Ghost Bike Memorial Ride To Honor Cyclist Killed in Riva in August

In late August, 50-year-old cycling enthusiast and mother of three Trish Cunningham was killed while riding her bicycle on Riva Road in Davidsonville. She was struck by a car as she went a blind hill. A minivan attempted to pass Cunningham, but an oncoming car forced the minivan driver to swerve into the cyclist, killing her.

Local riders will be gathering for the Trish Cunningham Memorial Rally and Ride for Bicycle Safety Awareness this Saturday morning (Sept. 28). They’ll ride from Annapolis High School, where Cunningham was a track and field coach, to the site of the accident where the cyclists will erect a ghost memorial. From there, the ride will conclude at Riva Park.

The rally will begin at 7 a.m., the ride at 8:30 a.m. A contingent of cyclists will leave Annapolis High School and travel down Riva Road escorted by the Anne Arundel County Police Bike Unit. Trish Cunningham’s family is also participating in the event.

A brief pause will be made for a moment of silence at the site where a Ghost Bike will be located.

From there, the ride will continue to Riva Park, a distance of 4 miles from AHS.

Riders wishing to return to AHS will be escorted back immediately after arriving at Riva Park.

Organizers expect over 200 cyclists to attend the ride—in addition to members of the Annapolis running community, the Annapolis High School Track and Field team—of which Trish was assistant coach—and supportive friends and family.

The rally and ride is being held to raise awareness of the Maryland three-foot law, which states that the driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle, including a bicycle, must pass at a safe distance and leave plenty of space. In the accident that involved Cunningham, the driver was declared at fault by the Anne Arundel County Police Department. The States Attorney has not yet made a determination of charges.

“Ghost Bike” tradition

“A ghost bike is a bicycle set up as a roadside memorial in a place where a cyclist has been killed or severely injured,” said Alex Pline, who is organizing the event. “Apart from being a memorial, it is intended as a gentle reminder to passing motorists to share the road.”

Ghost bikes are usually painted white and have some sort of memorial placard or message.

Know the Rules of the Road

Southern Anne Arundel County is a popular place for cyclists. There are miles of open roads, wide shoulders, few stop lights—and of course beautiful scenery. With an increased interest in cycling for fitness, residents will likely see more bicycles on the road into the future. In addition, more people are using bicycles as a primary transportation mode. According to U.S. Census figures, since 2000, there has been a 47 percent increase in the number of bicycle commuters.

http://southriversource.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/trish_ben.jpg

Trish Cunningham and Ben.

In tandem with the bicycle boom, this area is also seeing more injuries—and fatalities. In Maryland, between 2007 and 2011, 36 cyclists have been killed while out riding. Nationwide, over 48,000 cyclists were injured in traffic-related crashes in 2011, the last year that data is available through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (pdf).

Under Maryland law, bicycles are authorized users of the roadway and bicyclists have the same right-of-way and duty to obey traffic signals. When you pass a cyclist in your car, be sure that you can fully see them in your rear view (not side view) mirror before returning to the lane. After passing, make sure you are clear of the cyclist before making any turns. Bicycles have the right of way when a vehicle is making a turn. Allow the cyclist to clear the intersection before making your turn.

In addition, always allow three-feet of clearance as you move around a cyclist on the road. If it means you have to wait a few seconds in order to pass, hang back. If that was a pedestrian or a person in a wheelchair, you’d have to allow the same clearance.

Please share the road. It isn’t worth having someone killed—plus you in jail. A few seconds is never worth that.

Finally, do not harass cyclists—or people riding scooters or motorcycles—from your vehicle. If you cause them to be injured or to crash, you may be held criminally liable. In addition, police can charge you with a crime (Title 8-101; Section 21-1209) if you throw something at a cyclist or open a car door in an attempt to cause them injury or scare, harass or intimidate.

Pline invites any member of the public to join the ride on Saturday. Riders who want to participate must be able to cover the eight miles under their own power.

Trish Cunningham was a loving mother of Morgan, Ben and Avery, and husband Jerry as well as a respected cross country coach at Annapolis High School.

Pline has set up a Facebook event page. Click here to RSVP to the ride.

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About Mitchelle Stephenson

I've gotta tell Mitchelle! Send your South County news tips, brag on your fab volunteers, talk traffic, police and fire or just say "howdy" to Mitchelle Stephenson, co-founding editor of the South River Source. Mitchelle@SouthRiverSource.com or reach me in person on mobile: 410-353-4706.

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