Bicyclist, Young Son Injured in Hit-and-Run Crash on Valencia Street

_1.jpgAndrew Bennett with his 4-year-old son Robby on the back and 2-year-old son Jack in the front. "I’m so glad Jack wasn’t with us," he said.

A San Francisco bicyclist is asking for help locating witnesses who may have seen a hit-and-run crash Wednesday on Valencia Street — one of the city’s most popular bicycling corridors — that left him with a broken back. Andrew Bennett wrote about the crash in an email he sent to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition:

Yesterday, at approximately 11:30 am, I was riding my bicycle northbound on Valencia with my 4-year-old-son behind me on his add-on tandem. While crossing 18th on the green light, a silver Chrysler PT cruiser gunned it through the red light, striking me and my 4-year-old, sending our bikes flying. It’s a miracle that either of us are alive and even more so that my son’s injuries were not life threatening. I sustained injury to the spine and now have a broken back. The driver did not stop.

Bennett said there were several witnesses but no one was able to provide a more thorough description of the car or license plate number to the SFPD. He believes several witnesses left the scene on the assumption that other witnesses were providing information.

I believe, based on several things said at the scene, that there will be zero effort put into the solving of this crime by SFPD ( due in large part to incomplete info) and I need help from the community in tracking this criminal down. We’re likely to be bankrupted by medical costs even with insurance: I want to do everything legally possible to bring this person to justice. I owe it to my family and to my community.

An SFPD spokesperson said the department typically does not release a lot of information about "injury accidents" for "litigation reasons." The crash on Valencia Street is the second one we’ve heard of in the last two weeks.

Bennett is also trying to contact some bicyclists who were on the scene. "I would like to reach them both to express my thanks and to inquire if they have any information that might get this driver off the streets before someone dies."

Anyone with information is urged to call the SFPD’s hit-and-run unit at 553-1641. 

  • Robert

    Seeing those two go by in the mornings warmed my heart. Tragic.

  • I am so sorry to hear this. I go through this intersection almost daily though not at that point in time. It’s always crowded, always lots of bikes and pedestrians. There is never an excuse for a car to be going fast there, much less running a red light. I hope the driver of the Chrysler is caught and held accountable for his/her crimes. To drive off after hitting a child–it’s almost incomprehensibly heartless.

    What kind of traffic calming could be done to better protect the bicyclists of Valencia Street? Red light cameras? Speed bumps actually in the intersection? Twenty mph speed limits throughout the Mission?

  • JSmith

    Shame on you for putting your kid at risk like that!
    If you want to ride your bike, fine, but your kid, your bike
    are NOT ACCESSORIES.

  • Evgeny

    JSmith: you are a jackass. People the world ’round put their children onto bicycles.

  • Wow, JSmith. Just wow. I know blaming the victim is a psychological strategy taken by the pusillanimous to obviate the ethical requirement for moral action in an immoral situation, but this really takes the cake.

  • jon

    Just gotta take the bait, JSmith.

    If you really want to put your kid at risk, drive her around in a car. Your child is twice as like to be killed in a car than on a bike. And to think that people don’t even make their kids wear helmets in cars when eighty percent of the 40,000 US car related deaths per year are due to head trauma.

    My sympathies to the victims of this crime.

    –jon

  • The cops are one block away on this one. They whip out of their little pen there in their cruisers like bats out of hell for things. Those witnesses with further information must have been in one hell of a hurry to get out of there, or the cops took their time getting there.

    This is sick and really unfortunate. I wish Andrew and his son the speediest recovery. The psychological trauma is probably the worst, and its contagious.

  • Nick

    Maybe someone could come up with a downloadable flyer and ask the community to help post them throughout the Mission, the surrounding area, and at autobody shops, etc

    500 flyers could be on the street by tommorrow morning if enough people are willing to help out.

  • Nick, that’s a good idea. I’d be happy to help out tomorrow on this if someone can get the flier together with the appropriate information.

    – J

  • Jeff

    I live a block away from there, I hope they catch this person.
    Who can we call to request urgency in the investigation?

