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.