SFPD Issues Rare Press Release on Hit-and-Run Crash of Bicyclist, Young Son

andrew_bennett.jpgAndrew Bennett and his 4-year-old son Robby.
The San Francisco Police Department -- in a rare public display of concern for bicyclists -- has issued a press release on the hit-and-run on Valencia Street last Wednesday involving a bicyclist and his 4-year-old son, who was riding in the back on a tandem extension. It asks for the public's help tracking down the driver of a "gray SUV or gray Chrysler PT Cruiser" (with a partial plate of "KAY" and a heart symbol) who is responsible for the crash:

The driver was described only as a female, late 20s, with dark hair. No one else was in the vehicle. There may be front-end damage to the vehicle. Anyone who may have witnessed this collision is urged to contact Inspector Jim Custer of the Hit and Run Detail, 553-9516, or to call the Confidential Tip Line, 415-575-4444.

The bicyclist, Andrew Bennett, suffered a broken back, and clarified in an email that although his son was scraped up a little, he was not injured. Bennett also gave us an update on his condition:

My orthopedic doctor told me today that I will be in a brace for six weeks at a minimum, three months at most and that I'll be unable to do the work of my chosen vocation for many months. There is a possibility that this injury will prevent me from being able to return to my work at all due to its extremely physical demands (being the head rigger or head carpenter on cirque de soleil, Bob Dylan, the Beastie Boys and such is difficult if you can't lift your own body weight) . Time will tell.

On a positive note, I saw my bicycle today and steel frames rock. My quad-butted frame took a direct hit on the fork, head tube, top tube, and down tube at from a SUV going 25-40 mph and is not bent. Everything attached to it, including me, is, but wow-what amazing stuff. I'm so lucky that I was in the bottom of the pedal stroke on the right side-had I been pushing through the upstroke on my right I would have a peg leg. I'm also glad that I gave up clip/"clipless" pedals for free footing: being attached to that bike would likely have increased my injuries.

The story about the hit-and-run has sparked outrage among many bicyclists from around the world, who left comments on our initial post, offering help and wishing Bennett a speedy recovery. A spokesperson for the SFPD said this morning there's been no update on the case since the initial press release was put out around 3 yesterday afternoon. 

The press release, as far as we can tell, is the first the SFPD has issued on a bicyclist injured in a crash in recent memory. Andy Thornley, the program director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said it's the first time he's ever seen one:

The SFPD has never included the SFBC in the distribution of any such press alert or other outreach or publicity about an investigation; in my four-plus years on SFBC staff I've never been contacted by the SFPD to aid in any investigation, to get the word out to our members or utilize our own media connections. We almost always have to seek information from the SFPD about a bike crash or other cyclist-involved incident, and receive very little information when we ask. The SFBC has no special standing with the SFPD as partners or community representatives for the sake of sharing information, despite repeated attempts by us to establish a closer working relationship.

Sgt. Wilfred Williams, a spokesperson for the SFPD, said inspectors don't treat bicyclists any different than other victims of crimes. But "each incident is never the same" and "each inspector may handle a case differently."

"From our point of view, be it a bicyclist, be it a motorist, be it someone walking across the street, be it someone catching a bus, be it someone in a park, if anyone is the victim of any type of crime, we put forth our best effort in trying to solve the crime."

Williams said any problems the bicycling community has had with the SFPD "could be very easily remedied with better communication."