Pedestrian Hit By Bicyclist Last Month on the Embarcadero Dies

Dionette Cherney. Photo: ##http://www.caringbridge.org/##Caring Bridge##

A 67-year-old Washington D.C. woman who was hit by a bicyclist on the Embarcadero at Mission Street last month has succumbed to her injuries. Dionette Cherney, a real estate expert who had been visiting San Francisco with her husband, was pronounced dead at 5:20 this morning, said SFPD Sgt. Mark Sullivan of the department’s hit-and-run detail.

Cherney had been a long-time volunteer for Score, a non-profit that counsels entrepreneurs and small businesses, said Arnie Westphal, a volunteer at the organization’s D.C. office.

“I really loved her,” he said. “We volunteered together for 10 years.”

Westphal said Cherney’s husband set up a page on Caring Bridge.org to keep her friends and colleagues updated on her condition. This morning, a woman named Melissa Cherney broke the news of her death online.

“We are so very sad to let you know that Didi passed away this morning,” she wrote, adding that family and close friends were by Cherney’s side at San Francisco General Hospital. “Your loving thoughts and prayers have helped so much over these terrible last four weeks. We still can’t believe that she is gone.”

Sgt. Sullivan told Streetsblog that the case is still being investigated and it will ultimately be up to the District Attorney’s office to decide what, if any, charges will be filed against the 25-year-old bicyclist who caused the July 15th collision.

Police said Cherney was walking in the crosswalk around 8:30 am that day when the bicyclist, identified only as a Bay Area man, ran a red light and struck her. He stayed at the scene and cooperated with investigators, according to reports.  Police have said that he could face the same charges that would be considered for a driver.

Pedestrian deaths caused by bicyclists are extremely rare. While drivers remain by far the greatest threat to pedestrians (811 people were injured by drivers last year, 18 people were injured by bicyclists, according to SFPD data), “the fact remains that a lot of seniors are scared by people on bikes. Ultimately, people on bikes should yield to people on foot,” said Elizabeth Stampe, the executive director of Walk San Francisco.

The mainstream media, however, usually jumps on these types of cases in an attempt to color bicyclists as rule-breaking scofflaws. The number of bicyclists in San Francisco has soared in recent years, and Market Street looks a little like Copenhagen or Amsterdam during commute hours. It’s exciting that so many people are riding bikes in the city, say advocates, but Cherney’s death is a reminder that we need more respect on the streets, especially as the numbers continue to grow.

“In some ways it’s really great that so many people out there are riding bikes and that people complain about them all the time and people perceive them as a big, powerful thing,” said Stampe. “I feel like we’re at a tipping point and that we have reached Critical Mass with bikes, and with power comes responsibility.”

Leah Shahum, the executive director at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, said “this tragic incident is a stark reminder that everyone — whether you’re biking, driving, or walking — has an urgent responsibility to be safe and respectful on our shared streets. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition will continue to remind the growing number of people biking of their responsibilities and rights through our popular Bike Education classes, as well as working with the police to educate all road users.”

SFMTA Board Director Cheryl Brinkman, who rides a bike and is a longtime advocate, felt compelled to write Streetsblog this morning, after hearing yesterday that Cherney was near death.

Cyclists violating the pedestrian right of way is what I hear about most often in response to any discussion about adding cycling infrastructure. It is such a tough issue; are cyclists being held to a higher standard then car drivers, or is it the nature of the violations that catch people’s attention? It’s not hard for a cyclist to stop at a crosswalk, and cyclists should treat pedestrians the way they wish car drivers would treat them, but the answer is not to wish for fewer cyclists, or to deny bike improvements. I think the answer is to add more cyclists, particularly females in their 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond.  The more women of a certain age we have out there the more we take the macho out of cycling.  We change it from the few and the brave, to an everyday mainstream activity.  As Gil Penalosa said, some of the men out there on bikes ride as if they have no family that loves them and no one that they love.

If you’ve ever been in a country with a recent surge in automobile ownership you see similar behavior.  The first drivers and owners tend to be men and they tend to drive like aggressive idiots.   We have created a culture of road warriors on bikes due to our lack of infrastructure and I think they only way to tame it is to add more bikes and more infrastructure.  That ill-behaved cyclist will not be able to violate the pedestrian right of way when he is stuck behind 20 or 30 other cyclists at the light.  And he will learn that he is part of the mainstream and there is nothing macho about riding a bike in this city. It is simply one more transportation choice, and it’s as safe as you choose to make it.

My heart goes out the family of the poor pedestrian, and I hope that we all learn from this to just slow down, to watch for the pedestrians who really are our most vulnerable road users, and to be aware that we cyclists should not be one more thing for peds to worry about.  We should be the calming influence, we should help tame speed and aggressive behavior by our very presence on the roads.

