There is an appreciation that Santa Cruz cyclists have for rushing down and around hills littered throughout the county. Between beachside ocean views and sun-kissed streets, it’s easy to get lost in the blissful blur that whips beneath and behind a set of handlebars.
In a city that has become host to the Amgen bicycle tour, dozens of bike shops and hundreds of cyclists, Santa Cruz’s cycling community has never been stronger. But the appeal of throttling down the slopes from UC Santa Cruz or cutting through downtown traffic presents local cyclists with their own challenges of responsibility.
On March 29, Chris Bucherre allegedly sped through a San Francisco street intersection at 35 mph, crashing into and fatally injuring 71-year-old Sutchi Hui. The incident, which has sent ripples of discontent among perturbed pedestrians who experienced similar close encounters, casts a hard light on the privileges afforded to cyclists on the go.
There is no denying the harrowing incidents cyclists experience daily from motorized traffic — the U.S. Department of Transportation reported 618 cyclists killed last year and over 51,000 injured from collisions alone. But a sympathetic public demands that cyclicists should extend the same courtesy to pedestrians that drivers extend to cyclicists.
To that end, many local organizations, like the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club, strongly advise their members and other cycling enthusiasts to remain aware of the law.
In the city of Santa Cruz, for example, it is unlawful to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. At UCSC, Transportation and Parking Services continues to encourage student cyclists to decelerate when heading down the winding paths that cut through campus.
In the interest of protecting pedestrians and cyclists alike, the city and campus should consider a number of projects.
For years now, members of People Power demanded that King Street be converted into a bicycle boulevard, reducing the number of cycling-related accidents along the parallel Mission Street. The county can also approve funding for expanding the bike lanes near schools, such as Calabasas Elementary, where parked cars force cyclists into the road or onto the sidewalk.
In a similar fashion, UCSC can help push better illumination or reflective surfacing along Empire Grade. The university has made no changes to the bike path, despite the deaths of two cyclists in recent years.
While the number of pedestrian injuries and deaths resulting from bicycle collisions are staggeringly lower than those of cyclist injuries and deaths from a car collision, cyclists are not exempt from observing the rules of the road.
If Santa Cruz’s cycling community expects a more bike-friendly city, it needs to keep its own cyclists in check. Bucherre’s negligence can either be a catalytic change for preventative measures or a monument in demonizing cyclists.
But with that revelation must come the temperament and discipline to obey traffic laws.
“The light turned yellow as I was approaching the intersection, but I was already way too committed to stop,” said Bucherre on an online forum. “The light turned red as I was cruising through the middle of the intersection and then, almost instantly, the southern crosswalk on Market and Castro filled up with people coming from both directions … I couldn’t see a line through the crowd and I couldn’t stop, so I laid it down and just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find.”
Losing control of one’s speed on a bicycle can endanger the lives of cyclists and pedestrians alike. Bucherre should consider himself lucky that he is still alive and relatively unharmed.