Driver Kills Cyclist Charles Vinson, 66, at 14th and Folsom

14th and Folsom Streets. Photo: Google Maps

Update: SFPD issued a response below.

Charles Vinson, 66, was struck by a driver at 14th and Folsom Streets in the Mission yesterday and died from his injuries today. A witness saw the driver of a Honda Civic “blow through a red light and strike the bicyclist as the bicyclist waited for the light to turn green,” according to the Examiner. Vinson suffered traumatic head injuries, and was wearing a helmet.

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick called for a moment of silence for Vinson today at an SFMTA Board hearing on the redesign for a safer Polk Street.

“Mr. Vinson’s passing is sadly the latest example of the growing public demand for safe cycling that’s outpacing the city’s work to provide that space for them,” said Budnick.

When asked for confirmation of the witness report and information on any charges filed against the driver, SFPD spokesperson Grace Gatpandan issued this statement:

I don’t have any information yet on any citations or charges, but with any investigation, should the facts lead to an arrest/citation of one party, the officers will do just that. As far as the witness reports, the investigating officers are still working on determining who was at fault and I cannot confirm if the driver ran the red light.

  • mx

    Rest in peace Mr. Vinson.

  • Having trouble picturing this. Was the driver going down 14th, the bicyclist was stopped at the light at Folsom, and the driver ignored both the light and the bicyclist in front of him and hit the bicyclist from behind?

  • jd_x

    Damnit, this is unacceptable that bicyclists have to deal with this. We need separated infrastructure ASAP. And this motorist needs to be caught and sent to jail for life. Running a red light and leaving the scene after slaughtering someone is a lifetime in jail in my book. Any news on if the police are even going to try and find him and gather evidence (hopefully a lot harder than they did for Amelie LeMoullac)? And where’s that state Congresswomam who wants to make helmet laws mandatory when it will do absolutely nothing to address this problem? In fact, it will take resources away from addressing the real problem, which is: why are we exposing bicyclists to this? Charles should have been in a separate and protected bike lane where a thug running a red light can’t take him out.

    In the meantime, my condolences to the friends and family of Charles, another victim of a city that treats everybody but motorists as second class citizens.

  • SFnative74

    Not to argue against separated infrastructure but unless we have paths that go above or below intersections, there is always this potential that negligent driving can lead to death. What we as a city need to do is get less upset about some guy hitting a minivan with his hand and instead be outraged that red light running, speeding, lack of proper yielding, and on and on and on continue to happen practically unabated, and demand that we get real enforcement and consequences for reckless driving like this. This does not condone dangerous or inconsiderate behavior by people on bike or on foot, but instead is a statement that it is obvious that 3000-4000 pound vehicles at high speeds propelled by distracted or negligent drivers in a dense city are the issue we need to focus on – they are almost literally like bulls in a china shop.

  • caryl

    The Examiner article says the driver stayed at the scene. I just hope there is a decent investigation and appropriate charges – not just “tragic accident” platitudes.

  • Sounds like it. Here’s a terrible account of a similar-sounding accident in Golden Gate Park a few years ago, written by a bicyclist who was hit while stopped at a stop sign. (She was seriously injured, but her young son, in a child seat on the bike, was mostly okay).

    http://humofthecity.com/2014/04/21/who-protects-us-from-you/

    Excerpt:

    Before I was hit, I was not so cynical. I was raised to believe that the police were there to help people and protect the innocent. The collision changed me. When my son and I had our injuries assessed, the paramedics took off our helmets (and cut off the rest of my clothes as well). For the next half hour that we were in the ambulance as the police took the report, I was asked repeatedly whether we had been wearing helmets. “Were you sure you were wearing helmets? You’re not wearing helmets now. If you were really wearing helmets, where are they? Were you really wearing a helmet?” Then they asked my son whether we were really wearing helmets. My husband showed them our helmets. “Were they wearing those helmets when they were hit?” The paramedics said we were wearing helmets, that they had taken off our helmets. “Did you see the helmets on them?” They asked the (many, many) witnesses, “Were they wearing helmets?” They said yes. “Are you sure?” As an aside, we did not have head injuries. Our heads never touched the ground. If only I had had a leg helmet!

