SFPD Driver Strikes and Kills Cyclist “DJ” Pinkerton, 23, on Dangerous Road

Persia at Sunnydale Avenue in McLaren Park, where Pinkerton died, is set for a safety upgrade next year. Screenshot from ABC 7
Persia at Sunnydale Avenue in McLaren Park, where Pinkerton died, is set for a safety upgrade next year. Screenshot from ABC 7

Donald “D.J.” Pinkerton, 23, was killed on his bike in a crash with an SFPD driver on Friday night at a dangerous intersection at the edge of McLaren Park which is set to get traffic calming improvements.

The SFPD has told reporters that officers are still investigating the crash, which occurred at about 9 p.m. at Sunnydale and Persia avenues in the Excelsior District. Based on reports so far, Pinkerton was riding down a service road from the weekly bike polo event he organized when an SFPD officer driving a cruiser struck him.

DJ Pinkerton. Photo via ABC 7
DJ Pinkerton. Photo via ABC 7

SFPD spokesperson Albie Esparza told KPIX, “They were just driving regular, no lights or sirens, not going to a call, just regular, routine driving approaching this intersection.”

D11 Supervisor John Avalos said SFPD Ingleside Station Captain John McFadden already told him that the crash was Pinkerton’s fault, and that he “may have been intoxicated.”

“I feel like what I heard was, it wasn’t our fault, it was his fault that it happened,” Avalos told Streetsblog.

“This is a tragedy,” Esparza said in a statement soon after the crash. “Our thoughts go out to the bicyclist’s family, as well as our two officers involved as this is a tragic incident.”

Esparza added that SFPD is conducting “a thorough investigation” of the crash, and that “an administrative process will also be conducted for the member driver involved, which is standard procedure to include toxicology sample.”

SF Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Noah Budnick said the organization’s staff “were shocked when we learned of Donald ‘D.J.’ Pinkerton’s death.”

“It’s a tragedy, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family and his community of friends,” he said. The SFBC “is committed to working with D.J.’s family and friends and the SF Police Department and District Attorney’s office to ensure the most thorough and timely investigation possible.”

“We need to identify every single factor that contributed to his death so that D.J.’s family gets answers and tragedies like this can be prevented in the future.”

“When it comes down to it, that road is super dangerous,” said Avalos, referring to Persia, which becomes Mansell Street in the park. Avalos noted that he’s “pushed for funding for better pavement, traffic calming, it’s very dark — some lighting as well.”

“I’ve rode my bike on there a little bit, but it’s one of the few places that I just wouldn’t ride.”

It’s unclear how fast the SFPD driver was going when he or she hit Pinkerton. But Persia, which has two traffic lanes wider than 20 feet, has “excessive vehicular speeds” of up to 50 mph and a “wide sweeping right turn lane” at the intersection where the crash occurred, according to a 2013 SF Recreation and Parks Department presentation [PDF] on plans to redesign the street.

Under the planned overhaul, set to be completed by August 2016, the street where Pinkerton died is expected to be made much safer, with bike lanes and sidewalks and a narrower roadway.

The plan for Persia includes a narrowed roadway with a sidewalk and bike lane. Image: SF Rec and Parks [PDF]
The plan for Persia includes a narrowed roadway with a sidewalk and bike lane. Image: SF Rec and Parks [PDF]

“If that project had been done by now, [Pinkerton would] still be alive,” said Avalos.

According to ABC 7, “Pinkerton’s friends are wondering if the loose gravel found at the bottom of the road played a role” in the crash.

Pinkerton’s friend, Jacki Rust, described the problem with “how blind that corner is, no lights, no one expects anyone coming out of the service road.”

ABC 7 described Pinkerton as a “known risk-taker,” noting that he rode a fixed-gear bike without brakes.

Pinkerton worked as a project manager at DaVinci Fusion, an SF-based event design and production company, according to the SF Chronicle.

“He was just starting off with his life and just starting to make money,” his uncle, John Pinkerton, told the SF Chronicle. “Every good quality humans should have, he had them in spades. If you talked to anybody, they would tell you he’s the best person.”

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