Last week, I went to the preliminary hearing for Chris Bucchere, a software developer charged with felony vehicular manslaughter. On a workday morning in March 2012, Bucchere struck and killed a 71-year-old pedestrian, Sutchi Hui, in a busy, crowded intersection. Bucchere’s case has gotten a lot of attention in San Francisco, both because this is a case of manslaughter by bike rather than by car, and because Bucchere garnered criticism for writing about the incident on an online biking forum afterward, particularly because he ended the post by lamenting the “heroic” death of his helmet.
As in many urban environments, there is strife between the different classes of commuters in his city. Bucchere epitomized for many the reckless biker who takes liberties with the laws of the road — annoying drivers — and does not take seriously the damage that can be done on two wheels to those on two legs — annoying pedestrians, and in this case, mortally injuring one. The case interested me because press reports indicated that data from Bucchere’s Strava account — an app that bikers can use to track their rides — had been used to show how fast he had been going and to prove he had ignored stop signs.
District Attorney George Gascón told me the Strava data was part of the reason the city had decided to bring such severe charges against Bucchere. “It implies he was trying to compete with himself,” Gascón said. Bucchere’s online comments also played a role. “His helmet was more important than a human being.”
The Strava data did not wind up being instrumental in the hearing at all, though; instead 30 seconds of surveillance video took center stage.