Man charged in fatal hit and run

Share the damn road, people.

Last week's Guardian cover story highlighted a number of efforts to make cycling safer and more viable in San Francisco, such as ongoing San Francisco Bike Plan projects that will create separated bike zones. Sadly, none of it was enough to prevent the tragic death of a German tourist who was hit while riding a bike on Friday, Aug. 13, by an intoxicated driver behind the wheel of a 1989 Mercedes Benz.

Police had little information about Nils Linke, who would have turned 22 next month, other than that he was visiting San Francisco from Germany. Linke was hit at 10:39 p.m. Friday night on Masonic Avenue near Turk Boulevard, according to police spokesperson Lt. Lyn Tomioka. "They are really working very hard on this case," Tomioka said. "It is an active and ongoing investigation."

Joshua Calder, 37, was arrested and charged with gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, felony drunk driving, felony hit-and-run causing death, driving with a blood-alcohol content above the legal limit, and driving without proof of insurance. Police originally believed Calder to be an Oakland resident, but he gave a San Francisco address, Tomioka said.

SF Streetsblog picked up the story, providing an insider's scoop on efforts to address traffic conditions in that area. Here's an excerpt:

"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.

The [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency] 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. ... "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."

The Streetsblog report also notes that a group called Fix Masonic -- which has been working to improve safety conditions in that area -- has been receiving phone calls about the incident.

Linke is the second German tourist to be killed in San Francisco since the start of August. On Aug. 8, Mechthild Schroeer, 50, was killed after being caught in the crossfire of a gun battle near a Union Square venue. Efforts have been made recently to clamp down on violence outside San Francisco nightclubs, with Mayor Gavin Newsom signing legislation last week to strengthen the Entertainment Commission's ability to revoke permits for clubs that attract trouble. While drunk driving was clearly a factor in this latest hit and run, city efforts to adress community concerns near Masonic and to crack down on dangerous driving that endangers cyclists could serve to prevent tragedies like the one that took Linke's life.


I certainly support making our city streets safer and more pedestrian-friendly, and I would encourage citizens and government officials to continue in these efforts.

But, please tell me how any of those efforts (aside perhaps from more street police patrols) would have prevented an allegedly drunk man from running over Mr. Linke??? Drunk-driving was more than "a factor" in this death, it was THE factor, and the only one to blame for Mr. Linke's death is the driver, Mr. Calder.

This article is a good example of the Guardian pushing its political agenda despite the facts--it's also more than a bit cheap and tacky to use Mr. Linke's death for these purposes.

Posted by Chris on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 11:25 am

Does City Attorney Dennis Herrera deserve to be criticized, then, for taking steps to sue the owner of the Union Square venue where youth were partying the night that Schroeer was killed? After all, her death was ultimately caused by the person who fired the weapon. And the only one who is ultimately to blame for Linke's death is, as you've stated, the allegedly drunk driver behind the wheel. Yet there are external factors in both cases: A party that was apparently illegal in the first, and a roadway that has been deemed unsafe by a coalition of concerned citizens in the second. The article referenced above highlights numerous ideas for improving cyclist safety, and while it does touch on enforcement issues, it also describes one person's vision for a citywide network of green bike ways that would be completely separated from existing roadways, which could indeed shield cyclists from reckless or intoxicated drivers. The post has nothing to do with "political purposes" but rather highlights a community's response to a tragedy. Part of that response is to try and create safeguards that would prevent something this horrible from occuring again.

Posted by rebecca on Aug. 17, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

Rebecca, I hope you are intelligent enough to know that you are conflating holding someone accountable for their legal obligations under the law (i.e. Dennis Herrera holding accountable the landlord who is legally obligated to ensure their property is kept reasonably safe, including ensuring that any tenants have necessary permits as well as proper security to discourage violence), and using a drunk driving accident to push some "safe streets" agenda (unless, that agenda happens to include calling for more police patrols to potentially catch drunk drivers before they hit someone). But, perhaps I am wrong, and you are just not that intelligent.

Also, in the case of Mr. Linke's death, drunk and reckless driving is the cause of the fatality, not an "external factor." The road could be the safest road in the world, but if someone drives recklessly on it, then they are still likely to injure or kill pedestrians who attempt to cross it. Again, how would bike-ways or traffic lights prevent a drunk driver who is driving recklessly from hitting a pedestrian crossing the street? Unless you are talking about putting up concrete walls along the the sidewalks and building overhead pedestrian crossways across intersections, there is no way to make a street safer when drunk drivers are on it.

In short, I hate to say it, but you are full of it.

I stand by my original comments and I find your response unpersuasive.

Posted by Chris on Aug. 18, 2010 @ 3:16 pm