Driver Who Killed Bicyclist on Masonic Facing Manslaughter, DUI Charges

Picture_3.pngWhat remained of Nils Linke’s bicycle. Photo: CBS5.

A 37-year-old Oakland man has been identified as the driver of a 1989 Mercedes-Benz who allegedly killed 22-year-old Nils Linke of Germany while he was riding his bicycle Friday night on Masonic Avenue near Turk Street, a tragic reminder that the SFMTA needs to act quickly to fix one of San Francisco’s most notorious traffic sewers.

SFPD spokesperson Lt. Lyn Tomioka said Joshua Calder faces charges of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, DUI, felony hit-and-run causing death and no proof of insurance. Tomioka wasn’t sure if Calder was being held without bail, but he was booked Friday night. Police told the Chronicle he drove away from the scene but was located two blocks from the crash, at Turk and Tamalpais Terrace.

According to CBS5, Calder was traveling southbound on Masonic Avenue around 10:40 p.m. Friday when he hit and killed Linke, who was identified as a tourist. A spokesperson for the German Consulate in San Francisco told Streetsblog Linke had been traveling alone on his visit.

For years now, advocates and residents who live on and near Masonic Avenue have been trying to get the SFMTA to turn Masonic into a complete street, replete with bicycle and pedestrian amenities that would slow traffic, and make it a safer place for everyone. At a recent community meeting, the agency offered four options to do that, including a cycle track.

As Michael Helquist of BIKE NOPA pointed out today, the SFMTA has been hearing loud calls to fix Masonic since 2008 when 500 residents signed a petition citing speed concerns. It was hand delivered to SFMTA Chief Nat Ford.

During a press conference today for new Clipper fare gates, Ford was asked to respond to concerns about Masonic.

"We’ve put about four options out there now to really look at how to
redesign that street," said Ford. "Unfortunately, Masonic could use
some traffic calming. I have to be cautious, because you can imagine,
this is a very litigious situation. Our hearts go out to the family of
the young man who got killed, but we have to also make sure that we’re
making prudent legal steps going forward in dealing with this issue."

We’re attempting to get more details on the victim, the suspect and the growing calls to Fix Masonic. Look for more coverage this week. 

  • Maybe

  • =v= Out of respect for the deceased, could we find a more appropriate venue for the neverending discussion of what some blogger thinks about some comment?

  • Jack, friend of Yannick Linke

    While i appreciate that my friend’s death has sparked what is an obviously needed debate, i do not appreciate it devolving into a mudslinging fight over who hasn’t paid enough attention to the other’s comment, blog, etc…

    My best friend is dead, and although I would like to do something about the road, area, that did it to him, I am not a resident of SF, and therefore have very little valuable input in the specifics of this discussion.

    I will say this: I do not believe in a cure-all law or adjustment of the street layout that makes bikers invulnerable to dangerous drivers, or insulates drivers from obnoxious bikers; it doesn’t exist. I do believe that we as a society need to take more responsibility for our own actions, as well as the actions of others. We act as though that no one has the ability to tell a fellow citizen that they’re behaving stupidly, and that the long arm of the law has to strangle sense into each and every one of us. There were witnesses around to see the accident and to see him die, why wouldn’t someone tell him how dangerous of a road he was on? Why wouldn’t a friend of the driver (as i would imagine he did not drink alone, than go out for a joyride) stop him from driving, as he was CLEARLY too drunk to operate a vehicle.

    We need as San Franciscans, New Yorkers, and Americans as a whole to stop trying to legislate the utopia we want, all while clinging to our individualistic ideals, and instead start being a society that actually has a bit of common sense and can solve problems without such Orwellian measures. No law will stop a person from getting too drunk and driving, nor will it stop a biker from going on a dangerous road, that’s where we people have to come in.

