Update: Chris Robertson Case: Felony charges against driver reduced to misdemeanors by Jean Davis, Member SF Bicycle Advisory Committee

Many of us in the bicycle community have been following the case of cyclist Chris Robertson, who was killed by a trucker driving a big rig last November. Despite the attention of the District Attorney's office, and the persistence of the cycling community in urging justice in the case, the charges of felony involuntary manslaughter, felony assault with a deadly weapon, and felony use of force likely to cause great bodily harm have all been reduced to misdemeanors.

We're perplexed about why this happened and where we go next. We were all blind-sided by the ruling of retired Judge Herbert Donaldson. The DA's office probably did as good a job as could be expected under the circumstances. But it's evident that we have a ways to go in educating those in the judicial system, law enforcement, and drivers in general about what the laws are and how they apply to bicyclists. We do have a right to the road.

It's time for all of us to hold accountable people who angrily or carelessly cost others their lives. We also need to make the general public understand that what happened here was not inevitable, even given the perceived danger of riding one's bicycle or walking across any street in San Francisco. This did not have to happen. Someone's need to get somewhere in a hurry ends way before the point that Chris Robertson lost his life.

If you're a cyclist, I don't need to tell you about road rage. Chris was a victim of road rage. A block of wood was thrown at him while riding in a memorial ride for a friend who had died the preceding week. He didn't move out of the way quickly enough for a driver who had at most two blocks until his destination. That driver had many options. The one he chose was a big mistake and tragic for all parties involved. But because he used a truck rather than a gun, his felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors, and he is once again out on the streets as a professional driver.

Some of us are organizing a campaign to send postcards to the District Attorney's office demanding that the trucker involved in this incident be forced to accept responsibility for his act. He isn't likely to serve more than six months. We are asking that his license to drive professionally be revoked and that he be retrained so that he doesn't have such a deadly weapon at hand if he should lose his temper again. For those of us who knew and remember Chris, that is probably the only justice we could ever have gained from this. This trucker could never serve enough time to make it right. But he needs to take responsibility for what he did and be prevented from ever doing it again. For all our sakes.

It took much effort to get this case as far as it got. We could still use your help. If you would like to send your own letter to the DA's office, address it to:

SF District Attorney Terence Hallinan
c/o Asst. DA Andrew Clark
850 Bryant St., Rm #327
San Francisco, CA 94103

The case has been transferred from Superior Court to General Litigation. The next preliminary hearing will be on August 1 at 850 Bryant Street. The trial begins on August 27.