Cycling mentor dies after fall from bike


A Carroll County bicyclist, a mentor with Cycle Across Maryland who volunteered with at-risk teen-agers, died Friday after she fell off her bike while trying to escape a dog on Pleasant Valley Road outside Westminster the day before.

Barbara E. Benjamin, 53, died of head injuries sustained when she fell. She was wearing a helmet.

She had been riding down a steep hill with her daughter near Hughes Shop Road shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday, when a dog began chasing them.

In her attempt to avoid the animal, Benjamin fell and struck her head on the pavement, police said.

She was transported by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where she died Friday of "cranial cerebral injuries," according to the state medical examiner.

The accident will probably be referred to animal control, which enforces all animal laws, for further investigation, police said. State police, volunteer firefighters and neighbors could not identify the breed of dog involved; they would only say it was a large dog.

According to Maryland law, an animal must be secured by a leash, under control of a responsible person or in the real property of its owner at all times. As soon as an unrestrained animal strays onto a public roadway, it is considered in violation. Those violations can lead to fines of up to $500 and up to a 30-day jail sentence.

News of the accident shocked officials at Cycle Across Maryland, where Benjamin had volunteered for several years, said Fran Bloksberg, events coordinator.

Many on the staff knew Benjamin and praised her efforts with teen-agers, Bloksberg said.

"These mentors are all good cyclists, who have it in their hearts to work with these kids," she said.

Benjamin, who worked as secretary to the Carroll superintendent of elementary schools, had volunteered with the cycling organization for several years.

She helped train several teen-agers for the grueling six-day Cycle Across Maryland, a 300-mile trek held every July. Youths who complete the tour are rewarded with a new bike.

"These kids work every Saturday with their mentors, until they can build up to about 50 miles a day," Bloksberg said. Training takes about four months, said Shawn Chalk, executive director of Cycle Across Maryland.

"Mentors work with the kids helping them set and reach goals, which in this case is the miles they ride," Chalk said.The organization stresses helmet use, but even a helmet "does not mean tragedy can't happen," Chalk said.

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration, 761 bicyclists were killed and 53,000 were injured in traffic crashes in 1998.

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