A San Francisco city bus that struck and killed a 78-year-old bicyclist last week was missing a safety device designed to prevent such fatalities.
Muni bus No. 8410, serving the 27-Bryant line, did not have an S-1 Gard or "people catcher" in front of its rear tires when it hit Cheng Jin Lai in the South of Market neighborhood, according to the device's manufacturer, who reviewed accident photos.
The plastic, bumper-like device is designed to push people who fall under the bus out of the path of the wheels.
Muni officials would not discuss last week's collision Wednesday, citing the investigation. But they said the safety devices are routinely installed on the right side of buses.
"The S-1 Gard is not a regulatory requirement, but it is something that we outfit our fleet with," said Paul Rose, spokesman for the transit agency.
Lai was hit by the right side of the bus, according to police officials.
Police said the bus was turning right from 11th Street onto Bryant Street at about 8:45 a.m. when it collided with Lai, a city resident who was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver's identity was not released, but Muni officials described him as 10-year veteran.
Krista Barry, operations director for Public Transportation Safety International Corps, said an image captured by a television crew clearly showed that the bus did not have her company's S-1 Gard on its right side.
The lack of the safety feature was first reported by San Francisco Weekly.
Muni officials said it is policy to replace a missing S-1 Gard. The safety devices were first installed on buses between 2007 and 2008, and all new buses are equipped with the feature, officials said.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition held a demonstration Wednesday to honor Lai and press the mayor's office to make safety improvements for bicyclists in the city.
Executive Director Leah Shahum said news of the missing S-1 Gard was a "terrible thing to hear."