Many of the 100 cyclists who gathered before dawn Friday in the parking lot of the Bethesda Outdoor Pool never met Tim Holden, the Bethesda man who died on Aug. 28 shortly after being hit from behind by a car while riding his bicycle on Massachusetts Avenue.
But the circumstances of Holden’s death—he was an experienced cyclist riding in the road’s shoulder not far from his home—have served as a rallying cry for bicyclists unhappy about what they perceive as light penalties for drivers who hit cyclists.
Ricardo Freeman, the driver who police say swerved into the shoulder and hit Holden, was deemed at fault for the collision but escaped criminal charges when the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office determined it was an accident.
Freeman, a construction worker who was driving to a Bethesda job site from his home north of Baltimore, was tired, authorities said. He paid $690 in fines for three traffic violations, including negligent driving.
“The driver got off with paying some traffic tickets and it just seems unjust compared to what happened to Mr. Holden,” said Tom Craver, a Bethesda resident who got permission from Holden’s family to invite hundreds of bicyclists to Holden’s internment ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony. Holden retired from the Navy SEALs in 2001.
Craver and the other cyclists who gathered at the Bethesda Outdoor Pool headed south on the Capital Crescent Trail toward the Lincoln Memorial, where they waited for the procession bringing Holden from a funeral home in Washington, D.C., to Arlington.
“First and foremost, it’s about remembering Tim Holden and honoring him,” said Craver, a Bethesda resident who never met Holden but said he felt compelled to organize the event. “Second, it’s about getting more equitable consequences as a result of distracted driving. Sometimes we ride alone, like [Holden] did and we put ourselves at risk when we do that. It could’ve been one of us. It could’ve been any of us.”
Cyclists from around the region took part in the event, which Craver called “Tim Holden’s Final Ride.”
Participants wore spandex cycling suits identifying their riding groups. Before a local news station did a live shot of the bicyclists in the parking lot, Craver advised riders to ride carefully along the Capital Crescent Trail and warned them of potential pinch points once they reached Washington, D.C.
The 64-year-old Holden grew up in Wheaton and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1972. He graduated from Navy SEALs training in 1973 and eventually earned an Ocean Engineering Masters Degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He commanded an elite SEAL team during the Gulf War. After retiring from the military, Holden moved into the corporate world. His last job was with a Springfield, Virginia technology engineering company.
On the morning he was killed, he was heading to have coffee with one of his five daughters in Dupont Circle.
“To lose your life in this manner after serving our country is sad,” said George Sauter, a member of a Baltimore-based cycling team that took part in the event. “People need to drive like they’re on the bicycle and think how they would like to be treated.”
Emily Ranson, an Ellicott City resident and the advocacy coordinator for cycling safety group Bike Maryland, said word of Holden’s death spread quickly around the cycling community.
“We are vulnerable out there and we rely on everybody to be doing what they’re supposed to be doing when they’re behind the wheel or on a bike,” Ranson said. “The driver could have hit anybody. He could have hit nobody. But because he was tired, he made a mistake that had deadly repercussions.”