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Cyclist to Be Charged in Woman's Death

The Bay Citizen: Cyclist to Be Charged in Woman's Death

Randolph Ang could face one year in jail for crashing into Dionette Cherney

By ZUSHA ELINSON on November 14, 2011  

Zusha Elinson/The Bay Citizen

A cyclist who crashed into an elderly pedestrian near San Francisco's waterfront will be charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter, a spokesman for San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said Monday afternoon.

Police say Randolph Ang, 23, was riding his bike on July 15 when he ran a red light and hit Dionette Cherney, 68, as she was crossing Embarcadero at Mission Street, knocking her to the pavement. Cherney, who was visiting San Francisco, died on Aug. 11. The cause of death was “blunt force injuries to head,” according the coroner.

Cherney was a realtor for Prudential in Washington, D.C., and a noted volunteer for Score DC, a nonprofit that offers free counseling for small businesses. She was was the first pedestrian in the Bay Area to be killed by a cyclist in five years, according to The Bay Citizen’s Bike Accident Tracker, which tracks bike crashes that have been reported to the police.

Assistant District Attorney Omid Talai said that Ang would be arraigned on Nov. 23. Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter can carry a sentence of one year in county jail, Talai said.

Ang could not be reached for comment. After the collision, which occurred at 8:30 a.m., Ang cooperated with police in their investigation. Ang appeared to be shaken by the crash -- and handed over his bike to the police without objection.

At the time, San Francisco Police Department spokesman Albie Esparza said that cyclists, like cars, must abide by the rules of the road.

According to Talai, the coroner's office didn't finish Cherney's autopsy report until Oct. 31st, which delayed the police department's investigation. Talai said that police gave the D.A.’s office a complete report on the incident on Nov. 9, the day after Gascon was elected to his first full term. Gascon's office made the decision to charge Ang the next day, Talai said.

The case had piqued the interest of the city's pedestrians, who often complain that San Franicisco’s cyclists frequently run red lights and ignore stop signs. In fact, running red lights is one of the leading causes of collisions where bikers are found to be at fault, according the Bike Accident Tracker.

But the overall number of pedestrian-cyclist collisions is low. Out of the 2,268 crashes that San Francisco cyclists were involved in between 2005 and 2010, just 168 -- or 7.4 percent -- were with pedestrians, according to the Bike Accident Tracker.

“This received a lot of attention. We never want anything like this to happen again,” said Elizabeth Stampe of Walk SF, an organization that advocates for pedestrians. “When you’re riding a bicycle on the street, you feel pretty vulnerable, and I think you can forget that other people are using the street who are more vulnerable.”

But Stampe emphasized that cars pose a greater danger to pedestrians than bikes. She said that 811 pedestrians were hit by cars last year, while 18 were hit by bikes, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Leah Shahum, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition said that the accident was “a tragic situation”

“If someone is biking or driving recklessly, I think it needs to be taken seriously,” she said.

Shaana Rahman, a lawyer who often represents cyclists, said that it was a tragic accident, but disagreed with the DA’s decision.

“There are many cases that I’ve had where cars have run red lights and stop signs and killed cyclists, and there were never any charges filed,” said Rahman. “Its an unusual situation that criminal charges are put forth, unless there is some extenuating circumstances like drugs or alcohol.”

Talai said there is no evidence that Ang was riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol.