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. 

  • So glad they caught him.

  • Yes, Nat Ford, make sure you don’t move too quickly in fixing Masonic lest you prevent someone else from getting killed. That is a curious definition of “cautious.”

  • Drunk driving is not worth it. I got off easy – tickets. I don’t think I could live out the rest of my days knowing I took someone’s life because of my arrogant, selfish decision.

    My sympathies to the family of the deceased. Very sad indeed.

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  • Michael Smith

    It is indeed a sad day when the head of the MTA says we must be cautious due to the possibility of litigation.

    Mr Ford, next time please let people know that we instead need to be cautious because we need to prevent 21-year-old tourists from getting run over so we are going to move forward as rapidly as possible with fixing a street that is clearly broken.

  • gibraltar

    Yes, cover your ass, Ford.

  • Nio

    Rob Anderson, six months ago: Masonic not dangerous, doesn’t need fixing.

  • Mike

    I was a witness to a hit and run at this exact location less than a year ago. A driver brushed a young Asian girl with the side of his car at around 45mph. He missed hitting her with his bumper by an inch.

    Same location (southbound Masonic just below Turk) and the same escape (a quick right onto Golden Gate). I managed to yell “Watch Out” as I saw the car coming and she was thankfully uninjured.

    Most bike-car accidents usually occur at intersections or through ROW mistakes. Masonic is everyone’s worst fear: being hit from behind and never see it coming.

  • EL

    None of the 4 Masonic options will address DUI’s.

  • A physically-separated bike lane with a physical barrier (such as trees, planted medians, parked cars) between the bike lane and car traffic would protect bicyclists from DUIs and from crazy people who just like running over bicyclists.

    RIP Nils Linke. I am so sorry we are so slow in building out our bicycle infrastructure.

  • Michael Smith

    El, actually a good bike lane would have likely helped. The current configuration means that a bicyclists rides in front of the cars. If a driver is impaired or distracted they run right into the slower moving bicyclist. But if there is a separate lane then the car is much more likely to go around the cyclist. And a physically separated cycle track protected by large trees (option #4) would be even better from the standpoint of protecting cyclists from impaired drivers.

    So yes, you have a point. We need to deal with DUIs. But better street design saves lives.

  • This cements my opposition to Target moving in at Masonic & Geary. Nothing good can come of putting a retail box store in the crosshairs of 2 four-lane thoroughfares. More cars = more problems.

    I am also disturbed by the attitude reflected in the comments in this SF Examiner article The impetus seems to be blame the biker and many would be happy to ban bikes altogether on Masonic.

  • Winston


    I’m not really sure that a separated bike lane would really solve all that much. You’d knock out the overtaking accidents (like this one) but you’d get more cross street accidents. If you REALLY want to reduce accidents and improve bike safety, you going to have to really keep cars down to the posted speed limit. This isn’t easy to do on a 6 lane street during non-congested periods. You can try things like playing games with signal timing, painting the road to make it feel like you’re accelerating when you aren’t and so on, but nothing works all that well. Perhaps implementing photo radar or something like that would, but I don’t know of a lot of experience with that. The only realistic way to keep traffic moving slowly is to drastically reduce car capacity, perhaps while preserving mobility by providing dedicated lanes to transit. Masonic with a pair of car lanes, a pair of bike lanes and a pair of bus lanes would be much, much safer than the current 3 lane in the peak direction configuration for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers.

    Of course, such a road would maybe be able to handle 800 private vehicles/hour in the peak direction vs. about 2400 in the current configuration. This could be offset by running more buses to the 43 between (say) Cole and and its current terminus on Lombard. Assuming you would add 60′ buses and that the buses could complete their run in an 24 mins with dedicated lanes (this shouldn’t be a problem), then you would need to run an extra 18 buses per hour for the 3 hour peak and some extra midday service. To do this you would need a total of 8 additional drivers at $150/hour for a 10 hour shift. Assuming you could have them work split shifts* to save a couple of hours during the middle of the day, it would cost ($150*8*8)=$9600/day or $2.4 million/year minus about $600,000/year in additional revenue for a net cost of $1.8 million/year to mitigate the loss of these two lanes. It would also involve a capital cost of around $100 million to repaint the street and reconfigure traffic signals.

    If it were the case that one person died on masonic each year than such a project could be justified as cost-effective on the basis of safety alone. However, since San Francisco only manages about one traffic death every 2 weeks, this seems unlikely. However, you would likely also attract another 20,000 or so transit riders, and a $100 million project that does that might well be worthwhile as a transit project.

