First Guilty Plea for Felony Vehicular Manslaughter Charge From Bicycle versus Pedestrian Crash

In what is believed to be the first of its kind, a California cyclist pleaded guilty last Thursday to a felony vehicular manslaughter charge that arose from a bicycle versus pedestrian collision. The presiding judge released the plea and the details on Tuesday.

The defendant, the cyclist in the collision, will serve 1,000 hours of community service but will avoid jail time as a result of his plea. The crash that led to the charges occurred just over a year ago on March 29, 2012 in San Francisco. The defendant was riding his bicycle in San Francisco’s Castro District when he collided with a 71-year-old pedestrian at the intersection. Witness accounts indicate that the defendant ran a red light and that the pedestrian had the right-of-way to cross and was within a cross walk at the time of the crash. The pedestrian initially survived the accident but died four days later from his injuries.

During their investigation of the crash, police learned that the defendant used a popular model of GPS to track his route and determine how fast he rode. That led police to the realization that the defendant ran two other red lights in addition to a stop sign and was traveling around 30 miles per hour at the time of the impact. Believing this conduct indicated a high degree of negligence, the State of California chose to charge the man with a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Under California law, if the man had been convicted, he could have served up to six years in prison. Though the plea will let him avoid jail time, he will be on probation with the state for three years.

Recent years have seen California in the news for crashes and clashes between cyclists and pedestrians. A previous crash that resulted in a pedestrian’s death saw the cyclist sentenced for a misdemeanor; this current plea reportedly marks the first time a cyclist have been sentenced related to a felony charge of vehicular homicide.

The accidents between cyclists and pedestrians have produced public scorn by some that admonish the bicyclists that ride on San Francisco’s narrow and winding roads. In response, bicyclists have marched and ridden in large numbers to assert their rights to occupy the roads and to make their presence in the community known.

The vast majority of crashes involving a bicyclist also involve a car as the other party, not a pedestrian. However, as this incident shows, when a pedestrian is hit by a bicycle traveling at a moderate or fast speed, the results can be devastating and can even be fatal. Bicyclists have the same rights to occupy the roads as cars but cyclists also have the same responsibilities. That includes obeying all traffic signs and signals and exercising caution to those around, including pedestrians crossing the street.



In addition to the felony charge brought by the state, the bicyclist in this matter could face a civil lawsuit from the family of the victim. The law allows surviving family members to bring a claim for the loss of their loved one in situations like this to compensate the family for their losses.

Though this crash happened in California, similar accidents regularly occur in Illinois. If you have been injured in a crash with a bicyclist or if your family member has been killed, you have legal rights and you may be entitled to bring a claim for damages. Call the Chicago pedestrian accident lawyers at Abels & Annes, P.C. today for a free telephone consultation. We are standing by 24 hours to take your call at (312) 924-7575.

Prior Blog Entries:

New Illinois Boater Law Will Require Drug Testing After Some Accidents, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published July 23, 2013.

Six Vehicle Crash on I-55 Leaves Woman Dead, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published July 20, 2013.


Cyclist pleads guilty to first U.S. felony vehicular manslaughter by bike: prosecutor, by Laila Kearney, Chicago Tribune/Reuters, published July 23, 2013.

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