Cyclist Assaulted By Driver and Passenger at Scott and Fell on the Wiggle

A bicycle commuter was assaulted by a driver and her passenger on Scott Street between Oak and Fell Streets on the Wiggle last week.

Dana Kess, 24, of Pacifica and Carmen Struell, 25, of San Francisco were arrested on Tuesday, May 8, for crashing into and beating the 31-year-old San Francisco woman and vandalizing her bike, said SFPD Park Station Captain John Feeney.

On Scott Street, where the conflict apparently began, bicyclists making a left onto Fell Street merge into a left-turn bike lane. Photo: Google Maps

According to the police report, the bicyclist was merging into the left-turn bike lane northbound on Scott Street across Oak at around 9:15 a.m., when Kess came dangerously close to hitting her, forcing her to swerve away. When the victim caught up with the car waiting at the stop light, she yelled, “Are you fucking crazy?” according to the report. Struell then threw food from the window at the victim, who then spat towards the car.

Then, Feeney said, Kess reportedly drove into the victim from behind, causing her to fall to the ground. Both Kess and Struell got out of the car and began assaulting her, jumping on her bike and slashing her tires. The two got back in the car and began to drive away when the victim threw her bicycle toward the car. The two got back out and attacked the victim again, pulling her hair. The victim did not need hospital treatment for her injuries, according to the report.

Police then arrived on the scene in response to a report of a traffic collision and arrested the assailants. Kess was charged with felony assault and battery, malicious mischief, and driving with a suspended license. Struell, her passenger, was charged with misdemeanor battery.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said that “while San Francisco streets are getting safer for people riding bikes, we are saddened that incidents like this one still occur. Assaults against other road users should not be tolerated, and we are encouraged that the San Francisco Police Department and District Attorney’s Offices are taking assaults like these seriously.”

  • Bernard

    Using your vehicle as a weapon carries a 2 year sentence… but I’ll bet she walks.  This happened over a week ago and funny how the papers in SF didn’t pick up this story.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Streetsblog for looking into and reporting on this, especially with more details than the original story on sfist had. Very helpful to understand the details.

    Truly sickening that even on such a major bicycle thoroughfare as the Wiggle motorists think that their ability to race ahead (only to wait at a red light) trumps the safety of cyclists. And then that, when giving flak for thinking so, they think they have a right to beat somebody for pointing this out. Insane. It’s really great to see, for once, the cops actually take an unbiased approach to the issue and handle it appropriately.

    And, though I’m not saying anybody should be expected to do so, props to this cyclist who stood her ground. I’m a firm believer that we all need to do a better job of calling jerks on their BS instead of looking away and expecting it to be somebody else’s job. If we all stood up to the inconsiderate few who manage to disrupt things for everybody else (like people talking loudly on a train, our driving a ridiculously loud motorcycle, etc.) society would be so much more pleasant and civil.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so incredibly saddened that this happened, still I’m insanely proud of the cyclist who stood her ground and very happy she’s ok. She’s tough.

    IMO, justice served = driver gets permanent revocation of driver’s license, driver and passenger should get community service (like painting new bike lanes!)

  • I agree with your perspective, but I think one thing that should be highlighted is that we as a cycling community need to do a better job calling out the bad cyclists out there. When I see somebody acting like an idiot and giving us all a bad name, there’s usually at least a few other cyclists around who keep silent.

    If we want the respect we deserve from society, we need to start calling out the bad apples. Without this, we’re all culpable. 

  • Natan

    “Are you fucking crazy?” doesn’t sound to me like she was vocalizing and fighting for her rights. It sounds like she was aggressively insulting someone. There’s no excuse for what the driver and passenger did next, but it sounds like the cyclist started the fight by yelling obscenities at them.

  • Natan:  The cyclist’s life had already been threatened by the driver’s behavior.  Judging from the report, if she hadn’t taken quick action she would have been used as a speed bump.  “Are you fucking crazy?” is the most restrained response  imaginable, under the circumstances.  

  • Tangentially, extreme loudness in a motorcycle makes motorists less likely to kill them through carelessness.  It’s not just showing off. 

  • There’s no excuse for what the driver and passenger did next, but I will make one for them anyway. Cyclist yelled, ergo I throw food on them. Cyclist spits at me, ergo I run them over.

    And what’s the excuse for the driver cutting her off in the first place? Trying to get away from the fuzz because she didn’t have a license?

