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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Muni: Missing Safety Device on Bus that Killed Cyclist Leads to Fleetwide Inspection

Posted By on Wed, Oct 23, 2013 at 4:59 PM

In this television footage, the "S-1 Gard" which is designed to prevent people from being crushed beneath the bus' right rear wheel, is missing - KTVU
  • KTVU
  • In this television footage, the "S-1 Gard" which is designed to prevent people from being crushed beneath the bus' right rear wheel, is missing

Update: Muni boss Ed Reiskin responds. See end.

Last night, SF Weekly broke the news that the bus which struck and killed 78-year-old cyclist Cheng Jin Lai was missing a key piece of safety equipment.

Neither the police nor the Medical Examiner will discuss the manner of Lai's death. But multiple sources have told us he was crushed on Friday by the bus' back-right tire.

Bus No. 8410, the 27-Bryant that hit Lai, was not equipped with a rudimentary device specifically designed to prevent people being crushed beneath the right-rear tire, per multiple eyewitness accounts -- and the television footage accompanying this story.

The "S-1 Gard" is a hunk of polyurethane mounted in front of the bus' right rear tire. Like a cow-catcher, it pushes people or objects out of the way of that wheel. A huge percentage of bus casualties involve the "curbside" right rear tire, and often occur when passengers trip while entering or exiting the rear door -- or, as in Lai's case, the bus turns right.

Today, Muni head Ed Reiskin called for a fleetwide inspection of all Muni's buses to ensure each one has an S-1 Gard.

In failing to affix the device on the bus, however, Reiskin claimed that Muni was not in violation of any regulations:

See Also: Muni Bus that Killed Cyclist Cheng Jin Lai Missing Key Safety Equipment

An "S-1 Gard"
  • An "S-1 Gard"

"It should be a standard issue on all Muni buses. That's a policy that Muni put into place, I think around 2007-2008," Reiskin told KCBS. "It's not a regulatory requirement from any federal, state or local entity. But it's a practice that Muni has had."

Reiskin did not return calls from SF Weekly. His call for a fleetwide inspection comes five days after Lai's death -- but less than a day after this paper ran a story about the bus' missing S-1 Gard.

Reiskin's statement rankled Virgil Dennis, Muni's former longtime chief maintenance controller. Dennis confirmed that the Orion buses of the sort that struck Lai "were coming equipped with" S-1 Gards.

The specific bus that struck Lai all but certainly had an S-1 Gard at one point: An eyewitness told SF Weekly the mountings for the device were still attached to the bus, even if the S-1 Gard "had been missing for some time."

"Once you put it there, you own it. You have to maintain it. There is an expectation of safety," Dennis says. Reiskin's statement is "a pretty naive answer. It's pretty cavalier. You don't have to put it on? Then why have you been putting it on?"

Dennis stated that mechanics should check for the absence of an S-1 Gard during every 1,000-mile check and again during the 6,000-mile preventative maintenance inspection.

Installing one, he said, only takes 20 minutes.

Installations, however, don't always happen. Yesterday a longtime Muni manager said S-1 Gards tend to fall off buses when they "go over a curb or hit an object ... 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.

Dennis said he is unaware of any Muni policy requiring a bus without an S-1 Gard to be held from service. Multiple drivers yesterday told us the same, stating that "if it's not there, I don't think it's a big deal. ... You're gonna end up pulling out anyway. They'll say, 'Hey, drive it.'"

Update, 5:55 p.m.: Muni director Ed Reiskin tells SF Weekly he called for an full fleetwide inspection "as soon as I understood the vehicle involved in Friday's incident might not have had" an S-1 Gard. He says he discovered this last night -- which is also when he learned what an S-1 Gard is.

Reiskin is uncertain about Muni's policy regarding taking a vehicle missing an S-1 Gard into service (Dennis, several managers, and several drivers say there is no prohibition against doing so).

"If we find from reviewing the fleet that we do have some out there without it, then we obviously need to revise how we're doing reviews of the vehicle," he says. Any bus on the streets without an S-1 Gard "shouldn't be."

The department head says that Lai's survivors have not contacted Muni, and Muni's efforts to locate them have not yet been successful.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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