  • Elchingon

    anyone know which way the idiot took off in the hit and run car??

  • andrew

    Update:
    the driver of the silver PT cruiser is believed to be a woman named Kat or Kate. Her plate # has been provided to the police. More corroboration is necessary as the police only heard from one witness with the plate and several others told me that they had the plate number. It’s likely that the police will make an arrest if public pressure continues. Last update was that through media coverage, there’s a hope that the driver will turn herself in before the police come for her. I’ve attached a copy of the flyer. BTW, if you’re going to hit & run, don’t get a vanity plate.
    JSMITH: may the good lord shut your mouth and open your mind.

    Flyer text:
    REQUEST FOR INFORMATION, WITNESSES, ETC.

    HIT AND RUN OF TWO CYCLISTS, ONE AGED FOUR, AT 18TH / VALENCIA

    ON WEDNESDAY JULY 1ST 2009 AT 11:30 AM A SILVER PT CRUISER SPED THROUGH AT RED LIGHT GOING WESTBOUND ON 18TH ACROSS VALENCIA IN THE MISSION DISTRICT OF SAN FRANCISCO.

    THIS VEHICLE STRUCK AN ADULT RIDING A GREY STEEL FRAME BICYCLE WHICH HAD A BLUE CHILDREN’S ADD ON TANDEM BIKE RIDDEN BY A FOUR YEAR OLD BOY. THE CYCLISTS WERE TRAVELLING THROUGH THE INTERSECTION ON THE GREEN LIGHT GOING NORTHBOUND ON VALENCIA AT 18TH STREET, 7/1/9 11:30 AM

    THE DRIVER SPED UP TO RUN A RED LIGHT CAUSING SEVERE INJURY TO AT LEAST ONE OF THE CYCLISTS. SHE MADE NO ATTEMPT TO STOP.

    MANY PEOPLE WITNESSED THE ACCIDENT AND GAVE AID, SEVERAL SAID THAT THEY GOT A PLATE # BUT WHEN SFPD INTERVIEWED, THE ONLY PEOPLE PRESENT HAD INCOMPLETE INFORMATION.

    IT IS BELIEVED THAT WITNESSES WITH COMPLETE INFO LEFT THE SCENE BELIEVING THAT THOSE REMAINING HAD COMPLETE INFO.

    THE DRIVER WILL ESCAPE PROSECUTION UNLESS MORE INFORMATION IS GAINED. IF YOU WITNESSED THIS ACCIDENT OR KNOW SOMEONE WHO DID,
    PLEASE, PLEASE COME FORWARD EITHER BY CONTACTING

    ANDREW BENNETT @ 415 939-4700 OR mailandrewbennett@gmail.com

    AND BY CALLING SFPD HIT AND RUN UNIT AT 415-553-1641 CASE NUMBER 090669569 ASK FOR INSPECTOR CUSTER

    ONE CYCLIST HAS A FRACTURED SPINE. WE NEED YOUR HELP IN BRINGING THE DRIVER (WHO PLOWED INTO A FATHER AND SON) TO JUSTICE:

    AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL.

  • Barna Mink

    I’m glad there’s progress. I hope for speedy recovery for you. I also hope that the driver will get duly punished. I fear that the justice system will be way to lenient with her, as per usual. Perhaps if Streetsblog follows the case closely, we can achieve something resembling justice collectively. This does seem to be a very clear cut case with the car running a red, the cyclist following the law, and many witnesses. In the last Tube Times I saw an ad for a law firm that specializes in bike injuries. You might want to talk to them for representation?

  • Freakonomics: Riding a 4 year old on a tandem down the Valencia St Bike Lane – crazy. Taking a 4 year old snow skiing – downhills, on lifts, etc… – not crazy. Over beers we could probably name dozens of other activities seen as completely innocent which are far more dangerous, “owning a pit bull”, “meth-stoked Niwot threesomes”, etc…

  • ZA

    Shocking, heartless, thoughtless. I’m glad Streetsblog is being put to active use, and that progress is being made in the case. May justice prevail, and all wounds heal.