  • Zack

    First, this comment is in NO way blaming the cyclist, as I myself have felt the same way many times and sometimes acted similarly in the past, but I think this highlights the importance of just keeping your cool around motorists.  There are too many potential idiots out there who are one f-bomb away from flipping their shit and going nuts on you – and they’re in a multi-thousand pound cage of steel, making you really vulnerable, not to mention they may have other people in the car, as in this situation.  Best to just try to chalk it up to their idiocy and keep your cool as best you can.  Thankfully the cyclist in this situation wasn’t hurt worse and didn’t require hospitalization, but the outcome could have easily been different.  Yelling at idiots like these two won’t do anything to change their behavior, as tempting as it is to try.  It’s just not worth the potential risks.  Idiots like this think they’re in the right and no amount of talking to them is going to change that.  I once had a multi-block “discussion” with a motorist who simply continued to yell that I was a “fucking idiot” who didn’t have the “common courtesy to get out of his way”, as I calmly explained to him how I had every right to be riding where I was (out of the door zone, on a quiet residential street).  His final remark as he finally sped off after a stop sign was, “Oh, and I bet you’re COLLEGE educated too”.  Even though I had calmly and politely explained the rules of the road to him (seriously, I only referred to him as “sir” the whole time), he still clearly didn’t register a single point.  Like I said, it’s just not worth it, don’t put yourself in harms way around idiots like this.  

  •   justice served = driver gets permanent revocation of driver’s license

    Fat lot of good that will do – she didn’t have a license and she was out driving anyway. Penalty for driving without a license? Suspend your license some more. Pointless.

  • Natan

    Danny: all the article says is, “Kess came dangerously close to hitting her.” 

    That could have happened for any number of reasons, including carelessness, malice or sheer lack of skill at operating a car. But it also could have been completely accidental – maybe the driver swerved to avoid hitting someone else. Or it could have been the cyclist’s fault. Hard to say. 

    There’s no evidence in the article to suggest that the cyclist’s life was ever endangered before she verbally attacked the driver.

    Nor is there any reason to think, based on the article, that the driver was targeting her or had any intention to run her over from the beginning.

  • Zack

    I love the idea of community service painting bike lanes.  As someone else pointed out, taking away her license probably wouldn’t do much, as she already didn’t have one!

  • I agree entirely, but we need some way to open up the discussion. Everyone needs to respect each other on our streets. We’re not motorists or pedestrians – we’re people.

  • I was once followed by a man, horn blaring, for four blocks down Page Street. I in no way engaged him & tried to wave him on to pass me as the road was empty but for the two of us. Page St, as I’m sure all of us know, is a street where bikes are granted full access of the lane. I was as close to the side as I comfortably felt I could be in case someone opened a door without looking. He finally passed me and screamed “I outweigh you by 2000 pounds!” I think some people are just psychotic and cyclists are an easy target. I have no doubt this man probably would have run me over if I had responded to his threatening behavior in any way. 
    It’s definitely hard to remain calm in situations like this, when this is a highly charged issue to begin with & also when one feels they are being attacked. I have no idea how I would have responded if that guy had actually run into me. I want to say I would have remained calm and waited for police, but I really don’t know. 

  • Bernard

     Natan: “There’s no evidence in the article to suggest that the cyclist’s life
    was ever endangered before she verbally attacked the driver.”
    Natan quoting article: “Kess came dangerously close to hitting her.”

    Sounds like there is evidence right there that her life was in danger.  The second you get on a bike and ride amongst 2 ton vehicles your life is in danger.  And one mistake by a driver or one person hastily operating their machine can maim a bicyclist. 

    It’s been said plenty already, but as someone who has slowly taught himself to keep cool in these situations and narrowly avoided this exact type of attack, don’t provoke an attack from idiot drivers. 

  • Bernard

     Mark, I’d like to agree.  But the pessimism in me just thinks back to all the trolling comments I see on SFGate or Examiner.com where people literally tell readers that bicyclists deserve to be runover.  Just like it’s a small minority that is making these people enraged, it’s just a small minority that is willing to run me over on my bike for existing… and that’s all it takes… one enraged idiot with a license to use a weapon that doubles as a getaway vehicle.

  • @facebook-100003675767335:disqus For the record, there is no street where bicycle riders are not granted to ride a safe distance from the door zone (as you did) or occupy a substandard width lane (which is most lanes). The law only requires riders traveling at “less than the normal speed of traffic” (what is “normal”?) to keep right only as safely and practicably as they can (and there are many exceptions, at that). Sharrows only serve to emphasize to drivers that they should expect bikes where they’re placed and to provide guidance for bicyclists. Just wanted to make sure that’s out there, in case anyone says any different. (For reference: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc21202.htm)

  • When someone drives a car with a suspended license or drives with no license, the car should be impounded for at least 90 days.

    Hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist intentionally with a car should be considered attempted murder/manslaughter.  (The difference between a car driver hitting a bicyclist and killing them is just a slight twitch of the foot.)

    Perhaps it is time for the city to make Scott between Haight and Fell a through street for bicycles and pedestrians only. (Allow low speed, 15 mph car access to residents, of course.) Scott is a neighborhood street that cars use to avoid Divisadero. This sets up a conflict between non-neighborhood car drivers impatient to get on Fell and Oak and bicyclists who are trying to make use of the small amount of bicycle infrastructure offered in this city. Divisadero, as an arterial, should be carrying the car traffic, not Scott. (If Divisadero were not constantly clogged with cars waiting to make unprotected left turns, it could smoothly carry a great deal more traffic than it does now.)

