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Reckless Bike Riding No Different Than Reckless Driving, Court Says

Photo: Salim Virji/Flickr
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A bicyclist can be charged with recklessly driving a vehicle, a state appeals court ruled last week, in a Los Angeles case where a drunken cyclist hit and severely injured a pedestrian. The cyclist's lawyer argued that bicycles are not considered vehicles under California's traffic laws, but the court shot down his request to dismiss his client's felony reckless-driving charge, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Unless overturned on appeal, the decision will become binding statewide.

In the L.A. case, Jorge Velasquez Jr. left a game at Dodger Stadium, reportedly with a blood alcohol at more than twice the legal limit for driving a motor vehicle, and hit a jogger who ended up in a coma for 10 days. He was charged with recklessly driving a vehicle, according to the Second District Court of Appeal ruling, which you can read here. Velasquez faces up to three years in prison.

The issue of whether bicyclists and drivers should be subject to the same laws played out in San Francisco when cyclist Chris Bucchere hit and killed a 71-year-old pedestrian in a crosswalk at Castro and Market. Before the case went to court, Bucchere pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter — considered to be a first for a U.S. cyclist — and was sentenced to three years probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

The executive director of the Oakland-based California Bicycle Coalition, Dave Snyder, tells the Chronicle he's in favor of the ruling: "There's no controversy that if you drive recklessly on a bike and injure someone, you should be penalized fully. If that rule were applied to everyone, everyone—especially pedestrians and bicyclists—would benefit."