  • PStoll

    This is shocking to hear! Not just speeding through the narrow heavily populated streets of the mission, but running a red, running over some bicyclists, and running away! No one should ever allow themselves this much disrespect for those around them. JSmith – You’re a jackass! Was it you in the PT cruiser? Why else would you blame the victim?

  • bent_rider

    Murph, if you want to think of dangerous activities for youth, you should check out Little Britches Rodeo.

    LONGMONT, Colo. (AP) — Authorities say a 12-year-old Colorado boy died after he was thrown by a bull at a rodeo.

    So…..Puting your kid on the back of an enraged bull is A-OK, a valid sport, a cultural tradition, but transporting you and your kid on a bicycle is ‘child endangerment’? Right. I hope everyone recovers, both physically and mentally.

  • g

    This is really sad. All hopes for speedy recovery. Thanks to the people making the flyer. There is an obvious civil case if the person is located and there are witnesses. Pressure on the District Attorney might be helpful in regards to criminal charges.

  • bent_rider – how appropriate you find a link from Longmont, only 5 short miles away from my hometown of Niwot, land of the “meth-stoked Niwot threesomes”.

    Boulder County appears to be more myth than reality.

  • Eve

    I wonder if there’s any video surveillance in place at 18th and Valencia.

  • Niki

    Just have to say that I live in British Columbia, Canada, and word of this accident has reached my city (the internet is a beautiful thing). I am absolutely shocked the San Fran police initially were not considering an arrest in this case! Good lord, it involves a father of two and a four year old boy! Where is their compassion?

    The woman of this car deserves to have the book thrown at her. And I’m very sad the father is facing such large medical bills. What a tragedy that he is hurt and has to worry about the financial well-being of his young family.

  • thegreasybear

    My sympathies to the family bankrupted and severely injured by yet another criminal motorist; my thanks to those who tried to help identify the fleeing criminal. JSmith–hate cyclists much?

  • As a person who spends a lot of time trying to get families on bikes, this makes me so unspeakably angry and sad I find it difficult to form thoughts.

    I would like to know if a fund is being created to help in this situation? If so, I would be more than happy to advertise it on my blog and do whatever I can to keep this in the public eye until it is solved and the medical bills are paid. The SF bike community is large, and much can be done if we get ourselves organized.

  • Sarah J

    My sympathies to the family. I hope the police are put under enough pressure to make this accident more of a priority. Medical bills and injuries can last a lifetime, the family will need all the help they can get.

    As for those that think parents shouldn’t have children on the road: check the highway code, the road is for cyclists as well as idiots behind a wheel of a car.

    News of this accident has reached Wales.

  • Carlos Orgaz

    Greetings from Spain!

    I wish you both the quickest recovery ever and that you will be back on your bikes soon!

    Such a sad news but glad to hear that you will recover and that it did not got worst!!!!

    I really hope the police will get the driver of the car and that she will learn something at the end, there is no perfect crime!

    We should all wath each other, there are so many maniacs out there riding on 4 wheels and non caring for anything that is a miracle there are no more injured!!!

    All the best from Spain!! It will be a good idea to oepn a PayPal account were we cyclist from the world can send a bit of $ for this people to pay their bills!!!!

  • Very best wishes from Baltimore, Maryland (on the other coast!). I’m glad there’s progress in the case also. The idea that someone not only hit a cyclist and left the scene but that one was a CHILD makes me feel ill. (So do you, JSmith.)

  • marcos

    How many blocks away from Mission SFPD @ Valenica and 17th Street station did this tragedy transpire?

    Why is one of SF’s major open air heroin markets as far away from that station as this violent attack was?

    We pay these cops lavishly, yet they can’t seem to establish the rule of law over rogue automobiles within sight of their station, nor check the drug trade and its assorted human bodies nodding out and relieving themselves on our sidewalks on Mission between 17/18th.

    To what extent has Greg Corrales, head of the traffic company paid by the MTA, done anything to make our streets safer for cyclists?

    Enforcement, enforcement, enforcement!

    -marc

  • Alex

    Very sorry to hear it. Bard friends are starting to send this around facebook, so you will probably hear from some.