  • Anonymous

    @facebook-7708753:disqus I totally agree: what I said goes for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists … it’s independent of mode of travel. However, there is much more awareness of what is inconsiderate to do to other drivers than there is of what is not just inconsiderate but downright dangerous for cyclists (like having a motorist cut a cyclist off). But I’m all for people calling out bicyclists with bad behavior (though, by the way, I don’t think that includes rolling through stop signs at empty intersections).

    @facebook-602657964:disqus I don’t want to get to side-tracked from the discussion here, but that is *ridiculous*. You don’t need a motorcycle to be deafening, setting off car alarms, and otherwise almost giving people heart attacks for them to be heard out of safety. Those guys don’t do that for safety, but purely because they think it’s cool (and have a deep-seated need for attention due to some other inadequacies). Motorcycles alone are one of the biggest problems with noise in our cities and it’s high time we started doing something about it.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a huge fan of dead-ending streets to prevent them from becoming thoroughfares, especially for side streets that run parallel to major thoroughfares, and especially when said side streets are heavily trafficked by bicyclists and pedestrians. You can even do it with just bollards so it doesn’t require any re-landscaping of the street. Berkeley has done this a lot, and I think it’s a good idea. But it’s important that these streets remain thoroughfares for pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • I for one am glad this conflict happened because those two women were arrested. Maybe the experience will correct their behavior in the future. Sometimes people need an attitude adjustment in the form of a court date if not an ass beating.

  • It is sad that crap like this happens.  As a cyclists and Advocate for Bike Hoboken in Hoboken NJ it just amazes me how disrespectful motorists are.  I lost out in a crash vs. a car almost 2 years ago; that driver told police I hit his car.  Really now… 17lb carbon fiber bike vs. 3,000lb metal car; you do the math and let me who hit who.  
    Ride safe, wear a helmet and just do your best out there it is a jungle.

  • This is obscene. And there’s an awful lot of victim-blaming going on in here, looking at you Natan.

    Who cares if the initial pass was an accident or not, or whether the cyclist yelled at anyone? I get yelled at on my bike all the time and I don’t pull up to the driver at the light, get off my bike and attempt to beat the crap out of them. And if I did I would expect to be arrested just like anyone else.

    No sane person would respond that way to a mere verbal insult. Some people should be behind the wheel of a vehicle.

  • Now that green-backed sparrows will be along the whole Wiggle, I think it’s time we paint green the 3 blocks of bike lanes in Scott. Especially that left turn lane where there’s a lot of conflict. A “local only access” closure akin to Karin’s suggestions should be next.

  • grrlfriday

    Natan  — these 2 women did not act rationally at any other point in the story, so why are you being so charitable towards them? Usually people who make innocent mistakes do not react so violently when someone calls them on it. It is a lot more consistent with the rest of their behavior to assume they were being hostile and aggressive towards this woman from the very beginning. That would mean that veering so close to her was either an outright act of aggression or, at best, criminal negligence. Any other interpretation does not make sense in the context of the story.

    Apparently the cops thought so, too, & took a much dimmer view of their behavior than you do. Me, I’d be inclined to trust the authorities on this one.

  • David Vartanoff

    After conviction the driver should do time in state prison.    Verbal insults do not justify assualt with a vehicle.   

  • Anonymous

    Driving with a suspended license is reason enough.

  • Jawobble

    So, basically those two pigs acted like the sociopaths they are.  I’d say confiscate everything they own until the victim’s medical bills, bicycle, and pain and suffering are paid for.  

  • Richard Mlynarik

    extreme loudness in a motorcycle makes motorists less likely to kill them through carelessness.  It’s not just showing off.

    It’s pure showing off.

    There’s not one single piece of data — and that doesn’t mean macho macho macho “loud pipes save lives” gearheads spouting off — that supports this.  “Macho gearheads” include the famously innumerate and more generally evidence-hostile police departments with their custom xtra-loud hogs.

    Straight pipes = sociopathic dickhead.

  • Zack

    Jesse, I’d love to be hopeful this experience may “change them”, but I’ve come to the point of believing people like them are beyond change.  They’re angry, have a deep-seeded hatred for other people, and something like this will likely only reinforce that.  And I definitely don’t think it’s worth it that the cyclist got beat up and her bike trashed.  The safety of a fellow cyclist isn’t worth sending a message to two thugs who won’t receive it.

  • Gregski

    I am wondering if expanding tort liability to include vehicular harassment, as Berkeley has done (see http://sf.streetsblog.org/2012/02/21/berkeley-enacts-law-to-protect-bicyclists-from-driver-harassment/) , could over time have a peacekeeping effect between cyclists and motorists. Cyclists with cell phone cameras could record evidence with which they could prevail against hostile motorists in civil actions thereby enacting a penalty. Perhaps a few well-publicized civil penalties would cow motorists into behaving themselves even when there are no police around.

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