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Maryland Works To Lower Number Of Cycling Accidents

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Hundreds of injuries and dozens of deaths. That's the tally of bicycle-car collisions during the past five years in Maryland.

Alex DeMetrick reports the state is trying to add distance to bring those numbers down.

In Dundalk, a new bike lane opened on Merritt Boulevard. For those who ride here, it's a welcome change.

"Yes, I prefer to ride in a bike lane. Sometimes I have to ride on the street but stay over on the curb," said cyclist Lex Shiffert.

It was how Trish Cunningham had to ride on a clear summer morning two years ago. Marked as a bike route in Anne Arundel County, a driver hit Cunningham.

"She died instantly. A 4,000 pound car against a 12 pound bike," said her husband, Jerry Cunningham.

During the past five years in Maryland, there have been 3,800 car-bike crashes. Thirty riders have been killed and another 3,100 have been injured.

Sometimes even first responders who ride bikes end up in their own ambulances.

"In my instance, I was able to avoid the collision but I suffered a separated shoulder that kept me out of work for three or four months," said Lonnie Ladford.

The statistics and crashes illustrated the State Highway Administration's plans to improve roads for cars and bicyclists.

"So what happens is a driver can go down. They see the lane and they know the cyclist is going to be there and not in the middle of the lane," said SHA Director of Planning Gregory Slater.

While this bike lane is Maryland's newest, the feelings of those who have lost loved ones never seem to grow old.

"If I think about Trish, it's just like yesterday. I don't know if that's ever going to go away," Cunningham said.

And bike lanes can't always prevent that loss. Just after Christmas, Tom Palermo was killed inside a bike lane on Roland Avenue. The car's driver, then-Episcopal Bishop Heather Cook was charged with drunk driving and texting while driving. Police closed down the road while hundreds rode in remembrance.

With the opening of the bike lane in Dundalk, the state now has 119 miles of bike lanes along Maryland roadways. More are planned.

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