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News Maryland Anne Arundel County Annapolis

After six injuries in three days, police and bike advocates urge safety on Arundel roads

Todd Green never expected to be the public face of bicycle safety. He's not even a huge cycling fan.

But as he and girlfriend Katie Pohler took a bike ride down the Baltimore-Annapolis Trail on Saturday, they became the fifth and sixth cyclists injured in a three-day span in Anne Arundel County in accidents between cars and bikes.

Pohler, a 23-year-old college student, remains at Maryland Shock Trauma Center, while Green, sporting scrapes on his forehead and legs, traveled to Annapolis on Monday to join police at a news conference urging both drivers and bicyclists to pay attention and follow the rules of the road

"Motorists and bicyclists have rights and responsibilities," said Anne Arundel Police Chief Kevin Davis, wearing the shorts and polo shirt uniform worn by the county's bike patrol.

With two full months of summer left, Davis said he's concerned additional serious crashes will occur unless cyclists and drivers reform their habits.

"We're only one-third of the way through the summer of 2014, and we've got to finish a lot stronger than we started," he said.

Anne Arundel County has had numerous crashes involving bicycles this year, including four other crashes Thursday, Friday and Saturday that resulted in minor injuries. In each of those four, cyclists were found at fault, ranging from a 43-year-old man in dark clothes riding late at night in Glen Burnie to a 13-year-old boy in North Beach who rode out into traffic.

But in the accident involving Green, police say a driver who had been drinking crashed into the couple. Green, a 27-year-old mechanical engineer, said the last thing he remembers was following the signs, which point the way as the trail runs along Route 450.

"Then everything just kind of went black," he said. He awoke to find himself on the ground with bystanders covering him with a blanket and asking for a phone number to call his parents.

The driver who police say struck Green and Pohler has not yet been charged, and the crash remains under investigation. Police say the 54-year-old driver had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit.

Twice already this year, crashes in Anne Arundel resulted in life-threatening injuries to bicyclists. In addition to Saturday's crash, police still are investigating an unsolved hit-and-run from February that landed two women in the hospital when they were struck while riding on Central Avenue in Davidsonville.

The recent crashes and a pair of fatal bicycle crashes last year have gotten the attention of bike advocates. Jon Korin, founder of the Bicycle Advocates for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, said the concern "is palpable on social media."

Last July, Severn School teacher Thomas Patrick Heslin Jr. was riding in Severna Park when he failed to yield to a dump truck that struck and killed him. The next month, Annapolis High School cross country coach Patricia Cunningham was struck and killed while riding a bike on Riva Road near Annapolis. The driver who struck Cunningham goes to trial on traffic charges in late July.

The deaths of Heslin and Cunningham were among seven bicycle-related road deaths in Maryland last year, according to the Motor Vehicle Administration. The recent average is six per year.

Korin said bike riders and drivers need to be aware of the rules of the road and follow them. Cyclists, for example, need to ride with the flow of traffic and signal their turns. Drivers need to remember the 3-foot law — cars should pass a cyclist only if the driver can safely navigate with a 3-foot distance from the bike.

Davis said officers also have focused this year on distracted driving, which can contribute to such crashes.

Bicycles have been part of a safety campaign in Ocean City, where cyclists, walkers and drivers are encouraged to take extra care along Coastal Highway.

In June, Baltimore County launched a "Heads Up! Walk Safe" campaign urging all pedestrians — as well as cyclists — to be more alert to their surroundings and follow traffic laws. The campaign comes after 22 pedestrians were killed after being hit by cars in that county in 2013, a five-year high.

In Carroll County, state troopers, Westminster police and county sheriff's deputies are launching a pedestrian education campaign focused along the Route 140 corridor following two recent fatalities.

Statewide, 110 pedestrians were killed by cars in 2013, according to statistics from the Motor Vehicle Administration. That number was up from a previous three-year average of 99 fatalities.

Baltimore Sun reporter Nayana Davis contributed to this article.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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