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."

  • soylatte

    I admire Andrew’s ability to behave and speak with such civility. I’m not sure I would be able to do the same. I *love* this family’s dedication to cycling.

  • Michael Baehr

    It’s a shame that pressure had to be put upon the department to solve and prosecute this. I can attest from my own experience that the SFPD is not particularly interested in solving hit-and-run cases. I was hit-and-run by a driver on Market St. last year and, even with his full license plates, the SFPD wasn’t interested in doing much more than running the plates for me so I could presumably go and sue the owner of the car. Prosecution was off the table from the start because I couldn’t identify what the driver looked like. I guess hitting someone from behind and fleeing the scene is a great way to get away with assault, at least in San Francisco… he’s still driving, I’m sure.

  • There is so much here to be happy for, but also, so much to give us pause. There is no victory, here, as there are many lives that have been irreversibly changed, most likely, not for the better. Maybe this is what we need to really start the conversation about improving driver education, raising the legal driving age, improving our streets so that all can be safer and helping the police of many cities to see that all hit and run cases are serious crimes that need to be solved for the safety of all.

  • ZA

    Mr. Bennett, you may well have become my new personal hero. Please heal with all due speed, and all the best to your whole family. I am also pleased that the suspect turned herself in.

  • A

    “the work and “dedication” of SFPD”

    Wait, does it count as work when the culprit turns herself in?

    Michael B’s comment above is all too true.

  • @A: As a point of clarification, the police were in contact with the girl before she turned herself in. In fact, they’ve known about her, I’m told, but were working to build a case. She agreed to surrender. I’ve clarified this in the story.

  • Eric

    While I’m glad to hear that the driver was found. I hope that she will be given something more than a slap on the wrist. Really big fine, can’t get her license back until 18 or 21, and several hundred hours of community service picking up trash/clearing brush in local parks so she can do something with all her free time instead of talking on her cell phone.

  • Pat

    @ eric: or volunteering for SFBC as community service.

    Andrew Bennet is definitely that dude. Calm and composure through something like this is class. You and your family are in my thoughts.

  • Eric

    Pat
    “@ eric: or volunteering for SFBC as community service.”

    While I’m sure the SFBC would be interested in her help. I’d rather see the driver do a couple hundred hours working outdoors performing dirty, sweaty work as more suitable. Especially if it involved maintenance on hiking/biking trails. As opposed to stuffing envelopes in an air conditioned office.

  • His son’t helmet was “cracked in half”? This is not an occasion for high-fives but a cautionary tale. It’s simply reckless and irresponsible to ride around in city traffic with your child on your bike.

  • 16 year old girl. This explains everything. I hope she will realize how much harm she has caused other people and how close it is that she might have kill a young live.

    I am glad that this case is coming to a closure. I wish Bennett a speedy recovery.

  • Rob Anderson shut up. The recklessness and irresponsibility rest entirely on the driver.

  • kit

    This is great, great news. Can we *please* take this to heart, and accept that the SFPD DID do good police work here that led to the arrest? How can we expect to receive adequate support from law enforcement when so many in our ranks spit at them even as they are helping bring those who offend us to justice?

    Let’s look at this as a step forward in our relationship with the SFPD, turn the page, and thank them for their professionalism and effectiveness on this case, so we can build trust and mutual respect for each other that can lead to better protection for those of us under pedal power.

  • soylatte

    Anderson, fix the link in your name (so people can see what sort of lunatic you are). Geez, you can’t even successfully troll a site.

  • jhalv

    @ Wai Yip Tung: “16 year old girl. This explains everything.”

    Exactly what does it explain? I’m sure a lot of responsible, law-abiding 16 year old girls would like to hear your answer.

    @ kit: Thank you. I hope your comments don’t fall on deaf ears. Let us please move past the rhetoric- filled, finger-pointing stage. It’s boring and counter-productive.

    As an *everyday* cyclist in SF and the greater Bay Area, I’ve encountered my share of rude, dangerous drivers and indifferent police. I’ve also encountered polite, considerate drivers and police officers who’ve (on more than one occasion) defended my right to be on the road.

    Andrew, while your physical healing will take some time, I hope reading the well-wishes from Canada, Wales, Spain, the East Coast and who knows where else speeds up your non-physical healing. Heal up, get back on the bike, I hope to see you out there soon.

  • FULL DISCLOSURE ON ROB ANDERSON

    Hi,
    In regards to Rob Andersons comment:

    Shame on you for trying to blame the victim: I suppose you’re the kind of guy who thinks that women in short skirts are to be blamed if some criminal rapes them. Children reide as passengers on bicycles in every city in the world, except when there’s too much snow! I’ve travelled the world around, not a cyclist but as a photojournalist, and I’ve seen more kids on bicycles in cities like Beijing per capita than anywhere else in the world. Beijing also has some of the most agressive drivers I’ve ever seen (even more so than in wars) but even they look out for cyclists.