    *I believe that Muni’s union contract doesn’t allow split shifts, but I don’t want to get into calculating overtime.

    NOTE: This was a really shallow ballpark analysis. One real question that one would have to ask is how many current drivers would be unable to use the bus (say because they’re coming from outside San Francisco and don’t have someplace to park). This is less and less of a problem as your network gets more comprehensive. While converting Masonic to a busway/bikeway in isolation probably wouldn’t fly, building 49 such busways (one per mile in each direction) probably would work. A crude back of the envelope calculation says that you could do it for around $6.9 billion ($20m/mile * 49 busways at 7 miles each) – about the cost of BART to San Jose or 3 Central Subways. Doing so would likely eliminate about 30 deaths per year from car use and would add hundreds of thousands of daily transit trips. Needless to say, it will never happen because San Franciscans lack the vision to make it happen.

    One way to put the $7 billion investment needed for this kind of transit service in perspective is that it would cost an average San Franciscan $1000/year to make it happen. It’s expensive, but you would always be within walking distance of a transit line that runs every 2-5 minutes and can get across the city in 30.

  • Winston

    Sorry about the mega post. I started thinking about how you would actually solve the traffic death problem in San Francisco and that’s what came out.

  • Winston,

    Yes, the speed of cars on a street is certainly important in reducing bicycle fatalities, but your concern about cross street accidents can be avoided by reasonably thoughtful street engineering. The Dutch manage it just fine and have found that physically-separated bike lanes dramatically increases the number of people riding bikes and substantially increases the safety of those bicycling.

    Some comparisons:

    Fatal injury rate per 100 million km cycled:

    As a driver I love Masonic because it is the only north/south street except for Franklin/Gough that allows any rate of travel. (Oh, the misery that is Divisadero!) As a bicyclist, Masonic scares me to death, and I do my best to avoid it.

    As painful as it may be (because I do still drive half my trips), I think the fate of the planet requires us to prioritize bicycling, walking and public transit in how we design our streets, with private automobiles getting road and speed diets to improve the health, prosperity and safety of all. Will car drivers like this? No, they will not, but the grand era of every American spending their life behind the wheel is coming to a close for a whole host of reasons. Cities like San Francisco will have an advantage because they will adapt to this reality faster than those whose citizens cling to their car keys at all costs.

  • nick

    I’m a cyclist and driver who uses Masonic between the Panhandle and Geary Blvd.

    The main problem on Masonic is drivers going too fast. Did you know that the speed limit is just 25 Mph? I think that drivers get on a road with so many lanes and speed up. I’m extra cautious to keep my speed at 25 on that road and EVERY car passes me.

    As both a driver and a cyclist, I would appreciate having a separate lane for bikes.

  • Casey

    Good lord, I can’t imagine a lot of Germans are going to be visiting after two have died in SF in the last week.

  • Sean

    Next Death: Fell at Divisadero.

    Nat Ford: well ya know we kinda did sometin which was really nothin but it was enough to keep the bike orgs off my back. And Green is pretty don’t ya think? When you mix blood, err I mean red, it makes for such a pretty brown.

    Always someone must die before the city does anything, if even then.

  • James

    Separate bike lanes are wonderful, but putting them on the busiest arterial thoroughfares seems like something best avoided when possible. Maybe in this case, Masonic is the only decent option (I don’t know), but I’d much rather ride down a bike lane or bike boulevard on a quieter street a block or two over than just have a bike lane slapped onto an urban freeway.

  • I’m an experienced bicyclist and daily commuter, and Masonic between the panhandle and Geary would be a natural part of my daily commute (saving me 2 minutes each way ;), but I take a more round-about route because, to me, Masonic seems hellishly dangerous. I’ve only tried biking that stretch a few times, and each time I ended up taking refuge on the sidewalk after a few blocks. (Which I otherwise NEVER do!)

    In contrast, Fell St. near Divisadero doesn’t seem dangerous at all. Sure, when the cars are backed up in the bike lane and out into the adjacent traffic lane, it’s stupid, but the blockage slows traffic and makes it super easy to get around.

  • Great post Winston. It always helps to get some numbers (even if only “back of the envelope”) to help us all better understand the costs of the changes we desire.

    For $1000 a year that transit option sounds pretty damn good, considering upkeep of a vehicle (not to mention the hassles of maintenance, street parking, insurance, etc.) easily exceeds that number.

    In the end it all comes down to a problem of collective action. A majority of the city’s residents need to all agree to start using their cars less and to take transit more. Only then will the transit get noticeably better.

  • gibraltar

    “Sorry about the mega post.”

