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California bicycle-pedestrian accident leads to felony charges

A California bicyclist is facing felony charges in connection with a bicycle accident that resulted in the death of a pedestrian earlier this year. The case is one of the few instances in which a bicycle rider has been charged with a felony for his or her role in a fatal crash, but it may not be the last. In the past few months, there have been two other California pedestrian accident fatalities in which bicyclists were involved. One of those incidents resulted in a misdemeanor, and charges have not yet been filed in the other.

This bicycle accident took place in March, when a bicyclist allegedly sped down a San Francisco hill and through an intersection. He failed to stop at a red light and plowed into a group of pedestrians, causing a 71-year-old man, who was crossing the street with his wife, to suffer fatal injuries.

The 36-year-old bicyclist denies that he is guilty of the felony vehicular manslaughter crime with which he is charged. However, the district attorney who is prosecuting the case says that a surveillance video and eyewitness accounts show that the bicyclist was traveling near 35 miles per hour, and that he ran several stop signs on his way downhill toward the intersection. A media report also stated that the bicyclist had been trying to set a speed record for a popular bike route through the neighborhood in which the fatal crash occurred.

Regardless of whether the bicyclist's recklessness was intentional or accidental, it is unfortunate that he was not following traffic laws and biking more safely, in order to protect not only himself but others on the road around him. As such, the wife and family of the deceased man may have a valid wrongful death claim against the bicyclist, regardless of the outcome of his criminal trial.

Source: Reuters, "San Francisco cyclist pleads not guilty in fatal crash," Emmett Berg, June 21, 2012

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