  • Nio

    Jack,

    True, there’s no such thing as a 100% solution to DUI. However, DUI are not unstoppable forces and generally make some effort to follow traffic and avoid collision, as impaired as they may be. Bad road design will make DUI all the more dangerous. Unfortunately, Masonic between Geary and Turk are especially poorly designed making a DUI far more likely to kill.

    Within SF we have to identify dangerous roads and make them reasonably safe to reduce the number of tragic deaths like this one.

    Here’s why it’s so dangerous, and why any cyclist might take it unaware and unwarned:

    1) Nearby parallel routes to Masonic don’t exist due to a university campus on one side and cul de sacs on the other. North/South traffic is funneled onto that road or forced to take a long detour.

    2) Westbound Pine is a high speed urban freeway, a major artery from downtown. Speeds often hit 50mph with lots of lane jockeying. That becomes southbound Masonic. Drivers on Masonic may have already been speeding for miles in a race mindset. Frankly, with the banked turns, taxis jockeying, and timed lights, driving Pine feels like a video game.

    3) Having three lanes on Masonic encourages lane jockeying, especially with DUI whose risk taking and aggression are increased.

    4) Masonic between Geary and Anza is a gauntlet after a high speed run and drivers tend to pop out of it like a cork at high speed. There’s a strange merge-in from a side street off Geary, followed by a left turn lane on Anza and many rt turnes on Anza as well. Drivers often weave thru and then accelerate out of down the three straight lanes of Masonic towards Turk, where he was killed. Again, driving this stretch feels like video game, especially if one is DUI or hurried/stressed.

    5) The low trees and residential look of Masonic between Geary and Turk, combined with high speed driving and lack of bike lane or other traffic calming measures, are confusing and the worst of both worlds.

    6) Masonic often looks empty and safe because the traffic is gapped by lights upstream. So a cyclist entering an empty Masonic may suddenly find him/herself in high speed motor traffic with no bike lane. I’ve personally had that happen.

    Unfortunately, there’s no way to warn everybody using that road and there’s no nearby alternative. The only solution is to redesign the road to reduce speeding, add a bike lane, and give some protection to cyclists.

    Plans currently proposed by the city convert one car lane to a bike lane that is separated either by a barrier of trees or an elevated strip. That very likely would have saved Linke’s life.

  • redcatbicycliste

    Why are drunk drivers not charged with murder? The car is a two ton vehicle. It is a “weapon” whether one is drunk or sober.

    Why do people who drive in America act as if these are toys they are operating: talking on phones, women putting on makeup, not keeping one’s eyes on the road at all times whilst driving, being drunk, eating, etc.

    Why are San Francisco streets — which is a small city; it is only seven miles by seven miles — given over to so many lanes for cars? Some streets have two lanes for parking and two, three, four lanes for driving. Then you look at the sidewalks, and they are so narrow, many of them are barely wide enough for people to walk two abreast!

    What would be wrong (and it would provide a helluva lot of jobs, too) with removing one lane for parking and one lane for driving on all the streets in this city. Then using that space to widen the sidewalks and put in a wide bicycle lane (like they have in Copenhagen)? One man and his lawyer were allowed to stop the bicycle improvements from happening in San Francisco. Why was he allowed to do that?

    The petrol will run out; it won’t last forever. Why are cars first in this small city? Pedestrians should be first, because they are the slowest moving amongst us. Cars should be last. If you remove car lanes for pedestrians to have wider sidewalks, and add space for bicycles on all the streets, then there will be car congestion. So what! As I said, the oil will run out…ever hear of Peak Oil? Let the cars sit. Slow them down. So what! Slow ’em down. Why is it important that we move 4,000 pound death mobiles at 50-plus miles per hour on our streets? There is nothing but danger in that formula, no? Let the cars sit. Take away the free space they get for parking. Cars don’t deserve all this special treatment and freebies that we give them. Maybe, just maybe, if these drivers are made to move slower, because they have less space, then some of them will go away.

