Reckless Driver Leaves Urban Data Maven Zachary Watson Fighting for Life

Zachary Watson seen in a panel discussion about Silicon Valley’s private shuttle network, which he helped map in 2012. Image: ZERO1 via Youtube

Zachary Watson, a noted 29-year-old city data visualizer, remains hospitalized in critical condition after a driver fleeing police in a stolen minivan caused a two-car wreck Monday night. Watson was apparently walking with his bike or locking it up when the vehicles hurtled toward him. He is known for creating works like a map of private shuttles that connect San Francisco to Silicon Valley.

Watson's bicycle as seen after the crash. He was believed to have been standing or walking with it. Image: KRON 4 via Youtube
Watson’s bicycle as seen after the crash. He was believed to have been standing or walking with it. Image: KRON 4 via Youtube

The crash occurred at Post and Jones Streets at about 10:15 p.m. Police had attempted to pull over Anthony Wisner, 25, at Post and Hyde Streets, according to reports. The officers did not pursue Wisner, but he sped through red lights and crashed into a taxi at Post and Jones, sending the two vehicles flying into Watson and one other pedestrian. All six people involved were injured, but Watson was the only one to suffer life-threatening injuries.

Although Watson was found with his bicycle and wearing a helmet, there is reason to believe he was not on the bike when he was hit, according to social media posts by Marc Caswell, a former staff at the SF Bicycle Coalition who is a friend and former roommate of Watson’s. Watson may have been walking with or unlocking the bike.

Wisner was reportedly caught by police attempting to flee on a 38-Geary Muni bus, and faces ten felony charges.

Watson, who is currently employed by the Exploratorium, previously worked for Stamen Design, where he helped create a map of Silicon Valley’s private shuttle network that gained attention in the transportation planning world in 2012. He was one of three members on a panel about the role of private shuttles in December 2012, along with Stamen founder Eric Rodenbeck and SPUR Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan.

Family and friends have declined to talk to media about the incident. The Exploratorium issued a written statement to KTVU saying that “our staff is working together to cope with grief surrounding this incident.”

Watson helped create this map of private bus routes of major Silicon Valley employers. Click to enlarge. Image: Stamen Design
  • Wow that sucks. I hope Zachary pulls through.

  • eric

    Here’s hoping, what a bummer

  • jd_x

    Entirely unacceptable. This incident really bothers me since he was a friend of a friend and was just doing his own thing; this could have been me, my wife, my parents, anybody. I’m so tired of this unnecessary carnage and a culture that perpetuates car usage so that this sort of thing happens with alarming frequency. There are so many things that can be done to minimize the odds of this every happening: 1) creating better bicycle, walking, and public transit infrastructure so more people get out of cars which reduces the likelihood of incidents like this, 2) designing our streets so cars simply cannot get going at high speeds in the first place (making them narrow, using roundabouts much more frequently, adding speed bumps, adding bulb outs and greenery, etc), 3) severely punishing motorists who risk the safety of others, even if they get lucky and don’t actually injury anybody; far too many motorists have learned they can get away with dangerous behavior with only a slap on the wrist and have completely lost touch with how much risk the safety of others.

    I’m really rooting for Zach’s recovery …

  • RoyTT

    Not to detract from anything you said but I think there is a fairly meaningful distinction between the more “normal” type of accident and cases like this where a car is stolen and driven in an evasive and extreme manner without any regard, concern or consideration for the safety of others.

    This incident seems to me to less to do with road safety and more to do with violent criminal behavior, like getting caught in the cross-fire of a gang war.

  • jd_x

    I mostly agree, but again, violent criminal behavior would diminish if less people were driving. And designing roads so it’s hard to get up to high speeds can also prevent lunatics like this from getting so much speed. Finally, I’m fairly confident in saying this guy didn’t mean to hit the cab; he was expecting to do what so many motorists do (though to a less extreme degree) all the time: drive reckless and get away with it. Plenty of non-criminal motorist blow through lights, cut to close to cyclists, etc. and they never get punished for it, *even* when they hit them (as long as they aren’t drunk and don’t flee). So we’ve created this culture where a thoughtless thug like this guy feels like he has a good chance of getting away with behavior that he might otherwise second-guess in a society that was much more strict in punishing drivers and where roads were designed to prioritize the safety of people and not the speed of cars.

  • murphstahoe

    At least this guy will definitely get rung up by Gascon

  • davistrain

    Even in a bastion of “liberalism” like SF, there is probably a goodly number of citizens would wouldn’t mind seeing the perpetrator in this case taken out and shot. (even though one has to remember, that like Osama Bin Laden, you can kill him, but you can’t eat him..)

  • p_chazz

    So are you saying there is a causal relationship between driving and violent crime?

  • abeetoven

    humm, this might be worth exploring when considering video games such as grand theft auto..

  • Easy

    If he tried to flee on the 38 in the first place, Mr. Watson would not be in critical condition.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    No! Not in the my name! Why should our government stoop as low and become as base as the murderers we prosecute? I’d much rather have him sit in jail the rest of his life (or at least a long time) to contemplate what he has done. Hopefully, he might come around to understand what he has done and ask for forgiveness.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Wow! That really sucks. I’ve had a few too many close and potentially deadly calls in my time riding and walking and wonder if anybody would write about me in a blog if something happened.

    I don’t know Zachary but I really hope you pull through! We need you back on the team!

  • Guest

    Assassination attempt?

  • GetHubNub

    My question is, were police pursuing him? There should be no pursuits like that in this city any longer due to the potential dangers. Notice how they completely left that out, the police in this city should not be pursuing vehicles on the roads like this, and if they were, they were partially responsible for the carnage.

    10 years ago I recall how a police officer did a u turn on Lincoln Ave near 8th Ave. after he witnessed me spitting into the air. He was pissed off thinking I was insulting him. About 3 minutes later I was all the way down to 25th ave and he stopped me on a scooter and looked at my DL, then let me continue on. These police officers shouldn’t be pursuing anyone at high speeds in these high populated areas.

  • GetHubNub

    As a bicyclist I stay out of these areas. The last time I was at Post and Larkin, I witnessed some vehicle just plow into the intersection I was approaching 50 feet back when I had a green light. Had I been just a few feet into the intersection I would have been killed, and this follows another accident incident in that area a few days prior. I will stay out of that area from now on.

  • timetravelswithoutamachine

    “The officers did not pursue Wisner …”

    Please read the article.

  • jd_x

    It seems he was locking his bike up on the sidewalk. Had nothing to do with him being a bicyclist.

  • Gabbibydesign

    I went to college with Zach! He is the most kind, creative person you could ever meet. I hope he pulls through!

  • I’m so sad to see that Zachary has passed:

    Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. I personally hope the DA’s office prosecutes to the full extent.


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