Death of another cyclist ignites emotions
Courtesy increasingly missing on Bay Area roads

    Mercury News

A 24-year-old woman was run over by a garbage truck Friday as she
rode her bicycle in downtown San Francisco, hours before the city's
bike community staged a City Hall rally to protest the recent reduction
in charges against a trucker whose big rig allegedly killed a cyclist.

Michelle Lynn O'Connor of San Francisco was killed just after 9 a.m.
near the intersection of Oak and Franklin streets, police said. She
suffered massive trauma to the head and torso, and was pronounced
dead at the scene.

Witnesses told authorities O'Connor was weaving in and out of
slow-moving traffic and ``lane straddling,'' or riding between cars, in
the congested streets near the Civic Center. She ran into the back of
a stopped pickup truck and fell, landing under the rear wheels of a
moving garbage truck, said Inspector Michael Mahoney of the police
department's hit-and-run division.

O'Connor's death -- the city's first bicycle fatality of the year -- fell on
the day cyclists were to ride en masse through the city during the
evening rush hour in a monthly, traffic-stopping ritual known as
Critical Mass.

``It is an awful irony that another cyclist was killed this morning,'' Leah
Shahum, program director for the San Francisco Bike Coalition, said
as she asked the roughly 90 cyclists gathered at the previously
planned City Hall rally to bow their heads for a moment of silence.

News of O'Connor's death ignited emotions in the already passionate
crowd of cyclists, who said they were asking the city to make streets
safer and protesting a judge's decision last week in the case of a
cyclist killed by a truck.

Chris Robertson, 30, was allegedly killed in November by an
18-wheeler driven by Reuben Espinoza, 42, who later acknowledged
he had played a ``game of chicken'' with Robertson and other cyclists
who were riding in a funeral procession for a slain friend.

Almost instantly, the case became a cause célèbre for the bicycle
community, who lobbied the district attorney's office to lodge criminal
charges against the trucker. Espinoza was charged with felony
involuntary manslaughter and assault, but Judge Herbert Donaldson
dismissed the manslaughter charge and reduced the remaining assault
charges to misdemeanors.

Protesters on Friday held signs that read, ``Murder is No Accident.''
Some taped posters to their backs with photographs of Mayor Willie
Brown astride a bike, saying ``Would it Only Be A Misdemeanor if
This Cyclist Had Been Killed?''

Supervisor Chris Daly told the crowd: ``Your rage, your anger, is

Mahoney, however, warned against making ``blanket statements''
about the city's bicycle fatalities.

``Each accident is unique,'' he said, adding that anyone who suggests
the incidents are part of an epidemic is ``being a little bit naive or
trying to push an issue.''

Mercury News staff writer L.A. Chung contributed to this report.
Contact Alexis Chiu at or 415/477-3795.

Fair Use Notice