Bicyclist Injured in Hit-and-Run ‘Grateful’ Following Suspect’s Arrest

_1.jpgAndrew Bennett on his Xtracycle with his two sons.
Andrew Bennett, the 42-year-old bicyclist who was run down with his 4-year-old son on a tandem extension bicycle by a driver who ran a red light last month on 18th Street at Valencia, expressed deep gratitude to the SFPD for making the case a priority, and said he sympathizes with the parents of the 16-year-old girl arrested in the hit-and-run case.

The unidentified girl, from Santa Rosa, turned herself in this morning to the Juvenile Justice Center after being identified as a suspect and agreeing to surrender. She was booked on one count of felony hit-and-run, said SFPD Lt. Douglas Groshong, the head of the hit-and-run unit. Because she's a minor, Groshong said he couldn't release many details but added, "we intend to prosecute this case through the district attorney's office and the juvenile courts."

In an interview this afternoon, Bennett, who suffered a broken back in the July 1st crash, said witnesses told him the driver was talking on her cell phone when the crash happened. He said his son Robby's helmet "took the brunt of the impact" -- it was cracked in half -- but he was not seriously hurt.

"As a parent myself, I sympathize with the driver's parents. I can only imagine how horrible this must be for them. And I would say I'd temper that with relief that this person is no longer on the road and a desire to both get on with the healing process for myself and my family," he said. "In addition, I would also say that it is my sincere hope that every driver who is distracted and talking on a cell phone while driving around in San Francisco thinks twice about it."

Bennett credited the work and "dedication" of SFPD Inspector James Custer, and thanked the witnesses and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Supervisor Chris Daly, and Streetsblog, for focusing attention on the case and putting pressure on the department to solve it.

In an email this afternoon, he wrote: "I am extremely grateful to each and every person reading this for your concern, kindness, desire for justice and attention. Your efforts helped solve this crime. It is my sincere hope that the manner in which everyone (especially the SFPD and the media) made this possible becomes the normal course of action in crimes against cyclists in our great city."

He went on to thank Custer, who he said "took this case to heart and pursued this outcome with a dedication that should make everyone in the city proud."

The SFBC released a statement saying it too was relieved an arrest had been made in the "tragic hit-and-run," and said it was pleased the SFPD worked with the cycling community to track down the driver, "who will now be held accountable for her dangerous actions."

With more and more people bicycling, San Francisco is actually seeing fewer collisions, showing that motorists and bicyclists are doing a better job of sharing the streets. We are pleased to see the SFPD's commitment to helping make the streets safer and saner and look forward to continuing our work with the SFPD for better enforcement and education for the protection of all San Francisco's road users.

Bennett's long road to recovery is barely beginning. He was on his way to see an orthopedic surgeon this afternoon. He suffered a fractured vertebrae, massive sprains and pulled muscles in his lower back, deep bone bruises on his leg, along with a lot of soft tissue damage.

"There is a question that will be unanswered for some time as to how heavily this will affect my ability to earn a living and support my family to the extent that I was prior to the accident," he said.

As for Robby, his young son, Bennett said he "had some pretty nasty abrasions on his elbow" from hitting the pavement, but "it was a miracle" he wasn't more seriously hurt. "I think what happened is most of the impact to the bike didn't go to the trailer part of the bike, and kind of pivoted out of the way and rebounded off the car and chucked him off."

Bennett said it was "a major traumatic event for Robby" and he continues to ask a lot of questions. He has gone back to riding his own bike but "I think he looks at them differently, especially adult bikes that he's not in control of." He said his wife immediately took Robby to get a new helmet while his father was still in the hospital so "he would know it was safe to continue riding," and he "was really into it."

For his own part, Bennett said he really misses his bicycle, and hopes he'll be able to ride again, although he's not sure when.

"That part's killing me because, you know, even if you ride a little bit around the city it makes you feel really good. I really miss the best way to move in San Francisco."