Mobile wake for biker killed by truck

Mobile wake for biker killed by truck
	By Dan Evans 
	Of The Examiner Staff
Sun, 29-Apr-2001 | San Francisco Examiner | Local News

A series of tragedies has galvanized San Francisco's mostly
disorganized bicycling community, whose members are shouting
louder than ever that cyclists are treated as second-class

On Friday, just before cyclists held a noon rally at City Hall
organized by the Bicycle Coalition to call attention to the
traffic death of a cyclist last year, a cyclist in Fremont and
another in downtown San Francisco were struck by cars and

The memorial for Chris Robertson, 30, who died in November after
he was run over by a truck, coincided with the monthly Critical
Mass ride, billed as a wake for the fallen biker.

As many as 2,000 cyclists met a Justin Herman Plaza on Friday
evening and formed a trail almost a mile long. The cyclists rode
up Market Street, around Union Square, on to Pac Bell Park, and
through North Beach and Chinatown.  The ride had its intended
effect:  it stopped traffic during the evening commute, and was
fairly peaceful, barring a few stare-downs between drivers and
helmeted bicyclists.

The tone of the noon rally, already in a dark and angry mood,
deteriorated further when the crowd of some 200 were informed
that a woman was run over and killed three hours earlier by a
garbage truck while riding her bike near Oak and Franklin
streets.  She was later identified as Michelle Lyn O'Connor, 24,
of San Francisco.

An hour earlier, Trudy Marie Haskett, 53, and her husband were
riding their bicycles along Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont when
she lost control, fell into traffic and was struck and killed by
a sports-utility vehicle.

San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, whose district includes the
downtown area that cyclists say is the most dangerous, told the
cyclists at City Hall that their anger was justified and urged
them to organize better.  He said pressure on politicians and
police would better protect cyclists.

The crowd applauded -- some showed support by ringing their
bicycle bells -- when Daly called on the board of supervisors to
pass a ban on using mobile phones while driving.

Daly's reception was far sunnier than that given Supervisor Mark
Leno, who was roundly booed when he asked cyclists to temper
their rage.  Leno, dressed in a gray suit and red tie, was
unable to say much more, as the crowd shouted curses at him
until he retreated into City Hall.

"This is a horror we're experiencing, an epidemic of
disrespect," said Leno told the crowd through a megaphone.  "The
prescription is some basic courtesy."

Cyclists at the noon rally, many taking a break from their
employ as messengers, held signs protesting Robertson's death.
Rueben Espinoza, 42, the trucker who allegedly ran over
Robertson, will not face felony charges.  Espinoza admitted to
throwing a block of wood at Robertson shortly before hitting him
with his tractor-trailer Nov. 17, but has maintained the death
was an accident.  When he was killed, Robertson was part of a
group of bicyclists attending the wake of another cyclist who
had recently died.

On April 17, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Herbert
Donaldson dismissed a felony vehicular manslaughter count
against Espinoza.  The judge, who retired from active duty
on the bench in 1999, also reduced to misdemeanors two felony
charges of assault.

The City Hall event served as a precursor to Friday evening's
Critical Mass protest.  A spokesman from the San Francisco
Police Department's traffic division said the number of cyclists
at the monthly ride varies widely, depending on the weather and
if attendees have a any particular issue in mind.

On Friday, a number of attendees were first-time riders who said
they came out specifically to protest Donaldson's decision.
Peter Rathmann, of San Ramon, said bikers need to be able to get
to work, home and to the store without fearing for their lives.

The judge's decision, he said, sends the wrong message.
Examiner wire services contributed to this report.
E-mail Dan Evans at

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