    I googled your link and was directed to your blog:

    http://district5diary.blogspot.com/

    where I discovered that you SUPPORT the frivolous lawsuit using Environmental Impact Studies as a way to block the city’s bike lanes project: a suit filed by a non-resident of San Francisco. You know if two bitter enemies Mayor Newsom and Chris Daly can both enthusiastically support the city’s bike plan, it says a lot about the merit of the plans goals.
    You are somewhere to the right of Pat Buchanan, I suppose. would you please try not to co-opt the suffering of the victims into your luridly irrational arguments against people’s legal rights to cycle without being the victims of felony crimes? I wish you quick recovery from your neurotic personality disorders. Please get help or at least stay home reading your back issues of the Anderson Valley rag….

  • @ Rob Anderson, in what way was transporting his son reckless or irresponsible? The reckless individual in this case was the driver of the motor vehicle not watching where she was going, not the father transporting his son in an environmentally safe manner.

  • @jhalv: When I first heard about the incident I keep wondering who would have drive so recklessly and then run away hiding. When I heard about the identity of the driver it feels like a piece a jigsaw puzzle has fell into place. The profile of reckless teenage driver seems make sense to me.

    I do not want to accuse all teenage drivers are reckless. I’m sure majority of them drive safely majority of time. On the other hand there is well established statistics to show young drivers are responsible for disproportionate amount of accidents. The statistics are reflected in the high insurance rate they are charged by insurance companies.

  • jhalv

    @ Wai Yip Tung: Thank you for the clarification.

    I guess my point was that we tread dangerous ground when we make “broad brush” generalizations about (for example) car drivers, cyclists, the police or 16 year old girls. In doing so, we can blind ourselves to the possibility that we may, in fact, have some common ground with those we generalize about and effectively shut the door on any cooperation with them. I don’t think it was your intent to make such a generalization.

    Certainly accidents rates are higher for teenage drivers. I don’t know if data exists correlating specifically hit & run accidents with age. The reports of hit & runs I’ve come across lately span ages from 20 to 62. Reasons for running included DUI, driving a stolen vehicle, lack of insurance, etc. In all cases, the drivers didn’t want to face the consequences of their actions. I don’t think that’s necessarily age-specific.

  • Jym

    =v= Driving around with kids in the car is more dangerous than having them along on a bike. Rob Anderson has been informed of this before, but such facts don’t seem to stick in whatever substance he’s got filling up his skull.

  • Aaron B.

    Rob, maybe you need to see a visual graph that shows the inverse correlation between the amount of speaking you do and the credibility of your opinions.

  • “I discovered that you SUPPORT the frivolous lawsuit using Environmental Impact Studies as a way to block the city’s bike lanes project: a suit filed by a non-resident of San Francisco.”

    “Frivolous lawsuit”? Then why did Judge Busch agree with us about the injunction and that the city had to do an EIR on the Bicycle Plan? Frivolous lawsuits get thrown out of court. There were no “non-residents” involved in the successful litigation. You seem to have me mixed up with my brother; he’s the guy who puts out the rag in Anderson Valley.

    “You know if two bitter enemies Mayor Newsom and Chris Daly can both enthusiastically support the city’s bike plan, it says a lot about the merit of the plans goals.”

    If Daly and Newsom agree on something, all it tells you is that it’s probably bullshit, like the luxury condos on Rincon Hill, the Market/Octavia Plan, and allowing UC to rip off the old extension site for a massive housing development, all of which they agree on.

    “Driving around with kids in the car is more dangerous than having them along on a bike. Rob Anderson has been informed of this before, but such facts don’t seem to stick in whatever substance he’s got filling up his skull.”

    The only way you could establish this as a fact is if we knew the miles children traveled in cars so we could compare it with the miles they traveled on bikes with their negligent elders.

  • Aaron B.

    Oh! Rob, we posted at the same time – great. Let me just address this concept to you then:

    If riding your bike with your child is so dangerous, don’t you think it SHOULDN’T be? Should everyone not have the right to choose to ride their bicycles (the most efficient, logical, and beneficial vehicle in existence) safely on the streets, even with their children?

    How, HOW can you be blaming the victim here? You are crossing the line to downright inhumane.

    You talk as if the prevalent dangers of motorists on our streets are an inevitable fact of life, and ignore any city in the world where urban policy has clearly broken that delusion (see Western Europe). Infrastructure guides behavior – if we didn’t have such wide, high-speed roads that encourage driving (and beating the light), then people wouldn’t do it so much.

  • Daphne

    Everyone has heard one side of the story. There are always two sides. I know the 16 yr old and her family that are involved in this case. Everyone is right, she shouldn’t have left the scene of the accident. What I think everyone needs to remember is she is only 16. A very scared 16 year old. She has been living with this secret for approx a month. Talk about torture. I’m not making excuses for her but all of us have been 16 at one time and we all have made mistakes whether they were big or small or if we got caught or not.

    She is VERY sorry for what she did…It’s not like she planned on going to the city and hit somebody.She was not acting maliciously.