  • Golden Gate Shark

    Death Penalty

  • GetHubNub

    That’s too elderly to be riding a bike in this city this way (aside from beach paths, parks, etc. ) in my humble opinion. He should have used some common sense and either caught a bus or taxi. Because it doesn’t matter who was at fault, his choice to bike on those kind of dangerous streets lead to his untimely death in his golden years. He likely was in the middle of a road, not on a bike lane. I hope he had a relationship with Christ.

  • GetHubNub

    what a dumb comment.

  • GetHubNub

    Bicyclists aren’t supposed to be in the middle of a non-bicycle lane.

  • Ha! I’m assuming you’re trolling*. Regardless, praise hands emoji.

    *I don’t agree with your statement.

  • Look at the picture. The two left lanes are for left turns. In the middle of the middle lane is a bike symbol, telling bicyclists they are supposed to be exactly there.

    Got any other insights?

  • In other news, a driver ran a green light crossing Geary Street a few years back. Hey, that’s legal. But a red light runner coming the other way T-boned him at high speed and killed him instantly. Moral: he should have caught a bus or a taxi. No wait, in a taxi it would have been the same. Okay! That’s it. It’s buses for everyone from now on.

  • Gezellig

    Exactly!

    Helmets are designed only for non-potentially fatal, non-auto-involving impacts to the crown of the head.

    Too bad that design standard has nothing to do with being hit by a car–in pretty much any place!

    That anecdote is a perfect example of how Helmet Culture misleads people (including police) into believing that our infrastructural status quo is fine and that it no doubt must be the victim’s fault.

  • SFnative74

    Haha..you’re funny, or an a$$hole. Even assuming he was a decrepit 66, he didn’t deserve this. And maybe he wasn’t decrepit – maybe was more spry that some people half his age, BECAUSE he rode a bike and was active. Let me finish with this….what if this was your father or grandfather, or a favorite uncle?

  • joechoj

    Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking – sounds like he got hit from behind.

  • joechoj

    I hate to make a point from this poor man’s death. But I’ll point out that this guy was doing his best to follow the law, by waiting for the green light, and was killed because of it.

    I hope drivers take note of this law-abiding behavior, and see the folly of pretending the rules of the road are sufficient to protect people on bikes.

  • NoeValleyJim

    The DA will not press charges. As far as I know, George Gascón has not pressed charges ever against a driver who remained at the scene and was not drunk. If you want to murder someone in San Francisco, do it with a car, not a gun.

  • Guest

    Don’t feed the troll.

  • tj

    Having ridden through the intersection several hours after the event, it did appear that Mr. Vinson had been within the designated bike box, waiting to make a left turn when he was struck from behind by the driver running the red light to make a left turn. The +/- 75′ distance that it appeared to take the car to stop along with the general disheveled state of the car’s interior indicated a driver that was sloppy and/or careless, at the very least.

    That this tragedy would be inflicted on a person riding a bike who appears to have been using the infrastructure the way in which it was designed highlights the necessity for the city to revisit the standards it uses for determining negligence and bringing the appropriate charges against drivers. Only when drivers know that if they hit and kill a cyclist that they will automatically be charged with manslaughter regardless or whether they stopped or not or were cooperative or not (as currently happens in New Zealand and Australia), will they actually start to take greater responsibility for their driving behavior.

  • StrixNoctis .

    Are you aware that here in SF more pedestrians are killed than cyclists by the motorists? His odds of surviving his walk to a bus stop would have been about six times worse as a pedestrian.

