Memorial Planned for Pedestrian, Bicyclist Killed in Bethesda in July

Memorial Planned for Pedestrian, Bicyclist Killed in Bethesda in July

Bicycle ride, ‘ghost bike installation’ scheduled for Saturday morning

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People plan to gather this weekend for a memorial bike ride for two Montgomery County residents killed last month while walking or bicycling in Bethesda.

On July 24, Jennifer DiMauro, 31, was crossing Tuckerman Lane at Kings Riding Way when she was struck by a vehicle heading east on the two-lane road. She died at a local hospital the same day.

One week later, 17-year-old Jacob Cassell was riding his bike on the sidewalk along Old Georgetown Road. He swerved to avoid trash on the sidewalk and lost his balance, falling into the street where he was struck by a passing SUV. He died the next morning.

On Saturday morning, community members are expected to gather at the intersection of Beech Avenue and Old Georgetown Road, where Cassell was hit, and conduct a “ghost bike installation.”

The “ghost bike” will be painted white and be a memorial to Cassell and serve as a reminder of the importance of bicyclist and pedestrian safety, event organizers said.

Afterward, the group will hold a rally advocating for safer road designs at the Bethesda Trolley Trail crossing of Tuckerman Lane in memory of DiMauro.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the Action Committee for Transit are organizing the event.

“The hope is to concentrate awareness … to implement safety engineering changes so people stop dying on our streets,” said Dave Helms, a bicyclist safety advocate helping to organize the event. “I think that’s the short-term focus.”

Eight pedestrians and bicyclists have been killed in Montgomery County in 2019.

Through the first half of 2019, 272 pedestrians had been struck by vehicles on roads in Montgomery County — about 1.5 per day, according to county data. That’s a 14% increase from the year prior.

The county has implemented an effort to eliminate pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, an initiative known as Vision Zero.

Helms said a recent Montgomery County Planning Board decision to realign the Capital Crescent Trail to cross at an existing stoplight at Arlington Road shows the county has a “long way to go” to accomplish its Vision Zero goal.

After a bicyclist was killed at the crossing in 2016, county officials reduced the number of driving lanes at the crossing from four to two. The Planning Department staff said the road change reduced the number of crashes in the area. There were 12 in the two years prior to the safety modifications, then five in the two years following the changes.

Board members said the road with fewer lanes was also dangerous because it did not provide a signalized crossing for pedestrians. The ultimately opted to move the Capital Crescent Trail to cross at the existing stop light.

“You can spend a lot of energy and effort trying to make things better, but there has to be a tipping point where … behavior and prioritization of resources change to make a difference,” Helms said. “We’re nowhere near that now. It could be several years before we make a significant difference.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

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