County leaders are organizing a meeting with state highway officials to discuss pedestrian safety on Old Georgetown Road after a 17-year-old was killed while riding his bicycle along the highway.
Jacob Cassell, a rising junior at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, was riding his bike Wednesday afternoon on Old Georgetown Road near the road’s intersection with Beech Avenue. Police say he swerved to avoid garbage on the ground, lost control, fell from his bike into the road and was hit by an SUV. Cassell died Thursday morning.
There is no shoulder on Old Georgetown Road where the crash occurred. Bikers are forced to ride on a narrow sidewalk close to the road.
The same day as the crash, state and local elected officials began organizing a meeting with the Maryland State Highway Administration, which oversees Old Georgetown Road, to discuss flaws in the design of the stretch of road where Cassell was killed.
Del. Marc Korman, a Bethesda Democrat, posted on Twitter on Thursday that the State Highway Administration agreed to meet with him and his Democratic colleagues from legislative district 16, Sen. Susan Lee, Del. Ariana Kelly and Del. Sara Love, as well as County council members Hans Riemer, Tom Hucker and Andrew Friedson.
Korman, in an interview Monday, said details of the meeting have not yet been worked out, but he wants it to include the public in addition to lawmakers.
Korman said the State Highway Administration’s protocol is to review the police report and conduct its own evaluation. But he hopes the community can weigh in with any concerns about the site of the crash.
“It’s a tragic situation for this family. Any time there’s an incident like this, you want to see if something like this can be prevented,” he said.
Korman said it is worth examining the section of Old Georgetown Road where the crash occurred.
“The sidewalk is very close to the street, and the sidewalk being very close to the street is not how infrastructure would be built today. And so you need to look at that and see if it could be modified today,” he said.
There have been 57 pedestrian-involved crashes on Old Georgetown Road since Jan. 1, 2015, according to county data. About half involved bicyclists.
Five of those crashes occurred at the intersection where Cassell was killed.
Through the first six months of 2019, Montgomery County roads saw a 14% increase in pedestrian-involved crashes compared to the same period last year.
About 40% of the crashes in the first half of 2019 occurred on county roads and roughly 30% happened on state roads, according to county data. Another 20% occurred in areas such as driveways, parking lots or alleys and the remaining 10% of crashes were on municipal or other roads.
A memorial service for Cassell is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at the Winston Churchill High School auditorium in Potomac.
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.Schere@bethesdamagazine.com
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org