  • Golden Gate Shark

    go follow jesus

  • A 22 year old waiting at this spot (as required by law) would have died in exactly the same way. The bicyclist’s age did not cause this death whatsoever. Reckless, irresponsible driving (and a city that does not make reckless, irresponsible drivers accountable for their actions) did.

    It takes quite a bit of creativity to blame the victim on this one.

  • lunartree

    You’re like one of those people that blame women for getting raped because they went in a bad part of town.

  • gneiss

    The streets of San Francisco are not inherently dangerous. And since he was wearing a helmet, he was protected from a head injury resulting from precisely the kind of fall that would have happened if he lost his balance or misjudged a turn. The reasons why they are dangerous is because of fast moving cars driven by distracted, irresponsible drivers that are not held accountable for their actions and a streetscape that enables that kind of driving and doesn’t protect vulnerable users. Just take a look at this video and tell me again that riding a bicycle is dangerous. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSGx3HSjKDo

  • gneiss

    But, if you were riding a bicycle and witnesses said you ran a red light, then by all means, charge them with felony vehicular manslaughter.

  • lunartree

    For someone who’s a “follower of Jesus” you really love arguing for the side of death.

  • There is no such thing as a ‘non-bicycle lane’ on our city streets…only on freeways where there’s signs which disallow bicycles. Bike lanes restrict cars from being in them (except to turn, etc), regular traffic lanes are for everyone.

  • NoeValleyJim

    I fully support his prosecution of reckless cyclists, but I wish he would do the same to deadly drivers. He said that he was “sending a message” by prosecuting cyclists. What is the message he is sending by letting killer drivers off? The message I get is that he considers us second class citizens at best, expendable lives really.

  • NoeValleyJim

    This is why we need protected bike lanes, not half measures like we are being offered on Polk Street. Driving is difficult in this city and far too often drivers do a stupid and dangerous thing.

  • Mike

    Hit from behind while stopped at a red. Yeesh.

    Guarantee you the driver was texting. GUARANTEE.

  • Guest

    The man who killed the teen on Sloat was sentenced to 6 months house arrest plus6 months jail. He was drunk though.

  • JB

    Any idea what happened to the woman that crashed into two cars going 80MPH on Pine and causing 6 casualties?

  • gneiss

    Right. Far too often reckless driving is handled by our justice system as an “oopsie” while reckless riding is felonious.

  • buzzgirl

    You are an idiot. You know nothing about this man beyond the fact that he was obeying the law and was killed because a driver did not obey the law. Your “humble opinion” is worthless. Perhaps the driver should have used “common sense” and not run a red light.

  • joechoj

    Yeah, sure, but let’s not ignore the real problem: the lack of safe cycling infrastructure. Yes, we need better legal protections for cyclists, but physical protections are the real solution. Think of all the laws that currently go unenforced (e.g., cars parked in bike lanes). What we need is infrastructure that assumes bad behavior, and makes it impossible (e.g., curbs between car lanes and bike lanes).

    I was hoping you were going in this direction when you started: “…appears to have been using the infra the way in which it was designed highlights the necessity for the city to revisit the standards it uses for ….”

    … designing bicycle infrastructure!!!!

  • NoeValleyJim

    This is a good call, it looks like the DA actually pressed charges here and the woman pled not guilty in Nov of 2013. I can’t figure out what happened here after that, maybe the case is still wending its way through the legal system. I will email the attorneys.

    She injured six and killed one, actually.

  • jd_x

    Or using their phone in some other way. But definitely the phone.

  • “It doesn’t matter who was at fault”

    Yeah, I bet you’d have said that if the cyclist ran a red.

    66 year old cyclists aren’t elderly.

  • p_chazz

    Or pedestrians. Twice, I was struck by cars in the crosswalk. Both times I had the right of way.

  • keenplanner

    Really? There were 2 pedestrians killed by cyclists in the past 10 years. I guess my assumption that it is more dangerous to be struck by a car are just wrong. We must learn to love drivers because they save lives. For sure!