  • SF Cyclotourist

    As a  20+ year bike commuter, avid cyclist, and randonneur, I say throw the book at this guy and make an example out of him.  SAME ROADS, SAME RULES, SAME RESPONSIBILITIES.

  • Odm2

    Bikes and cars are also the same thing, right?

  • Odm2

    Bikes and cars are also the same thing, right?

  • Odm2

    Bikes and cars are also the same thing, right?

  • Odm2

    Bikes and cars are also the same thing, right?

  • Odm2

    Bikes and cars are also the same thing, right?

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • mikesonn

    As Murph said earlier, you better hope they don’t treat him as a driver, he’ll get off with a slap on the wrist.

  • peternatural

    I generally find my argument is more persuasive if I put it in all caps.

    DIFFERENT VEHICLE CLASSES, DIFFERENT RULES!

    There, it worked!

    Bicyclists should always yield to pedestrians when appropriate, and should never hit a pedestrian. I’m not a legal expert, so I’m happy it leave it up to the D.A. to decide whether to prosecute the cyclist in this case. I hope they decide wisely.

  • Drmjsmith

    Brinkman’s response is outrageous and irresponsible! I’ve seen plenty of women speed through stop signs and lights. What is needed is enforcement of the law and education for bicyclists. Many of them seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that the rules of the road apply to them in the same way that they apply to motorists. Additionally, I think it is incomprehensible that there is even a question of whether this idiot should be charged. This was no accident and he killed someone as a result of his decision to run a red light!

  • peternatural

    Car insurance companies charge more for young male drivers. Outrageous and irresponsible?

    BTW, most bicyclists stop at most red lights, despite the shrill hyperbole of anonymous commenters who love to claim otherwise.

  • mikesonn

    Again, you better hope they don’t treat him like a motorist if you feel that strongly.

    Also:
    Many motorists seem to be completely ignorant of the fact that the rules of the road apply to them in the same way that they apply to cyclists.

  • Yeah, these people saying most cyclists do NOT stop at stop signs/red lights are just lying because they secretly hate how cool and hip and progressive you are! Way to stick it to the man, buddy! Now go cut off your balls while listening to rage against the machine.

    (FYI, You’re the anonymous one….look who I post as….look at where my account is linked.) 

  • Linked to a facebook account. Enough said.

  • mikesonn

    He’s on a mission from god.

  • Linked to a facebook account with my real name and face on it, tough guy.

    You guys are as bad at lying as you are at repartee.

  • mikesonn

    @facebook-518248622:disqus I’m not sure I’d want this associated with my name and picture:

    “Now go cut off your balls while listening to rage against the machine.”

  • Why would you say that, buddy? I just call them as I see them…I really don’t see an issue with being associate with truth. But seeing how disingenuous you can be, I guess I can see why you’d rather not.

  • peternatural

    At most red lights, any bicyclist that riding out into the traffic would get quickly destroyed. That’s why standard operating procedure is to wait for the green.

  • Drmjsmith

    I find the sarcasm and the need to apologize for someone’s negligent behavior to be in very poor taste here. The fact of the matter is that a woman died as the result of this man’s blatant disregard of the law. A fact that seems to have gotten lost with some.

    Last time I checked, we were a society governed by law. Just because you don’t agree with the rules, doesn’t make it ok to break them and doesn’t make it ok to excuse another’s disregard for them. If you want to change the rules, then do so legitimately.@peternatural:disqus   Just sit at any corner on Waller Street between Haight and Duboce during commute hours. You will quickly lose count of how many bicyclists are zipping through the red light at Haight and the stop signs along the way (at very high speeds). As a pedestrian, most days, I’ve gotten skilled at dodging the bicycles who are travelling faster than most cars in the area and who seem oblivious of the people trying to get across the intersection.

  • Drmjsmith

    I meant to write Steiner Street, not Waller, although that intersection is the worse along the route.

  • EL

    peternatural wrote: “BTW, most bicyclists stop at most red lights, despite the shrill hyperbole of anonymous commenters who love to claim otherwise.”

    The exceptions are locations where bikes have little chance of being hit by a car crossing from the left or right, such as T-intersections.  Perfect examples include northbound Embarcadero at Mission (where this collision happened as there are no cars from the waterfront side, and cars from Mission are forced to turn left or right) and Market and 12th, where there’s almost never any car traffic from 12th.

  • peternatural

    Last night I rode my bike down Market St. and back, between Van Ness and 4th Street. I guess I hit about 6 red lights in total, and stopped at each one. There were generally about 5 – 8 other cyclists stopped along with me at each red light. No one ran any red lights. So that’s about 0 for 40 red light runners, and is typical of my real world experience. Meanwhile, in online comments, it’s common to see exaggerated claims about how frequently bicyclists run red lights.

