Saturday, August 14, 2010

North Panhandle Neighbor Describes Fatal Collision Scene at Masonic and Turk

Bicyclist struck and killed by motorist at Masonic and Turk Street intersection

At Turk the southbound lanes of Masonic dip considerably, obscuring traffic

A North Panhandle neighbor who stopped in the intersection moments after the fatal collision at Masonic and Turk Friday night described the sequence of events to BIKE NOPA this afternoon. The neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said he was travelling southbound from Geary on Masonic when he reached the Turk intersection at about 10:30 in the evening. A taxi driver passed him, braked, and then he swerved around the bicyclist who was lying in the street after being struck by a hit-and-run motorist. "It was a yellow cab or a yellow and green cab, but he slowed and then went right around him and kept driving. What kind of person does that?" the neighbor said. "I stopped and opened my car doors to alert oncoming traffic to slow down and pass by carefully." The badly-injured 21-year-old man was lying in the inner southbound lane just past the Turk intersection. Parts of his red Nishiki bike were scattered across the lanes.

The near-witness said a woman in a Mercedes had also stopped in the intersection ahead of him. He overheard her tell a police officer that a driver also in a Mercedes ahead of her had hit the bicyclist and did not stop. "One of the bicycle wheels was lodged under her car," he said.

The neighbor then called 911. He thinks he was either the first or second to call. He could see the young man contorted and bleeding on the street while he tried to impress upon the 911 operator that an ambulance was needed immediately. "I gave her the location and told her what had happened but I had to repeat my request three times to send an ambulance. I looked at the man and it was clear he was in a really bad way." When I informed the neighbor that the young man had died of his injuries, the neighbor wondered about the time of his death. "I don't understand why he was taken to SF General Hospital when St. Mary's is just a few minutes away. In cases like that it seems like every minute is critical."

Clearly shaken by the experience, the local resident said he had been unable to talk about it during the day. At 5:15 this afternoon he telephoned me to describe the crash because he knew of my neighborhood involvement. After our call, I visited the site of the collision. Three network news reporters were on location for the evening news broadcasts. CBS Channel 5 reporter Don Knapp focused in his report on the many complaints from neighbors about drivers speeding on the street, the collisions that occur regularly, and the need to slow traffic.

As previously reported in BIKE NOPA, the Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) held a second community meeting last week to discuss options for traffic calming on the corridor. At that meeting several neighbors emphasized that slowing traffic, especially during off-peak hours, was vital to making Masonic a safer, more livable street. The grassroots organization Fix Masonic has worked with neighbors during the last several years to slow Masonic traffic. The group circulated a petition advocating that goal, and 600 nearby residents signed it.

Neighbors are urged to contact Javad Mirabdal ( the MTA Masonic project manager, and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi ( to urge the city to adopt as many traffic design changes as needed to make Masonic safer for all road users.

The NOPA neighbor who described last night's tragic event added a cautionary note for bicyclists. "I really wish bicyclists would avoid that spot of Masonic in the southbound lane, especially on a Friday night when people are drinking and driving."


  1. We cannot calm this street soon enough.

    Regarding the hospital: Saint Mary's does not have a trauma facility.

  2. Mike, a reader, is unable to post his comment directly here; his email message follows:

    Less than a year ago, I saw a young Asian girl hit and run at the same location (southbound Masonic just past Turk). The driver brushed the girl with the side of his car causing her to lose balance but thankfully not be injured. The driver was going about 45 mph downhill. After realizing he hit someone, he took a quick right turn on Golden Gate. The victim was extremely shook up. I asked if she needed medical aid or the police but the driver was already gone. This all happened around 6:30PM one evening.

    The point is all of Masonic is dangerous but there is something about this spot that is especially hazardous. Do you know which direction the vehicle fled in? Perhaps crime cameras should be installed along with traffic calming.

    Regardless, I biked by the location today and it was grim. If you can start a flower memorial or something that would be appreciated. Not even a candle is out there.

