Thursday, August 26, 2010

Neighbors, Advocates Gather for Tribute to Yannick Linke

Photo: Wm Kirk Moore c 2010

Photo: Wm Kirk Moore c 2010

Photo: Wm Kirk Moore c 2010

Photo: Wm. Kirk Moore c 2010

More than 100 people gathered last night to honor Yannick Linke, the young bicyclist killed on Masonic Avenue August 13th. Few who were present for the candlelight walk and vigil knew Linke, but many said they felt a connection to the enthusiastic and engaging visitor to San Francisco from the stories and photos that his family has shared. Participants, including dozens who arrived by bicycle, met in the San Francisco Day School courtyard where they received lit candles. Danny DeLeon, facility manager, welcomed the neighbors and community members to the solemn observance. He also spoke of the concerns parents felt about traffic conditions on Masonic. The group walked a block of Masonic, crossed Turk Street, and gathered around the memorial bike, or ghost bike, placed at the site of the collision that took Linke's life.

A friend of the Linke family sang "Amazing Grace," and her strong, soothing voice helped set the tone for the tribute. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi expressed condolences for the tragic loss of Linke and thanked him for "visiting our city and trusting our streets." Mirkarimi recalled the effort underway for several years to slow traffic on the busy corridor. Jarie Bolander, President of the North of the Panhandle Neighborhood Association, extended sympathies for all the neighborhood. He also commemorated the loss of Melissa Dennison, a 24-year-old woman who was struck and killed by a motorist on Fell Street nearly a year ago. A particularly emotional moment came when Marc Caswell, NOPA neighbor, safe streets and bicycle advocate, read the statement (below) from Linke's sister, Sophia. The Rev. Will Scott, pastor of St. Cyprian's Episcopal Church spoke of both Linke and Dennison. "This tragic loss of these young lives have called on all of us no matter where we are from, or what our mode of transportation, to take greater responsibility for the well-being of others," he said. Scott then blessed the gathering and the memorial bike.

The organizers wish to thank the many individuals and organizations that contributed to the walk and vigil. I am honored to have helped plan the memorial with Mariana Parreiras and Marc Caswell. The statement from Yannick Linke's sister follows:

Dear people from San Francisco, dear bicyclists, dear friends,

I am very happy to hear you are participating in the memorial vigil tonight. Until today I did not really understand that my brother Yannick actually died. Maybe the shock is too big – maybe all the organizing distracts me too much… But I simply cannot imagine a future without him, so that’s maybe why I’m also not trying to. But I’m sure - sooner or later I have to.

Simply put: Yannick was a happy person. He had bright blue eyes and a big smile that could lighten the tension or lift the sadness from a room. Being his older sister, I can certainly recall arguments and fights during our childhood, but he never held grudges, never held on to anger, and all misgivings were soon forgotten. He liked to joke around but took things serious when it had to be, he was a reliable person who would be there to help someone who needed it. He was also a person that stayed in contact with his friends all over the world. While there were extended periods his friends and family would go without seeing him, he always managed to send e-mails, call or just leave a message on your facebook wall; He was always a part of our lives even while away on his travels.

Yannick grew up in Berlin, loved it, and knew it by heart. Despite his love of his home, his interest in travel was never-ending and though he only reached 22, he had already lived in two countries, and visited a number of others. At age 15 during secondary school he studied abroad in Switzerland for an entire year. He enjoyed Switzerland so much that he returned every summer for the past six years as a staff member for the Montreux Jazz festival. He spoke fluent French and English, and this (French) not only allowed him the job at the festival, but his knowledge of English, as well as his love of languages allowed him to reach out to all different people from all different parts of the world, which is exactly what he did. Upon finishing secondary school in Germany he embarked on a half year journey that would take him from the salt flats of Bolivia, to the carnival in Buenos Aires, to the unscathed beauty of South American better known as Patagonia. The trip continued to New Jersey to visit a friend, then to Portland, Oregon, and finally back home. When he came back to Germany he decided to move to Vienna and study there. I went to visit him there this Easter and we had a wonderful time. It was nice to hike in the vineyards close to the city and he showed me the city like a professional tour guide. (What other places would Yannick have discovered had he stayed with us?)

While remaining stationary, a big hobby of his was sports. He stayed active both in Berlin and Vienna playing for local handball teams. When matches were on TV he would inch closer to the television set like a five-year-old boy. He truly loved the competitive aspect of sports, and the best that it can bring in an individual. During the Olympics, he would devote time to almost all the events and I often found it funny how excited he could get over an event you might not have even known he would care about. (His last post on facebook noted he had just learned how to play American handball during his stay in New York.)

While he loved to play sports, he never would be confused for a sports-nut, as his real passion was clearly and proudly music. He loved to listen to Jazz. I remember when he was a small boy (maybe 10 years old or younger) my parents went to a Jazz concert with us for his birthday. I found it really boring but remember that he loved it! Even as a child. But he was an open person and also listened to any other kind of music. Whenever I saw him, he gave me a CD with the newest songs he just got and sometimes he just send me one or two songs via skype because he thought I should listen to them.

When he was in Berlin it was always a guarantee that we will see each other. He cared for his family, his dad, mum and younger sister Merrit, who is 17 years old now. Well, I will be with you tonight and I hope that Yannick is with us too. I would like to quote him by saying: “We are stardust, billion year old carbon.”

Sophia Linke

The Linke family suggests that anyone who wants to make a donation in memory of Yannick send it to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Fronteieres (MSF), a non-profit international aid organization that was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its humanitarian medical work. Information on donations with links to MSF-USA can be found in this previous post.


  1. k9vidblog: Thanks so much for this video of last night's memorial. It serves as another testament to our community gathered at a time of sadness and resolve. (Readers: the bike vigil video is almost 10 minutes but well worth a viewing).

  2. Thanks to everyone who organized this vigil and for working to Fix Masonic. I could not be at the vigil, but I am quite moved by the videos, photos, and words. It's comforting to know a large, active community is working together to make our streets safer.