Picture a crosswalk with six lanes of traffic flashing toward it at 50 miles an hour and you will begin to see where Frank Towers was struck on his Christmas bike as he pedaled home from work Monday.
It’s a straight-away road in either direction, the cars move fast, it was dark and so were his bike and clothing. There’s no intersection, no traffic light. If he pushed a button near the curb that emits a little beep, yellow lights flashed at drivers about 100 yards away, but very few of them abide by the law and stop at the crosswalk.
Three days after Christmas, on the bike he got as a gift, Towers died at age 19.
The crosswalk where a bike and pedestrian trail crosses Veirs Mill Road in Montgomery County is considered so risky that on Tuesday a county police officer sent a report to the state that more or less said, “I told you so.”
Deaths of people on foot and on bicycles are up this year in Montgomery County and across the country. Montgomery has had 12 pedestrians killed in 2015, and three cyclists, up from nine and one last year. Two of the people killed this year were crossing Veirs Mill less than a mile from the place where Towers died….
One reason, cited in a Government Accountability Report in November, is that until recently U.S. roads have been designed for cars. Drinking and distraction by all parties — drivers, walkers and cyclists — hasn’t helped matters either.
But the crosswalk on Veirs Mill Road is a risky proposition even when none of those factors are in play.
“It’s just amazing to me how there is no respect for people’s rights in the crosswalk. I would say maybe one out of ten cars stops,” said Douglas B. Farquhar, a lawyer who bikes to work from his home near Olney.
Captain Thomas Didone, who heads the county police department’s traffic division, is blunt about it.
“People trying to cross are universally ignored by drivers,” he said. “We have done many, many crosswalk stings at that location and every time we go we write as many tickets as we can handle.”
…But the danger at Veirs Mill — and it got Towers killed Monday — is that some drivers do stop, and often others swerve around them.
Towers was peddling home from work at Dynamite Gymnastics at about 7:30 p.m. He made it safely across the first three eastbound lanes to the median strip. Then a car in the right westbound lane saw him and stopped, a car in the middle lane slowed to stop and Tower rode into the crosswalk.
A Toyota 4Runner going “full speed” in the left lane hit him broadside, Didone said….
Didone did not disguise his exasperation with the crash.
“This driver lived on Selfridge [road], which was like two blocks away, so it isn’t like some guy from Topeka, Kansas, was driving through there,” he said.
But while a decision on whether the driver should be charged is pending, Didone sent a report on the incident to the State Highway Administration (SHA) on Tuesday.
“I hate to say that someone has to die for them to wake up, but immediately I sent them a report and essentially said, ‘told you so,’ what are you going to do about it?” he said.
It’s simple: put a red light there. If you’re worried about the light stopping traffic too frequently (though cyclists and pedestrians aren’t the ones killing people), then limit how frequently the signal can turn red (e.g., a two minute waiting time between red lights). Expecting drivers to be attentive and alert at all times never works. Unfortunately, some young man had to die for anything to even be considered.
But ISIS BOOGA BOOGA. Or something.