    I often walk in the lower Haight, crossing the route of the “wiggle” at multiple locations. I’m always eager to see if I can have an encounter with a cyclist who doesn’t yield and doesn’t stay well out of my way. It happens occasionally. Much more often, they slow down for me to safely pass, then proceed behind me. (Rarely actually stopping 😉

    So I was just pushing back at the notion that cyclists as a whole are particularly bad. I find them generally on par with drivers, which is to say, pretty good overall. The particular cyclist who hit and killed Ms. Cherney was obviously in the wrong!

  • bennyinsf

    Agree with you completely. Brinkman’s response is irresponsible especially for someone in the position she holds as SFMTA board member.

  • Ric_o_suave

    I was crossing the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry
    Terminal in San Francisco late afternoon yesterday and walked across to get a ferryboat
    with a friend. We were both nearly hit by what I suspect was a speeding bicycle
    courier (he had a back pack and a walkie-talkie in hand). The cyclist blew the
    red traffic light and deliberately entered our right of way through the cross
    walk at an exceptionally high speed. He deliberately accelerated before
    entering the crosswalk to beat the human traffic converging in the middle of
    the road and buzzed within two feet of over twenty pedestrians. Many people yelled at him to stop and I loudly challenged him to
    come back as well. Surprisingly, he did, and I reminded him that a woman named
    Didi was recently been killed because of a stunt like his. The cyclist/courier
    replied at the top of his lungs defiantly, “I DON’T CARE”. He further
    said “I DO THIS ALL DAY LONG”.

    I usually try to live and let live and understand that most “Critical
    Massers” have worked hard to raise awareness and promote tolerance for
    motorists to share the road  Some get it right, some go too far. The moron that killed
    Didi and the one I encountered yesterday deliberately take liberties that
    endanger people “all day long”.  I see and hear too many idiots
    barreling and winding Alexander Avenue hill off the GG Bridge in Sausalito at
    25-30 mph with full knowledge that there are hundreds of unsuspecting tourists
    who, in California, have the right to cross the road. Cyclists descending that hill cannot stop as would
    a car and many too frequently even draft autos down the hill.

    God forbid that the maniac I encountered might unfortunately get
    tangled with an umbrella, purse, or brief case if he illegally runs a red light and willfully chooses
    to endanger the lives of others. People have a right to defend themselves
    against lethal force whatever means available. 

    Brinkman is a dolt who has chosen to call what happens every day in the Bay
    Area a “tough issue”. With all due respect, Ms. Brinkman, it is quite a simple issue if she would advocate law enforcement. Further, if the San Francisco City Prosecutor cannot see fit to file
    manslaughter charges against Didi’s killer then San Francisco needs a new City Prosecutor.

    What an utterly tragic and senseless death. Rest in peace, Didi.

  • The problem with treating this cyclist as a driver is that most drivers get away without even a citation when they kill pedestrians. If we’re ever going to have safer streets, there needs to be real consequences for people who behave dangerously. We also need smarter intersection designs that don’t encourage cyclists to blow through red lights, especially along the Embarcadero. Still even with our car-centric intersections, it’s never worth saving a few seconds by blowing through red lights because doing so removes all margin for error and none of us are perfect riders. Ride safe and take a little more time to treat others the same way you want to be treated. RIP Cherney.

  • The problem with that is most drivers never receive a citation when they kill a cyclist or pedestrian, even when there’s video evidence and witnesses proving the driver was at fault. There needs to be consequences for those who drive and ride recklessly.

  • Brinkman is one of the few cycling advocates on the SFMTA board, and she’s the driving force behind much of the bicycle improvements in this city. Brinkman is right. Biking in San Francisco is considered an extreme sport and is dominated by younger men who ride aggressively. While there are exceptions to this, this is the perception out there and it’s why Brinkman encounters resistance every time they try to improve bicycle infrastructure in this city. At every single hearing for Polk Street improvements, opponents all spoke out about reckless bicycles running red lights and stop signs. So why do you think convincing more middle age women to bike would be a bad thing? Why do you think Brinkman should be removed for advocating this?

  • There’s nothing “outrageous” about what Ms. Brinkman said. She is a tireless advocate on the SFMTA board who’s trying to make biking safer in San Francisco but encounters resistance at every turn from the perception the cycling in this city is a lawless extreme sport for young men. I totally agree with what she said. We need more bicycle infrastructure to make biking safer and less intimidating. I know many people who want to bike in this city but are afraid to because right now it’s too dangerous.

  • The problem is that most drivers aren’t cited when they kill or injure pedestrians or cyclists even when there’s clear video evidence proving the driver was at fault. The driver who ran a red light and killed cyclist Charles Vinson last March still hasn’t been cited despite witnesses. The truck driver who killed Amalie on her bike last year had to be taken to civil court by her family because the city refused to cite the truck driver, despite video evidence. While there are technically rules on the books against drivers killing people, in reality drivers get away with it all the time because most police officers refuse to issue a citation and most prosecutors refuse to take cyclist killers to trial.

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