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Driver Who Killed Ethan Boyes Indicted

The system will, occasionally, prosecute the most egregious cases of traffic violence. But the fundamental failings that got Boyes killed remain.

Ethan Boyes’s ghost bike, since removed. Photo by Kevin Lo

Arnold Kinman Low was indicted on Wednesday for driving drunk and killing cyclist Ethan Boyes on Arguello in the Presidio last April. Ismail J. Ramsey, the U.S. District Attorney for Northern California, filed two counts, felony and misdemeanor drunk driving. "Ultimately, the driver must take responsibility for choosing to drive under the influence, which is never acceptable under any circumstance," wrote the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition in a post on social media about the news.

The San Francisco Standard reports that Low, 81, will make his initial appearance in court next Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Alex Tse and that Assistant U.S. Attorney George Hageman is prosecuting the case.

Mainstream media is also reporting that the Presidio made changes to Arguello in response to the crash, such as narrowed car lanes and signs. However, neither the Presidio nor San Francisco, which also controls part of Arguello, have yet to install physically protected bike lanes of the kind that would have prevented this tragedy.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, there will always be a percentage of drivers who decide to play Russian roulette with the pubic and drive drunk, drive while texting, or drive recklessly in some other way. Drivers also occasionally have strokes, seizures, and other medical events that lead to deadly consequences. The answer to keeping the public safe is to physically separate cyclists from motorists whenever possible either by building separate roadways or by using concrete or steel barriers.

Traffic engineers get this when it comes to protecting motorists from other motorists, which is why they build guard rails and concrete barriers between opposing lanes of traffic. It's also why seat belts, airbags, and other safety features are required by law. But for some reason they continue to believe that plastic and paint is sufficient to protect cyclists, when that is so obviously not the case.

And while this indictment is necessary and welcome, prosecutors need to treat all reckless driving the same way: ultimately, a sober person who is busy texting or just driving like a maniac because they watched too many Fast and Furious movies is just as dangerous as a drunk. Drunk driving wasn't always taken seriously. Someday prosecutors need to realize that reckless driving in all forms should be treated as a serious crime.

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