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'Because the Driver Didn't Want to Wait 15 Seconds, My Kids Don't Have a Mother'

Local residents remember deceased cyclist Trish Cunningham, who was killed in August while riding her bike in Edgewater.

Jerry Cunningham addresses a crowd at his wife's memorial ride. Photo credit: YouTube user Mark Hamilton
Jerry Cunningham addresses a crowd at his wife's memorial ride. Photo credit: YouTube user Mark Hamilton
Nearly 300 area residents gathered at Annapolis High School last week to embark on a ride in memory of Trish Cunningham, the school's cross country coach, who was killed in August when a minivan struck her bicycle.

Trish Cunningham was struck while she was pedaling over the crest of a hill on Riva Road between Maple Creek Lane and Bear's Point Road. Police said the cause of the crash appeared to be driver error.

According to Jerry Cunningham, Trish Cunningham's husband, it would have taken his wife about 15 seconds to pedal over the crest of the hill and if the driver of the minivan waited to pass her, his wife might still be alive today. 

"Fifteen seconds is nothing," Jerry Cunningham said as he was addressing a crowd prior to last week's memorial ride. "Because the driver didn't want to wait 15 seconds, my kids don't have a mother." 

Jerry Cunningham urged riders and event attendees to be vigilant so that such tragedies could be avoided in the future. 

Alex Pline, who is a member of the Annapolis Bicycle Club, said he organized last week's ride to give people who may not have known Trish Cunningham personally the opportunity to mourn her loss.

"When you know the people personally, it’s easier to offer something," Pline said.

For those who did not know the Cunninghams, Pline said he thought the ride provided people a way to show some sympathy and solidarity with the family.

About 250 riders participated in the police-escorted memorial ride, riding from Annapolis High down Riva Road, where a white "ghost bike" marks where Trish Cunningham was hit. 

As for cycling safety in the Edgewater and Annapolis area, Pline said he does think it is possible for cars and cyclists to safely share the roads—even in rural areas or roads without a shoulder like the section of Riva Road where the accident occurred. 

"Cars have to be more careful of cyclists and cyclists have to be more careful of cars," Pline said. "That's just the way it has to be." 

Patch blogger Jim Titus, who is a board member of the Washington Area Bicycle Association, wrote a post on Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch in September, questioning whether the driver of the minivan should be charged for homicide in connection with Trish Cunningham's death. 

"Two years ago Maryland created a new crime of vehicular negligent homicide in Maryland, which allows prosecutors to seek criminal penalties when a sober-but-aggressive driver causes an accident that kills someone. Anne Arundel County prosecutors should be seriously thinking about using this statute in the case of Patricia Cunningham," Titus wrote in his post

His post spawned a letter writing campaign on the Bike Maryland website, urging individuals to contact the Annapolis state's attorney's office and encourage it to pursue homicide charges against the minivan driver.  

State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess told The Capital Gazette that she had received more than 300 letters urging such action, though she said no decision on charges against the van driver had been reached by her office. 

Jerry Cunningham's full speech in memory of his wife can be found here on YouTube. 

Nancy L. Seibel October 14, 2013 at 09:57 AM
Lets find a way to change our hurry-up-at-all costs mindset to a safety at all costs mindset. We are all responsible for our own and each other's safety. Just because our cars can go fast doesn't mean they should when it's unsafe. And let's use our tax dollars to make our roads safer for everyone. M Cunningham, surely our state can find the will and the dollars to fix a dangerous 200 yards on an otherwise safe road.
Kolo Jezdec October 14, 2013 at 11:33 AM
It is not so much a "hurry up" mindset as it is a "me first" attitude.
Jimmy Dean October 16, 2013 at 05:28 PM
Cyclist was allowed to ride on this road as per Maryland law. Stop saying cyclist shouldn't be certain places because you don't own the roads. You're entitled to be on the roads just like everyone else. Fact: Driver was inpatient, decided to cross a solid double line and attempt to pass on a blind hill therefore putting the oncoming vehicle and the cyclist at risk for injury. Result: Cyclist was killed due to the impatience and illegal activity of the driver. As stated, 15 seconds of patience would have probably changed the outcome. Tired of hearing about how cyclist should go on trails, paths and all the above. Never do we discuss the virus that has taken over our roads. The virus of disregard for the law, impatience, endangering others and self entitlement. Sorry for your loss Cunningham family. There are people who care and aren't worried about getting to the next stop sign, red light, etc. a few seconds quicker.
Donna Turner October 17, 2013 at 09:13 PM
Yes, it is legal to pedal a bicycle on a winding Road without shoulders, blind curves and hills but it is incredibly dangerous to do do. My condolences to the families and loved ones of all who have been injured or killed while riding their bicycles on these roads. Drivers need to slow down to pace with people riding bicycles and be patient until the bicyclist can get over the hill or around the bend. More roads with bike lanes are needed and more public transportation options for those living in rural areas with no other way to get to work or to shop without riding a bicycle on dangerous roads. If you have a choice between riding a bicycle on a narrow road without shoulders or riding a bicycle on a bike path or a road with shoulders please choose the safer option for the sake of your family and your loved ones.
Nancy L. Seibel October 27, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Kolo that too is a bit part of it, agreed.

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