 crash.”

No attempt to slow down? That’s not what I remember at all!

I read on in bewilderment. I vividly remembered a crowded crosswalk, at least a half-dozen people, maybe more. Chronicle columnists Matier & Ross wrote: “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.”

The crosswalk wasn’t crowded? Like hell it wasn’t!

And then it got worse: “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.”

Out of the camera’s view? You’ve got to be kidding me!

I tried to pull myself back into a more comprehensible reality. Was it even conceivable that I could have been so utterly wrong about the accident? I had blacked out for at least fifteen minutes; perhaps my memory couldn’t be trusted.

No, that’s impossible. I had a vivid picture of the entire ride, right up until the moment that my head hit the pavement—or so I thought. I hadn’t the faintest idea where these gossip columnists and their “law enforcement sources” were getting these assertions, but they were making me look like a first-class asshole—as if I hadn’t already achieved that status with my widely reported red-light-running, speeding, brakeless-fixie-riding, racing-on-Strava killing spree.

I struggled to find something I could use in this ungodly mess. On a second reading, something subtle caught my eye: “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.” I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself down. This was interesting: Even if the video didn’t show any traffic signals, which seemed both unlikely and unlucky, it did show that the Huis and I entered the intersection at the same time, according to the source who had watched it—which, I recalled, corroborated Captain Casciato’s statements from the day after the accident.

So let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that the previous statement was true: The Huis and I entered the intersection at the same time. Remember that there’s a three and a half second “all red” phase. Because of this all red phase, either the Huis waited for the WALK symbol and I ran the red light by three and a half seconds, or I entered on a late yellow and the Huis began crossing three and a half seconds before the WALK indicator turned on. Only one of those assertions could be true.

Yet without a traffic light or pedestrian signal in the video, we would never know what really happened.

However, I did know one thing: I needed to get my hands on that footage so I could take a look for myself.


>> Continue to PART III: Conceiving the Inconceivable


For a closer look at the research behind Bikelash, visit the companion GitHub project.