    It’s OK, it was easy to scroll over it 🙂 There’s virtue in brevity.

  • L is right that none of the options proposed for Masonic will protect you from a drunk driver, especially in the dark of night. In fact nothing can prevent your being hit by a drunk and/or negligent driver. Do you think this sort of accident won’t happen after the present Bicycle Plan and its successors are implemented? It’s been apparent for a long time that many in the cycling community in SF are in denial about the inherent dangers of riding a bike.

    As other commenters have pointed out, Masonic is a major North/South traffic artery that, according to the city’s numbers, carries more than 32,000 vehicles a day. Even with that traffic volume, the city’s “collision” reports don’t show that Masonic is unsafe for anyone. (On average there are 1.8 fatalites a year for cyclists in SF.)

    Again, according to the city’s reports—available through MTA’s website—city streets have actually been getting safer for everyone over the years.

    It’s understandable that you folks want to use this accident to push your agenda, but there’s no evidence that a bike lane or any other “improvement” to Masonic would have prevented this accident, which was caused by extreme negligence by the driver and just bad luck for the cyclist.

  • Nick

    Rob Anderson, do you seriously have the gall to post on here? After the drunk driver, you are next in line to blame for this person’s death.

    It was your obstructionist tactics that delayed any safety changes to Masonic and other streets during the last 4 years. And stop spamming your website here.

  • Timothy Hilton

    Mr. Anderson,

    Being struck by a motor vehicle driver (impaired or not), is absolutely not one of “the inherent dangers of riding a bike”.

    -Timothy Hilton

  • “It’s been apparent for a long time that many in the cycling community in SF are in denial about the inherent dangers of riding a bike.”

    This is about the inherent dangers of drunk driving. Care to contribute some of your intellect towards solving that problem?

  • You guys need to can the hysteria and get a grip. Of course being hit by a car is always a danger for cyclists. There’s nothing in any possible Bicycle Plan for Masonic that eliminates that danger.

    I put the links to my blog posts because that’s where you find an analysis of the city’s annual accident reports and the information the city provided at the June community meeting on Masonic. That information shows that Masonic isn’t among the more dangerous streets in SF. You guys need to do more homework and more real thinking. Bikes are Good and Cars are Bad isn’t enough.

  • Timothy Hilton

    What we all need to do is some serious thinking about transportation and community design. Motor vehicles are phenomenally useful tools. Like any tool, they are useful for some tasks and not others. As a society, we have reached a place where almost all of us use cars for almost every trip. This is the proverbial situation where “to the man with only a hammer, every problem becomes a nail”.

    I submit that it is inappropriate for able-bodied humans to use private cars for trips that are short and do not involve transporting large loads. Definitions of “able-bodied”, “trips that are short” and “large loads” will vary from person to person. I contend, however, that subscribing to the spirit of this philosophy will both result in *vastly* reduced motor vehicle use *and* benefit nearly everyone.

    So, this is not about bikes good, cars bad. Both are useful. This is about adjusting our points of view and our community design to encourage using appropriate “tools” (that is, transportation modes) for each transportation “job” (that is, trip).

  • =v= It’s noteworthy that Rob Anderson’s arguments hinge on imputing negative motivations, emotions, and traits to San Francisco bicyclists. His injunction was intended to “put us in our place.”

    So when a bicyclist from another culture, country, continent, etc. is killed at a location that would have been calmed already except for his lawsuit, what does Rob Anderson do? He imputes negative motivations, emotions, and traits to San Francisco bicyclists.

    Consistency is only admirable when it’s not a symptom of closed-mindedness.

  • I submit that it is inappropriate for able-bodied humans to use private cars for trips that are short and do not involve transporting large loads. Definitions of “able-bodied”, “trips that are short” and “large loads” will vary from person to person. I contend, however, that subscribing to the spirit of this philosophy will both result in *vastly* reduced motor vehicle use *and* benefit nearly everyone.

    Summary – People need to harden the **** up. I agree.

  • icarus12

    Nick, et al., I am glad that Rob Anderson has the guts to post here. I don’t agree at all with him that bicycling is inherently dangerous — driving is actually much more dangerous. But Mr. Anderson makes a good point and provides evidence/a link to back up the assertion that Masonic is not an exceptionally dangerous road. The best forum is one that welcomes all views. Don’t try to hound out Mr. Anderson or anyone else.

  • gibraltar

    It doesn’t take guts at all to post on an online forum. I also disagree with “the best forum is one that welcomes all views”. They tend to be the worst forums, actually.

  • “I am glad that Rob Anderson has the guts to post here.”