    There has been a lot of talk about how the police knew who they were looking for etc… From what I have seen and heard that is NOT the case. They had very little information on the driver of this vehicle. My personal feeling is you do have to give her credit for turning herself in. She could have kept running from this and who knows if the police would have figured it out.

    Everyone feels very bad for the victim and is sorry for what has happened to him and how it has affected his family. We all wish him a quick and speedy recovery.

    I understand both sides of this. I can understand everyone being angry but at the same time she is only 16.. I have a family member that was in an accident, that was a 16 yr olds fault. They sustained injuries that will affect them for the rest of their life as well, but that doesn’t mean that they heald a grudge against them. They have been forgiven for what they have done. It may not be exact circumstances but I do hope everyone that has been commenting on this page can find it in their hearts to forgive this girl. She really is NOT a bad person. She is a good student, involved in sports, and great kid all around.

  • Daphne, we have someone you describe as a great person – and she may go on to great things. But she did not have the judgement to drive safely, nor the judgement to stop and own up to her mistake. If we say this is not surprising because she is 16, what is the answer? You do us all a good service by pointing out the clear rational answer… “raise the minimum age for a driver’s license”.

    I know the counter arguments but I don’t buy them.

  • Aaron B.

    Nobody here was really focusing on the merits of this girl’s morals and her decisions after the fact. The apparent fact is that she ran a red light while talking on her cell phone. So besides talking about what we can do to bring justice for the Bennetts, we’re looking at what solutions, from a systemic perspective, can reduce the risk of such accidents… be it: encouraging slower speeds, stricter enforcement on cell-phone driving, etc. And I fully echo John’s statement: the case that she “was only 16” only brings up another solution to look at – should we really allow 16 year-olds to drive if they can’t be held accountable for their actions? There’s definitely some dissonance in that policy. And if the argument is that 16 year-olds “need” to drive for work, then maybe that raises the need to provide transportation alternatives.

  • Matt

    Maybe its just me, but I grew up in Sonoma, and when I got my license, my parents wouldn’t let me go anywhere. What was she doing driving around in SF by herself? I don’t want to make horrible false accusations or anything, but just curious who lets their teenage kid drive to SF for the day. I’m glad to see she did the right thing and turned herself in. I hope the families affected can return to some sort of normalcy sooner than later.

  • brooke.

    Speedy recovery to Mr Bennett!
    Ride safe out there!
    Despite the obvious animosity between cyclists and drivers, I know there are folks out there on both sides obeying laws, and respecting one anothers right to the road. Acting out, intentionally cutting people off, dooring.. all of these things exacerbate the problem, and make it worse for everyone. Just because one driver is a jerkoff, doesn’t mean everyone is. On the same token, just because one cyclist runs a light, doesn’t mean we all do. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, yeah?

  • If everybody slows down, cars & bikes, things would be way better out there. A bike ride is a great thing, slow down, make it last! Cruzin in your car in a big cushy seat is a chill way to “people watch” with friends or gives you time to reflect on the day, slow down, enjoy it, and smile everyone.

  • g

    All hopes for recovery. This is a sad situation all around, both for the family and the 16-year-old.

    In terms of the police and prosecuting/investigating hit and run, they cannot prosecute without an eyewitness/someone to place the driver behind the wheel. With only a license plate number, the main recourse is civil because the car-owner can be held responsible regardless.

  • Kevbo

    If I was King (or mayor) of San francisco, I would end right on red for all things with wheels, (like NY) enforce phone to face, as well as headsets ( bikes and cars both ) and make it a moving violation to drive with a dog on your lap. Make a few major dedicated streets for bikes only ( or more one ways for bikes mostly ) and enforce traffic laws for all. Cars and bikes off of sidewalks for pedestrians. It is dangerous out there, and a few are making that way for anyone.

    Can you tell if I’m a driver or a cyclist?

    “the drunken driver has the right of way” Ethan Coen

  • saint

    i actually saw the accident and was able to correctly identify both the car and the driver to the police. i was walking home and saw it all happened, regardless of her age she WAS fully aware of the accident and still fled the scene, she even tried to be slick and turn on Deaborn st on 18th, while everyone said she turned on Guerrero. I just hope she learns her lesson, because there’s no way you can hit a someone and their child and not stop.

  • Dave Stoller

    well, Daphne- two years later and the above post is proven to be lies: the girl lied to the police, her parents lied to the police & their insurance company and only got caught because a video was found with your friend driving like a maniac at 18th and Mission St. I know that the family continues to blame the cyclist and, as I know him, have heard about their lurid comments in court and how they have worked so hard to make sure that he gets less compensation than his actual medical bills & lost wages. She went through torture for a month, according to you. A torture that she could’ve ended for herself by coming forward at any time. She did not until there was no alternative, until the police were at her door, The cyclist has been being tortured for 2+ years. When I last spoke to him last week he was just home for one surgery and 2 weeks away from another 100% due to your honorable friend. Who pays for those surgeries? The cyclist. His comments thus far indicate a higher level of forgiveness then your friend & her family deserve.

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