SF Independent * May 1, 2001

Last Friday was a day we remembered Chris Robertson.

By Jean Davis
Member, San Francisco Bicycle Advisory Committee

Who was Chris Robertson and why should you care?

He was a friend of mine I thought I knew fairly well. But after he was killed on his bicycle by a trucker driving a big rig last November, I found I didn't know him as well as I thought I did. 

I met his family and many other friends at his memorial service during Thanksgiving week. As the months went by and we pursued his case, I found out what a full and varied life he had led and what neat people and adventures he had encountered in the brief 30 years he lived. He was as close to a Renaissance man as I've met, enjoying food, the arts, culture, and environmental causes. 

Could Chris Robertson or someone like him have been your neighbor's kid? Your son? The person who smiled at you across the table at breakfast this morning? The answer is yes. Everyone is at risk out there in the mean streets of this once-beautiful city. There is so much emphasis on speed and convenience at any cost in our culture. Ask yourself if what happened to Chris might not happen to one of your friends or family members next week, next month, or next year. 

When was the last time you felt threatened while walking across a street in this city? If you drive in commute traffic, 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 he was 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 left to go until he reached his destination. That driver had many options. The one he chose was a big mistake and sad for all parties involved. But you know what? His felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors because he used a truck rather than a gun. 

After such accidents (those that are reported) occur, we often read in the newspaper, "I didn't see her" or "the sun was in my eyes." Let's stop calling these "accidents." If you're driving a motor vehicle that weighs more than 2,000 pounds, don't you have a responsibility to be sure that it is safe before you proceed? And yet, according to one of the local daily newspapers, drivers run 10,000 red lights in San Francisco every day. 

Many of us in the bicycle community are perplexed about where this leads next. But we know this: It is time for all of us to hold people who angrily or carelessly cost others their lives accountable. Someone's need to get somewhere in a hurry ends way before the point at which Chris Robertson lost his life. We all need to cool our tempers, hang up the cell phones, put down the makeup and fast food, and start looking for solutions - from ourselves, from our legislators, from our judicial system, and from law enforcement. 

What happened to Chris Robertson was more than gross negligence, but blind justice really wasn't looking this time. Do we want a society that values the needs of drivers and speed over a livable city where citizens are allowed to enjoy a full life and safe access to our streets and sidewalks? The legislative system and the justice system seem to have failed us. Well, I'm not riding at the back of the bus anymore. The cost is too high.



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