    You make it sound like he’s signed up to repeat his tour in ‘Nam, like we are the VietCong hiding under the bushes with guns.

  • Maybe Masonic *is* exceptionally dangerous, which scares away most of the bicyclists who would otherwise use that route, leading to fewer accidents involving bicyclists?

  • smushmoth

    Why would anyone in their right mind ride north on Masonic? Where are you going that there isn’t a calmer and flatter route? (BTW I commute by bike from the Lower Haight to the Presidio Main Post)

  • Hey Streetsbloggers, please don’t insult Rob or anyone else here. It’s not edifying or helpful to the conversation to get mean about things. Rob has posted here for a long time and we welcome any points of view to the blog, as long as they’re not mean-spirited or insulting to other commenters.

    I realize we need to do better policing some comments, but it would be very helpful to a limited blog staff if you can police yourselves.

  • Agreed John. It takes no guts to post here or really anywhere on the internets. Plus, he is just referencing himself as fact so not really adding much in the way details. But I also agree we shouldn’t be running him out of here, that only serves to legitimize the tired arguments.

    I’d possibly pay him a bit of mind if he didn’t label everyone who even slightly disagreed with him as a “bike nut”. Not to mention he has begun to take the extra step of labeling all those who want to see MUNI run more efficiently as “bike nuts” also.

    But this accident, and fixing Masonic, had nothing to do with Rob’s lawsuit as far as I can tell. Yes he is against slowing Masonic, but fixing Masonic to work for all modes wasn’t being stopped by the bike injunction. However, maybe Ford is a bit gun shy of upstart citizens with lawyer friends with too much time on their hands. Who knows for sure. All we do know is that someone died because of a stupid mistake and excessive speeds (speed which was enabled because of poor road design).

    And I’m with John when he says, “I submit that it is inappropriate for able-bodied humans to use private cars for trips that are short and do not involve transporting large loads.” There is no reason this culture has become so lazy and self-absorbed that deaths are just now the cost of doing business. Sorry young man, but your number came up to pay the piper for my sloth.

  • Talking only to each other may be good for morale, but it doesn’t help your cause. My blog is critical of you folks, but I seem to be the only one doing any homework. I read the Bicycle Plan, the EIR on that plan, all the city reports on accidents and traffic and then write about them on my blog. I don’t see you guys—or Bike Nopa or the SFBC—doing that. You post a bunch of articles about other cities and even other countries, but you need to focus more on San Francisco.

    At those meetings on Masonic, the city provided some numbers on Masonic on traffic volume and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists that should inform our discussion. I discuss those numbers and city accident reports in those two posts. If my either my facts or my analysis is wrong, please let me know. (Murphy never reads anything I link, so he’s excused.)

    Drunk drivers are a threat to all of us—cyclists, pedestrians, and other motorists. The idea that somehow the city can make cyclists immune to that danger is fanciful. Nor would any of the proposed changes to Masonic protected that man, especially since the accident happened late at night, when visibility is not as good as daylight.

    You can rail about cars all you want, but the reality is that people in SF, like every other major American city, depend on motor vehicles—cars, buses, trucks—for most of their transportation needs.

  • Nick

    Re: Use of Data to Inform Street Design

    The MTA collected data on sidewalk riding in the 2008 Bicycle Count Report in part to determine whether a street was considered safe by cyclists who use it.

    The absolute highest percentage of sidewalk riders occurred at the intersection of Masonic and Golden Gate, right where this poor kid died.

    Some will say the feeling of safety is subjective and not quantifiable. Getting run off the road, swore at, and buzzed is what caused the spike in those numbers. You can’t quantify that from behind a desk.

    (See Appendix E)

  • icarus12

    Smushmouth, you make a good point — that Masonic may be so fast and furious that most bike riders already avoid it. Otherwise, we might see a lot more dead or injured cyclists there.

    I am interested to see if the proposed changes to Masonic make it a viable bike route. But for me, the priority would be just to make Masonic a reasonable boulevard for drivers to use, and for the addition of sidewalk amenities and trees to make it a more pleasant place for pedestrians.

    I don’t think I need Masonic for biking since I already use a couple of parallel side streets for that. Perhaps I’m wrong about this, but I compare Masonic to Mission Street. Valencia running parallel to Mission provides me with a viable direct route, so Mission Street can be the still crazy trafficked street it is.

  • Regardless of the opinions—largely uninformed opinions—expressed on this thread, the city is going to alter Masonic to suit city cyclists. The political danger the city faces is potential negative feedback that may come when it slows traffic down for the more than 32,000 vehicles and thousands of passengers on the #43 Masonic Muni line that now use the street daily.
    For a discussion of these numbers:

  • Mike

    Keep in mind a young man died out there. It’s easy to get distracted with the same tired arguments.