    JSmith, yes your callousness is shocking, but your statement is also so idiotic. What if they were walking, would that make it different? It was a hit and run. People cross streets with their children every day, in and out of vehicles. The bicycle is irrelevant really; the felon is the issue.

    But let’s not digress.

  • Andy Wernette

    As a father & a San Francisco resident, I am truly outraged at this incident. In addition to being a Father, I am also the manager of the largest & oldest Body Shop in San Francisco. I have already informed my staff to keep their eyes peeled for this vehicle & will also share this information with my colleagues in the industry.
    We’ll help track em down for ya!

  • Nick

    Is there a standard way police departments track down vehciles wanted in connection with a crime?

    DMV or dealership records should indicate the number of PT Crusiers registered in the city (assuming the driver was a city resident).

    How many of those sold were silver?

    Then, how many of those were owned by a woman?

    Further, how many of those had novelty license plates?

  • CBrinkman

    Any updates from the SFPD? I can’t imagine what kind of horrible callous sub-human you would have to be to hit anyone and drive away – but to hit a child and father and drive away? You would think that would light a fire under the SFPD to find the car and driver. Hopefully there is progress going on that we are not privy to?

  • marcos

    This all presupposes a police department that gives a sh!t, has the capacity and desire to investigate and solve crimes like these, and sees peds and cyclists as legitimate users of the street entitled to enforcement that furthers safety rather than enforcement that discourages using the streets in favor of automobiles.

    -marc

  • Lauren S. Ladd

    Why do I think that no matter what the facts may have been the drive of the car will always be at fault in this town? How could the smiling, earth-loving, political correct father with tiny children strapped on his bike every be held culpable?

  • Lauren – please find for us an example of a pedestrian or cyclist being at fault in a driver vs ped/cyclist collision where the pedestrian/cyclist community tried nonetheless to pin fault on the driver. You won’t – because it doesn’t happen. When a cyclist or pedestrian causes their own death or injuries, the sentiment from the community is grief and well-wishes, and frankly some sympathy for the driver.

    Cyclists especially are very aware of their own screwups. The primary difference that builds the drama is that when the driver is at fault, they kill a pedestrian or a cyclist, when the pedestrian or a cyclist is at fault, they kill themselves. In a sane world, this dichotomy would lend itself to drivers taking their responsibility seriously. Instead, the knee-jerk reaction tends to be that cyclists and pedestrians should get on their asses – in the seat of a car.

  • thegreasybear

    Only one person is responsible for this crime and the injury and banktruptcy it brought to a law-abiding man and his child: the unapprehended felon motorist.

  • Stagewright

    Andrew, best wishes for a speedy recovery. JSmith your ignorance is astounding. So let me get this straight… a parent should keep their kids at home when exercising or going to the store? Kids shouldn’t be allowed to experience fresh air, or the wind in their face? Why not lock them in a closet? Accessories? Good God man; they are little human beings who have every right to ride safely in peace without being mowed over by someone late to a hair appointment. I’ll bet you strap your kids into your SUV every day, just to go to the store down the street!
    Let’s remember the real crime here. A mistake was made. That is unfortunate, but s**t happens. But to leave the scene, not taking responsibility or offering to help? That is a crime. Find her and lock her up!

  • BiggerDummy

    My thoughts go out to Andrew and his son. As a father of two in Canada I often use my Xtracycle or trailer to transport my kids and this incident is my worst nightmare.

    JSmith – your comments are heartless and misinformed and reflect the typical North American bias that anyone not driving a car or truck should stay off the road. Re-read your local traffic laws – bikes belong.

    Lauren – ignore the fact that the victims were on a bike – there is absolutely no excuse for anyone to hit & run anyone regardless of the other party’s choice of vehicle. What makes it worse is that one victim is a child and his father was left with a broken back.

  • Lauren S. Ladd

    Bigger Dummy — I don’t dispute whatsoever your point that there is no excuse for a “hit & run,” irrespective of vehicle type. That’s irrefutable. My point is merely that no one should pre-judge this tragic “accident” based on circumstantial evidence. We have only one-side of the story at this point. No question it is a very compelling renditon of the facts. And no one in their right mind wants to see anyone, let alone a child, injured or put in harm’s way.

