REDWOOD CITY — A Burlingame cyclist, who inspired bike commuters frustrated by Caltrain's limited capacity for bicyclists when he reportedly defied a conductor's order to remove his bike from a full train, has been convicted of disturbing the peace.
Scott Wildy, 39, pleaded no contest Wednesday to the infraction in a deal with prosecutors that limits his punishment to a fine of $281. He had been facing up to one year in the county jail for two misdemeanor charges, including resisting a police officer and trespassing.
"I think anybody would agree that a year in jail would have been excessive," said Assistant District Attorney Karen Guidotti.
Prosecutors say Wildy was commuting from a Burlingame train station to work at Stanford University on Sept. 25 when he tried to load his bicycle on a car that had already reached the Caltrain-mandated limit of 16 bikes. He refused to comply with a conductor's demand to exit the train and was met by police at the San Carlos station, prosecutors said.
Wildy then ignored police directions to remove his bicycle from the train and was forcibly removed by officers, prosecutors said.
But according to defense attorney Jeff Hayden, Wildy was actually trying to board the train to retrieve his laptop after authorities had already escorted him off the train.
The defense attorney, who took on the case pro bono after viewing a passenger's videotape of the arrest, said that Wildy's arrest was "really overdone" and that the criminal charges brought against his client were "very drastically disproportionate to what occurred on the train."
The confrontation between Wildy and the train conductor, which eventually led to Wildy's arrest, was a "perfect storm "... with both of their egos taking over," Hayden said. "(Wildy) is stressed out about not getting to work on time and being unfairly treated, and the conductor is stressed about the train being late."
The arrest last fall came during a time when bicyclists who commute on Caltrain had become increasingly vocal about their frustration with the rail agency's inability to accommodate them.
Caltrain officials announced in early October that staff engineers are working on a plan to add space for more bicycles on the commuter trains.
"This is a real hot-button issue," said Hayden, explaining that his client has since written to the rail agency and the local media to lobby Caltrain to increase capacity for commuters to store their bikes.
"I don't think at the time (of his arrest) he was thinking about standing up for a cause," the defense attorney said. "He was stressed out and wanted to get to work."
The defense attorney agreed with the prosecution that the fine meted out in the plea deal was fair punishment for the crime.
"I certainly hope (conviction) made a point with Mr. Wildy," said Assistant District Attorney Guidotti. "There are ways to voice your opinion without breaking the law."
Staff writer Shaun Bishop contributed to this story. Reach staff writer Michael Manekin at 650-348-4331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.