  • joechoj

    Yes, but good infrastructure can make drivers less negligent. Making driving more challenging (narrowing lanes, designing sharper turns) is known to make drivers pay more attention and drive more carefully.

    Yes, there will always be points of vulnerability in the network, but good design can minimize risk even there.

    Driver behavior can be incredibly entitled and careless, and improvements will be welcome (does no one in the Bay Area use f*&ing blinkers???) – I just think it’s far more effective to have the built environment do it for you than to rely on the intervention of an underfunded police department with higher priorities. (And let’s not forget that increased police intervention is most unwelcome to many minority communities at present. When presented this way perhaps there’s a big well of support among these communities for roads that ‘police’ traffic behavior rather than the police themselves.)

  • keenplanner

    I’ll be 64 this month, and have been riding the streets of SF for over 30 years (“before it was cool”) and have no intention of giving up the bike. Be clear that I’m not blaming cyclists for injuries suffered at the hands of drivers.
    I’ve learned to ride like a cyclist in an urban environment (go ahead and pass me, competitive, testosterone-fueled cyclist who is in a big hurry to get to the next red light, riding like an aggressive driver.) I stop for pedestrians in crosswalks at stop signs or not, put my hand down palm facing back to signal other cyclists to give way to people in the crosswalk, or even j-walking, but so many hammer past me like I’m some relic of past civility, practically grazing the horrified people, often with kids, pets, and strollers, like they’re in some maniacal hurry to negotiate the residential neighborhoods of the Wiggle and get to the Panhandle bike path, where they’re often equally self-entitled and indignant. This is not only dangerous and illegal, it’s very bad PR for cycling, and just plain rude.
    My advice: Stop riding like your commute is a race. Stop riding like you’re driving the cars you espouse so much hatred for. Enjoy your ride. Breathe. Be friendly. And if a driver hammers past me only to be stopped in the line of cars at the next intersection, I make it a point to stop and say “Now that did you a lot of good, didn’t it.”
    I’m not trying to relieve drivers of the blame for injuring cyclists, and the killing of a cyclist who happens to be 66, or any age, is still murder, and is a tragic loss for his friends and family. I hope “the book” gets thrown hard at this irresponsible driver.

  • timsmith

    Wait what does that have to do with this incident though? The cyclist was by all accounts behaving exactly the way you would have, not riding aggressively or in a hurry.

  • billy

    That’s dumb. He wasn’t killed because he followed the law, he was killed because the driver didn’t.

  • murphstahoe

    I was just thinking that being stopped and waiting for a red light is a testosterone-fueled behavior.

  • murphstahoe

    “And if a driver hammers past me only to be stopped in the line of cars
    at the next intersection, I make it a point to stop and say “Now that
    did you a lot of good, didn’t it”

    Your whole lecture sort of falls flat when you filter past a line of stopped cars, inviting a dooring or a right hook, and then get all aggro and lecture the driver.

  • SuperQ

    You can’t stop all of it, but we can fix the street design to slow cars down to safe speed. It’s been show by a multitude of statistics that 20mph is many times less deadly than 30mph. Where there are people on bikes and on foot, we need to change the roads to become streests. Narrow lanes, bulb outs, sharper turning at corners. These things will naturally slow down drivers at intersections by making them visibly less safe for them, which will cause drivers to slow down.

    When your city streets look like freeways, they will be treated like freeways.

    https://goo.gl/maps/VQEkt

    No amount of cops, lights, and crosswalks can fix a freeway-like street. I wonder how many collisions happen right out front at Bryant and 7th.

  • joechoj

    Your not recognizing all the factors certainly doesn’t make *me* dumb.

    You’re right the driver killed him, Capt. Obvious. I’m right that the city-designed placement of the bike in the road killed him.

  • Prinzrob

    I think you need to re-read the comment you responded to. It does not say what you think it says.

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