    Nevertheless, I ask only that you and others take a step back and grant, (without my endeavoring to become an apologist for the driver, who may, indeed, be at fault) that it is concievable that the driver may not have been aware that she struck Andrew and his son. It may not have been intentional. She may or may not have consciously “hit and run’ — that’s all I’m saying.

  • Oak Native

    JSmith,

    Just to pile on – I’d hate to live in a world where children don’t have safe access to the street until driving age, or that they must remain (unsafely) tethered to the backseat of a car. Children’s health and nascent autonomy are inextricably tied to safe walking and biking. We need to childproof the world, not worldproof the child.

  • g

    How are you “not aware” of hitting someone to the extent that you break their back?

    Don’t you think there is at least a dent?

  • SfResident

    Lauren, you are aware that the driver in this incident ran through a red light? Apparently it wasn’t even a “speed up for a yellow” borderline kind of situation. Independent witnesses saw this happen. This isn’t a case of ‘well, perhaps the facts aren’t all in…” the driver is clearly at fault. Unless you’re an emergency vehicle running code there is no excuse for running a red light.

    A man on a bicycle is not a fly – any time you hit something that big in a car you *will* notice. It will make a loud sound and almost certainly damage your car.

    There are plenty of traffic cases where the facts are ambiguous and plenty of traffic cases where the bicyclist or pedestrian is at fault. This is not one of them and the lack of ambiguity is why it’s gotten so much more press than most “accidents.”

    As for the “smiling, earth-loving, political correct father with tiny children strapped on his bike” (and an aside, what’s up with the condescension from drivers towards cyclists?). Had he plowed through a red-light at full-speed and been hit by a car that had the green then we’d all be up in arms about how irresponsible and reckless the guy is.

    I’m no bicyclist, but reading the various comments from this thread and others about this incident has given me a hell of a lot more sympathy for those of you who go out every day and face such an amazing amount of suspicion and hostility simply for using a legal and healthy form of transit. A lot of people out there really need to work through their cultural hostility towards bicyclists.

  • Lauren S. Ladd

    SfResident —

    “Lauren, you are aware that the driver in this incident ran through a red light? Apparently it wasn’t even a “speed up for a yellow” borderline kind of situation. Independent witnesses saw this happen. This isn’t a case of ‘well, perhaps the facts aren’t all in…” the driver is clearly at fault. Unless you’re an emergency vehicle running code there is no excuse for running a red light.”

    The answer to your question is: no, I’m not aware. And, quite frankly, I would caution that neither should you be, for that matter. And it’s your degree of certitude that I find so troublesome. Certainly you’re entitled to your opinion, but to couch hearsay as hard facts is wrong. As John Adams said, “Facts are stubborn things.”

    True, the press has reported the assertions of independent wittnesses that the accident unfolded exactly as you say, but until all sides are heard, and all the facts are presented and parsed neither you nor I should draw any inferences. This is why we have courts and operate uder the rule of law. What I infer from your post that you are satisfied that all the facts are in. If we follow your logic than reductively there is no need to ajudicate this matter. Rather, we can impute fault through a kind of warm and fuzzy concensus, and collectively assume the role of judge, jury and executioner. This is the rocky road to vigilantism.

    To your point that “lack of ambiguity” is the reason this matter has gotten so much press: not true, the degree of press coverage is directly proportionate to tragic nature of the occurrence; the lack of certainty regarding the identity of the other party involved; and the urgent need to locate the other party, decide the facts and administer justice.

    Finally, I like bikes!

  • SfResident

    @ Lauren – I suppose it’s *possible* that the driver was acting legally and that the victims and multiple independent witnesses were all, to a one, mistaken about what happened. And I suppose that it’s also *possible* that the driver didn’t notice that she had hit an object that weighs hundreds of pounds and usually ends up damaging one’s car. But this is a situation where occam’s razor speaks pretty strongly and forcefully towards one conclusion…

    I’d love to hear her side of the story. I think all of us would. But until that happens (yeah, right) we have to base our advocacy and opinions on the set of facts available to us. That set of facts strongly supports concluding that Andrew and his children were victims. To presume that acting on these facts is some sort of slippery-slope to vigilantism is beyond absurd. Nobody is advocating going out and beating up this person – we’re advocating finding out who/where she is so that she can be turned into the police.

