Another cyclist death at Bethesda renews calls for more safety measures
Hundreds of cars passed through the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Cheshire Drive on Saturday afternoon, heading either north past the Wildwood Mall or south towards the Capital Beltway interchange.
The six-lane road is lined with sidewalks and at one point a cyclist was traveling north on the same side as the mall.
There are no cycle lanes on this part of the road – and that’s something transport advocates and elected officials say needs to be changed in order to avoid another death like that of Enzo Marcel Alvarenga , 18, who was killed on Wednesday when his bicycle was hit by a vehicle after leaving the sidewalk.
According to county police, the Bethesda teenager was riding his bicycle south on a sidewalk on the north side of Old Georgetown Road near Cheshire Drive when his bike left the sidewalk and entered traffic heading towards North. He was struck by a white 2012 Ford F-250 Cargo pickup truck traveling north and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. The driver remained at the scene.
The collision happened just north of where 17-year-old cyclist Jake Cassell was hit and killed by a vehicle three years ago. This death led to the creation of cycle lanes on part of Old Georgetown Road, but these lanes did not extend to where Alvarenga rode.
A needs assessment of the State Highway Administration of the Maryland Department of Transportation, completed in January, showed that the corridor of Old Georgetown Road, from north of downtown Bethesda to near North Bethesda, was a “high stress” route for cyclists , which means it is more difficult and dangerous to navigate compared to roads in other parts of the county and state.
Miriam Schoenbaum of the Transit Action Committee, a group that aims to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists in the county, said Saturday that sidewalks along the Old Georgetown corridor near where Alvarenga has been killed are “extremely uncomfortable” for pedestrians and cyclists because of how narrow they are and their proximity to the road.
Schoenbaum said that, at a minimum, bike lanes need to be created in the area where the fatal collision occurred. But elected officials and state transportation leaders must work together to make it happen, she added.
“There is reason for hope because there is growing recognition that this is a growing problem across the United States and it doesn’t have to be that way. “said Schoenbaum. “However, for things to change, there has to be the political will to say that we are actually going to do things differently this time.”
Action must be taken even if there is a backfire from conductors, she said. “Yes, it could hinder drivers… [and] people will complain, [but] we are going to do it anyway – there has to be that will to do it,” she added.
Of the. Marc Korman (D-Bethesda) said he, along with other members of the District 16 state legislative team and County Council Member Andrew Friedson — whose district covers the crash area — had scheduled an informal meeting with SHA officials prior to the fatal collision. . Korman said he or other lawmakers will mention the recent crash at the meeting, which will take place next week.
He said on Saturday that adding painted bike lanes would be a good start, but clearly some sort of physical separation for the bike lanes, such as flexible plastic poles or other measures, is likely needed to make Safer Old Georgetown Road.
Lowering the speed limit is also a possibility, but motorists will always drive at a speed that suits them, he added.
It’s possible the recent incidents in the hallway will lead to tangible change — and the deaths are mobilizing people to pressure their elected officials into action, Korman said.
“They’re clearly focusing people’s attention,” Korman said. “I’m not getting 25 emails from people regarding Old Georgetown Road when there are no fatalities…that’s what’s causing this.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at [email protected]