    There needs to be some type of memorial. There was a candle, some flowers, and a poster out there this afternoon. By this evening someone had removed them. How messed up is that.

  • @Mike comment #42 That is awful and as messed up as the a number of the comments from this SF Examiner article. A woman calling herself “sfmom” claims people on bikes “deserve to be run over” I wish I was kidding. (near end of comments)

  • @icarus12 – I’m glad you see that @smushmouth made a good point, because it’s a particularly important point in these discussions. The same flaw is often seen in safety reports released by many authorities: the absolute lack of a common denominator to base conclusions on.

    Earlier you suggested that Rob Anderson backed up his opinion with “evidence/a link,” and I encourage you to apply the same standard to that link. You’ll see that he hasn’t bothered to work out a common denominator at all, perhaps because he used the majority of his blog entry to imputing negative motivations, emotions, and traits to San Francisco bicyclists.

  • Nio

    Rob Anderson is useful in representing a vehemently anti-cyclist view and taking incomplete statistics completely out of context. Lies, damn lies, and statistics removed from context or objective analysis.

    Data should be considered in light of:

    1) how many cyclists and pedestrians avoid Masonic due to danger.
    2) the potential utility of the route vs alternatives.
    3) the real danger of accidents and deaths like this happening again due to 1 & 2.

    Masonic is so dangerous that familiar cyclists avoid it. In the evening on Fri & Sat it’s far worse due to darkness and DUI. Cyclists themselves say so. Fix Masonic has a petition of 500 neighborhood residents citing dangerous conditions for everyone including motorists and peds due to speeding.

    Masonic between Anza and Turk, where the cyclist was killed, is the only direct route available. To the West is USF campus, to the East is a high school, family center, and residential cul de sacs. Both directions are also steep hills.

    In short, the one option open to cyclists is too dangerous and being regularly avoided at great inconvenience, but will still produce accidents and deaths. There’s the issue of safety for the cyclists who must use Masonic; or who wander onto it such as this tourist; or who simply believe that a road on which they’re legally allowed to travel should be reasonably safe. There’s the problem of speeding, DUI, and reckless driving endangering cyclist, motorists, and peds.

    Rob Anderson is fine with that. He dislikes cyclists entirely and believes they shouldn’t exist on SF roads. However, for the vast majority of reasonable San Franciscans and City Hall, including Supervisor Mirkarimi, Masonic is a major problem needing fixing.

  • “Lies, damn lies, and statistics removed from context or objective analysis”

    Evidence, please? Maybe you can provide an “objective analysis” of the city’s numbers on Masonic Ave.

    “He dislikes cyclists entirely and believes they shouldn’t exist on SF roads.”

    That’s not what I believe at all. What I believe: taking away traffic lanes on busy city streets to make bike lanes is a bad idea. I of course also oppose speeding, DUI, and reckless driving.

  • –> “He dislikes cyclists entirely and believes they shouldn’t exist on SF roads.”

    “That’s not what I believe at all.”

    I don’t believe you.

    “I of course also oppose speeding, DUI, and reckless driving.”

    Motorists routinely drive faster than the speed limit on Masonic, yet you oppose changes to Masonic to calm Masonic. In other words you do not oppose speeding, QED.

  • hubbert_nli

    Rob A. wrote:It’s been apparent for a long time that many in the cycling community in SF are in denial about the inherent dangers of riding a bike.

    It seems Rob is in denial about the inherent dangers of driving while intoxicated.

  • “It seems Rob is in denial about the inherent dangers of driving while intoxicated.”

    Nothing I have ever said or written—and I’ve been writing my blog for almost six years now—can possibly be interpeted this way. As I said earlier on this thread, drunk drivers are a threat to everyone who uses city streets, and no possible street design can wholly protect us from them.

    John Murphy has sent comments to my blog for a couple of years now, but he’s not a very good reader, and he never shows any indication of having read any of the documents I link.

  • hubbert_nli

    So would you, Rob, be in favor of permanent revocation of driving privileges of a driver who kills or injures while driving drunk?


How Many Deaths Will It Take to Fix Masonic Avenue?

An alleged drunk driver traveling more than double the speed limit on southbound Masonic Avenue at Turk Street struck and killed 61-year-old James Hudson of San Francisco in the crosswalk early this morning. The driver then continued his destructive path for another 13 blocks, according to police, damaging four parked cars along the way before […]