At around 8:45 on the morning of Friday, Oct. 18, 78-year-old Cheng Jin Lai was pedaling his bicycle through SoMa while apparently collecting recyclables.
Moments later he was dead.
A 27-Bryant bus struck him as it turned from 11th Street onto Bryant. Elderly men on bicycles don't fare well in bus collisions; Lai died on the scene.
Neither the police nor the Medical Examiner's office would offer details on the manner of the cyclist's death.
Multiple city sources, however, told SF Weekly Lai was crushed by the back-right tire of the bus.
Disturbingly, a safety device specifically
designed to prevent cyclists or pedestrians from being crushed by a bus' back-right tire - and which is standard-issue on Muni vehicles - was missing from this bus
Several sources within Muni who observed Bus No. 8410 confirm that it did not have an "S-1 Gard" protecting its back-right tire (which is also indicated in the television image accompanying this story).
This device is simply a bumper-shaped hunk of polyurethane mounted in front of the wheel, which functions like a cow-catcher in pushing away people, animals, or objects. The bus involved in the lethal accident had an S-1 Gard at one point, a source tells SF Weekly: "The mounting parts for the device were still intact -- but it had been missing for some time."
S-1 Gards tend to fall off buses when they "go over a curb or hit an object" says an experienced Muni manager. "But they don't keep enough in stock to reinstall them. There are a lot of coaches that do not have them."
SF Weekly on Tuesday requested the last several monthly inspections for Bus No. 8410 and the "drivers' defect card" the operator completed prior to taking it out on its fatal run. Neither has yet been delivered. Multiple Muni drivers confirm, however, that if they discover an S-1 Gard is missing, that alone wouldn't be enough to justify a bus being pulled out of service.
"I check for it, but I don't know that most operators do. But if it's not there, I don't think it's a big deal," says one veteran driver. "If it's not there, you're gonna end up pulling out anyway. They'll say, 'Hey, drive it.'"
Another driver adds that a coach without an S-1 Gard will still be taken out to serve the public "because the bus still rolls." Asked if this is good policy, he says "No, this isn't a good idea. But this is what we're dealing with."
Sadly, it appears that's what Cheng Jin Lai was dealing with, too.