  • gibraltar

    Matthew: “we welcome any points of view to the blog, as long as they’re not mean-spirited or insulting to other commenters.”

    To my sensibilities, Rob Anderson falls into the mean-spirited and insulting category. Almost every comment he makes drips with condescension and insults. I don’t see how his comments contribute anything to the discussion. I repeat what I said above: online forums that “welcome all viewpoints” tend to be the worst places online (SFGate, anyone?). We don’t have to be all things to all people. We can be a forum for transit / ped / bike advocates. And Rob Anderson can create his own forum elsewhere.

  • James

    Evidence please, Rob? Give me the evidence that nothing could have prevented this accident from happening on Masonic? Creating an road where people are encourage to drive past the speed limit, especially at night where they can go as fast as 50 miles an hour down the avenue certainly didn’t help matters. Most people drive well past the 25 miles per hour down the three lane-like freeway, through a residential area no less.

    There are a lot of people who want this corridor fixed because don’t like to drive it, walk it, or bike it. If you can’t recognize this by simply walking down it, you’re a bigger fool than I thought you are. Look past your bike bias and you’ll see there are issues with this avenue beyond your personal vendetta against a bike lane.

  • anon

    Jack,
    I knew Yannick, he was at school with my son and often here in my house…lovely guy. Would it be possible to set up a donation fund to help with the enormous costs Yannick’s parents are certainly facing in bringing his body back to Berlin for burial? His many friends here are devastated and in shock over the news of his death. Did you place the ghost bike? If so, it was such a moving gesture. Thank you.

  • REBEL WITH A CAUSE

    I think it would be a remarkable point of purposeful rebellion if all the speed limit signs on this street were to be vandalized with a template depicting a decapitated bicyclist in red.

    The signs will have to be replaced. If they replace the signs with the same speed limit the acting supervisor can be ridiculed for insensitivity.

    Don’t wait for lawmakers to take action for the sake of moral obligation. The people lining their pockets will always have the priority.

  • MichaelSF

    As a cyclist who has to navigate from the top of Nob Hill to the Golden Gate Bridge and back, I am compelled to comment on this (especially since I have a friend who called me ans said her brother is a good friend of the guy who ran down the cyclist, the German tourist).

    IMHO both cars and bike riders are at fault. Cars don’t cut me any slack, feeling, I guess, that I am in their way and should stay out of the way. I have to ride defensively every block, regardless if there’s a bike lane or not.

    But when in my car I have seen many a bike rider behaving horribly. What frosts me the most is people who ride bikes at night, wearing all dark clothes and they don’t have lights on the bikes. Rudely, it’s these riders who also blow through red lights and stop signs, ride against traffic and often times in the middle of the right lane rather than stay in the bike lane (acting like they are playing a game of dare or chicken).

  • RememberNils

    @MichaelSF–while it is true that there is abundant anecdotal evidence of egregious recklessness on the part of a few cyclists, I have yet to hear any evidence that Nils Linke was such a cyclist. Quite the contrary.

    The legal doctrine of “contributory negligence” seems totally inappropriate in this case. The initial reaction of many posters here to want to blame the cyclist just feels like more of the same old garbage–the classic “blame the victim of violence” syndrome wrapped up in a shiny new vehicular package. We are a sick society with a pathological drive to justify our dependence on cars, no matter what the price. This absolutely has to change.

    I hope this case serve to raise public awareness of the problem and marks the beginning of a sea change in public attitudes and public policy. Nils would, I think, have liked that outcome from this otherwise senseless tragedy.

  • cyclotronic

    mikesf – “a friend who called me ans said her brother is a good friend of the guy who ran down the cyclist” so, what does your friend’s brother think of his “good friend” now? what does your friend think of her brother? why does this make you feel especially compelled to express your humble opinion that cyclists (persons) and motor vehicles (objects) are to blame? clearly, you are a foolish person with an incredibly myopic self-centered view of the world. good luck with yourself.

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