  3. Mike: thanks for the information about that scary brush with a driver; that was one that likely did not get included in collision statistics.

    The driver of the Mercedes that hit the bicyclist Friday night continued southbound on Masonic, turned right on Golden Gate and stopped within a block at Tamalpais.

    North Panhandle neighbors and bicyclists city-wide have begun discussing a memorial; I will post information here.

  4. Is SF General like the only trauma center hospital in SF? I'm only asking because if I ever get into a bike accident the first place I would go is Kaiser and not SF General all the way on the other side of town in Potrero Hill.

  5. Mr.

    SF General is the only level one trauma center in the city, which is the highest level. I believe the next closest hospital of the same level is in Oakland. I don't know the level of the other emergency centers in the city but my presumption would be that they are ill equipped to handle trauma victims.

  6. It's my understanding that SFGeneral is the only Trauma Center - unfortunately... Masonic improvements cannot happen soon enough. This is such a terrible tragedy that could have happened to anyone.

  7. I'm almost certain that SFGeneral is the only trauma center in town, and the ambulance was right to take the bicyclist there instead of St. Mary's. If you are conscious and able to express a preference after being in an accident then the ambulance will probably take you where you ask to go, but if you are not then they should take you to SFGH in a circumstance like this, that's where you'd get the most appropriate care.

    It's horrifying to me that someone would see an injured person and just drive on around them like the witness says the cab did.

  8. Sad and tragic accident. I regularly use Turk as part of my northern 'wiggle' route, and I have had some close calls there as well. How many people have to die before Masonic is fixed? Two German tourists have recently died in SF!

  9. Yes, SF General is the only trauma center. My friends who have been residents there and at other SF hospitals say that if you have trauma you absolutely want to go the general and that you absolutely want to go somewhere else as soon as you're stable.

  10. Unfortunately too many people think fatal head injury is the logical intrinsic consequence of cycling, an inherently dangerous activity (sort of like Russian roulette or free-climbing), while driving at the speed of the 90 percentile of traffic is an inherent right. I appreciate the SFBC's continuing efforts to battle this inhumane, self-absorbed attitude.

  11. Thanks to the neighbors, drivers who did stop and got involved. It it this reason the murderer is in jail now. The next question, will proper justice prevail and treat this crime as murder to ensure that the murderer is kept in prison where he belongs?

    Enough is enough. You drink and drive and kill someone, you are a murderer,

    Getting hit is one nightmare that a lot of us fear the most and seems common these days. The assailant leaving the crime and never being caught adds a gash to the soul that never heals for both the victim(s) and the community as a whole.

  12. Five years ago June, my husband was struck by a hit & run driver at the same corner as the recent traffic murder. The witness saw a green SUV who didn't slow down or stop. The nearby fire dept. EMT responded and took Jim to SF General where he was stabilized before surgery for a shattered pelvis and broken shoulder. He spent time at Kaiser and Tunnell Rehab Center before coming home to our 3rd floor apt. on Oak St. in a wheelchair which he used for several weeks into the fall. SF police inspectors viewed footage of cameras on the corner but could not identify the suspect car.

    Jim recently completed long distance bike trips in Utah and Washingotn and cycles daily.

    My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the young man who did not survive that dangerous intersection on Masonic. Kathleen B.

  13. Kathleen, thank you so much for sharing this story: it's difficult to read about collisions like this. And we cheer your husband on his recovery and resilience.

  14. Kathleen, also: would you and/or your husband be willing to tell your story in an interview? If you'd like to talk about this, please contact me at . Last night we held a vigil for the young man killed on Masonic.

  15. This is the Jim Kathleen referred to in her post. I will email you and will do an interview. However, I won't be able to cycle to the interview as I just got my bike stolen from in front of the Lucky store -- they clipped my cable and took it during the 10 minutes I was in the store. They did leave my helmet. How nice of them.