Bicycle advocates are accusing the San Francisco Police Department of shoddy evidence-gathering in the case of a bicyclist who was killed by a big-rig driver on a SoMa street earlier this month. They say it might be part of a troubling pattern of police bias against bike riders.
On Aug. 14, Amelie Le Moullac, 24, was on her way to work, traveling east in the bike lane on Folsom Street, when she was struck and killed by a truck making a right turn onto Sixth Street. It was the third death of a bicyclist hit by a vehicle this year. All of the crashes have happened in or near SoMa and have involved trucks. None of the drivers has been cited or charged, according to bike advocates.
A week after the crash that killed Le Moullac, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) held a memorial and safety event near the crash site. They gathered signatures for a petition to Mayor Ed Lee to make “some much needed and overdue changes” to SoMa streets.
At the event, San Francisco police Sgt. Richard Ernst shocked bike advocates and some of the victim’s co-workers by blaming Le Moullac for the collision, even though the investigation was ongoing.
Streetsblog San Francisco reports:
When Ernst arrived on the scene, he didn’t express sympathy for Le Moullac and other victims, or show support for safety improvements. Instead, he illegally parked his cruiser in the bike lane next to an empty parking space for up to 10 minutes, stating that he wanted to send a message to people on bicycles that the onus was on them to pass to the left of right-turning cars. He reportedly made no mention of widespread violations by drivers who turn across bike lanes instead of merging fully into them.
He said it was his “right” to be there.
According to SFBC Executive Director Leah Shahum, Ernst blamed all three victims who were killed by truck drivers in SoMa and the Mission this year, and refused to leave until she “understood that it was the bicyclist’s fault.”
While San Francisco police wouldn’t comment directly on Ernst’s behavior, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chuck Nevius talked to SFPD brass who privately “confirmed that not only was he acting on his own, they considered his actions an embarrassment."