    Perhaps if she weren’t in the wrong the driver would just come forward and just clear things right up… I wonder why she isn’t…

  • Lauren S. Ladd

    Ah, yes, Occam’s Razor — the appeal to simplicity when competing theories vie for validation. The principle recommends selection of the hypothesis that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates while still sufficiently answering the question

    However, on many occasions Occam’s razor has stifled or delayed scientific progress. For example, appeals to simplicity were used to deny the phenomena of meteorites, ball lightning, continental drift. It originally rejected DNA as the carrier of genetic information in favor of proteins, since proteins provided the simpler explanation.

  • Oh my, let’s have a discussion about “what is reality” and how nobody can prove anything really. Before long I will be convinced that I am in fact not typing these words right now.

    Here’s a question for you then: if indeed there is merit to the driver’s side, then why is she not stepping forward and telling her side? Why is she laying low? The deafening silence from her is almost as good as a guilty plea, as far as I’m concerned.

    Ya know, it’s hard to claim the position of the unbiased, dispassionate seeker of truth, when you just made a quite bigoted statement about the “smiling, earth-loving, political correct father with tiny children strapped on his bike” who always gets his way. Just to remind you, that smiling, earth-loving guy is the one who got his back broken.

  • My LTTE on this topic was published today.

    http://holierthanyou.blogspot.com/2009/07/andrew-bennett.html

  • Tony

    This is my biggest fear. Being hit by a driver ‘trying to make that light’ and not concerned about who might be in the intersection.

    I just wonder how hard it can possibly be to find a car that has the letters KAY and a ‘heart shape’ on the license plate?

    How many could there possibly be in San Francisco…or the Bay Area for that matter? Don’t the SFPD have access to a data base that can pull up this information?

    The ‘difficulty’ in finding this vehicle and the woman that drove it sends a message to me as a bicyclist that the SFPD cares very little about crimes against bicyclists and their safety.

    I think I may have had an encounter with this car over a month ago, on 25th Street at Treat. But it was a mini van driven by a woman that passed me within inches just so she could get to a stop sign before me. I was fortunate that she didn’t hit me. But it was very scary.

    My thoughts are with the family as they go through this dramatic change in their life.

    One more thing…

    JSmith’s comments are completely inconsiderate and singularly focused.
    The driver did not yield to the traffic PERIOD!!
    Instead she hit a bicyclist and left the scene. This sort of ‘aggressive driving’ behavior is what gets people hurt, whether that person is walking, biking or driving in their car.
    If aggressive drivers had their cars impounded and were given a bicycle instead, then things would change rather quickly on our city streets.

  • JStevenson

    FYI:

    This morning on my way to work, I saw a latina woman driving a Silver PT Cruiser in the financial district who looked to be in her 30s. The first 3 characters in her license plate were “HY5”, and she had a Gilroy Dealership license plate cover on it.

  • TedRe123

    I used to ride Market St every day, and got really frustrated with cars constantly running red lights. Why aren’t the police busting these people? Every day, and every red light, you could guarantee about 2 to 3 cars per change would run the red in order to not have to wait for the next set.
    Until the police take enforcement seriously in San Francisco you should expect this kind of dangerous driving in the city, and beware when starting off on a green light.
    This in no way excuses someone from failing to stop at an accident. That police give this criminal low priority until people complain is really beyond me.
    Best wishes to you from Sydney, Aust.

  • Why is it when cyclists run red lights (don’t say they don’t I work on Market Street & as a pedestrian I have been hit once & been nearly hit too many times to count while in the crosswalk with the right of way) and they keep going nobody is outraged. While this story is sad I believe since under the law cyclists are considered vehicles in California that the standards should be equally enforced. Stay in your lanes & please look for other traffic before making your move; a little time and caution can save your life.

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