By Patch Staff
Three people died and four more were hospitalized after being hit by cars in the last two weeks.
While the number of fatal and life-threatening crashes has not increased this year over previous years, according to Anne Arundel County Police Department spokesman Justin Mulcahy, the , some involving pedestrians and others involving cyclists, have put county residents on the alert.
Police still are looking for the woman who they believe was driving a July 14 when she hit Baltimore resident Alex Hernandez, 25, in Brooklyn Park and fled the scene. Hernandez later .
Sue Dzeidec of Edgewater has been cycling since 1987 on south county roads. She said she thinks one reason there are so many biking accidents this year is that there are more people biking.
"I think it is a combination of things,” said Dzeidec, who said she rides each weekend out of Davidsonville Park and makes a 40-mile trek to Galesville with three other riders. She said it is the responsibility of both cyclists and motorists to share the road and look out for one another.
“There are certainly drivers who are inconsiderate, but I see kids with those trucks that have the big mirrors, and they make it a game—'how close can you get.' That said, there are some really courteous drivers who will stop and let you go through. Unfortunately, there's a lot less of them," she said. "I also think that bikers in the big groups, who won't move over, and on those curvy south county roads, there aren't many places to pass, and they are going 25 to 30 miles per hour—I think that probably irritates anyone in a car and they take it out on other bikers."
It’s not only rural parts of the county that can be dangerous for cyclists.
Carma Clark said she hasn’t biked in years for fear of drivers in downtown Annapolis.
“They don’t slow down for you or even seem to know you’re there sometimes,” she said this week at an open house on the city’s master plan for biking paths and trails.
William Small, a member of the bike plan’s steering committee, said more people would use bicycles as transportation if they felt safer.
“I would love to do it more myself, but I’ve been run off the road. I don’t feel like taking my life into my own hands just to ride my bike through the city.”
To address that concern, planners are urging city officials to re-launch the Coexist Program, a campaign to increase the awareness of cyclists and educate drivers on the rules of the road.
Another Annapolis cyclist, Patrick Miller, said he generally feels safe riding his bike. But he says it is up to cyclists to make sure they are visible to drivers.
“Cars are generally courteous and give me an appropriate amount of space,” said Miller, who commutes to work daily on his bicycle. The Epping Forest resident travels to Compass Marketing in Eastport. “Still, especially in the winter months, I do my best to look like a Christmas tree, adorning my bike and body with many blinking lights and reflective gear.”
Miller’s suggestions for keeping cyclists safe are first to increase road markings, like bike lanes and sharrows (shared lane markers) to remind motorists to share the roads, especially on crowded streets that cyclists are forced to use due to a lack of alternate routes.
“We cyclists are smaller than other vehicles and must do our best to be visible,” Miller said. “I see this as a purely practical matter.”
Others say it’s the bikers—especially young ones—who need to be more careful.
“Part of it might be the fact kids now have no respect or fear,” said Chris Reed, a Severn area resident. “I drive through a certain neighborhood daily and they will just walk or ride their bikes right in front of my car and just look at you.”
Kristin and Chris Kosmides recently took their two young boys to Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis. The children were still getting comfortable with their new "big boy" bikes and the couple thought the park was the perfect place to ride—away from busy streets.
"They usually only ride in the park or in our driveway or maybe on our neighborhood streets," Kristin Kosmides said. "As drivers, we always try to be aware of cyclists on the road."
Chris Kosmides said he is a regular bicyclist and being hit by a vehicle is "something you're always concerned about."
"I've noticed drivers have become more aggressive over the years," he said.
The Towson couple said they've seen an increase of bicyclists and runners on the roads during rush hour and many not taking proper precautions.
In 2009, 630 bicyclists were killed and an additional 51,000 were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes, across the country in 2009, according to AAA. Bicyclist deaths accounted for 2 percent of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities, and made up 2 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the year.
The auto club offers safety tips for cyclists and tips for motorists to share the road.
But particularly in the summer, bicycles aren’t the only things for drivers to watch out for. More people are on foot during warm months and drivers are increasingly distracted.
“I think both parties are to blame,” said Jennifer Petrin, a teacher at Old Mill High School. “In the car, people eat, talk on the phone, text—driving is no longer their focus.”
Anyone with information on the July 14 fatal hit-and-run in Brooklyn Park is asked to contact the Anne Arundel County Police Department at 410-222-8610 or the Traffic Safety Section at 410-222-8573.