37-year-old (name withheld for privacy) has become the first official individual in United States history to be convicted of felony vehicular manslaughter (CA Penal Code 192(c)) with a bicycle. Although this is not the first time that charges like this have been brought against others, this is the first time that someone has ever been convicted when the alleged crime involved a bicycle instead of another type of vehicle.
At the end of March 2012, he was in the midst of travelling down Castro Street in San Francisco’s Chinatown when he collided with a pedestrian, who was crossing the street at the time, causing him to fall to the ground and hit his head. The pedestrian died 4 days later of his injuries from the crash. Prosecutors argued that the way in which he was riding his bicycle was unreasonably dangerous because he disobeyed several traffic rules before striking the victim. The cyclist himself seems to have hit his head on the blacktop as well, but was protected by his cyclist’s helmet.
In the state of California, CA PC 192(c) are considered “wobblers” (meaning that they may either be treated as felony or misdemeanor charges, depending on the circumstances involved in the incident. In his case, felony charges were brought against him for two reasons: 1) he failed to stop at several stop signs and at the stoplight just before accidentally killing the victim (he drove in a dangerous manner) and 2) he posted insensitive comments on his own cycling blog after the accident, seeming to care more for the loss of his helmet than for the victim’s potential fate. The decision in this case opens up the door for more prosecutions of this kind, even though they involve a normally peaceful and green means of transportation, the bicycle.