‘We never get rid of that pain’: Mother shares loss in push for pedestrian, bike safety

The death of her daughter, who was killed 11 years ago while on a bicycle in Prince George’s County, Maryland, is always with Kenniss Henry — on Thursday she shared her grief to try to prevent another tragedy.

“I don’t bring my pain outside, and inflict it on other people, but it’s there,” said Henry, who was telling her story as part of the regional Street Smart Safety Campaign launch, outside a church on Maryland Route 210, in Oxon Hill. “We never, ever get rid of that pain.”

In 2010, Natasha Pettigrew was the Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate, and was training for a triathlon when she was hit by a car on Route 202, in Largo. She died two days later, at the age of 30.

“I hurt as much today as I hurt the day a police officer knocked on the door,” Henry recalled

The event was sponsored by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.

Regional police and safety officials said the goal of the Street Smart program is to identify and change unsafe behavior patterns for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

“As it gets darker early, and we turn the clocks back, visibility is obviously a critical issue,” said Chrissy Nizer, Administrator for the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration.

D.C.’s acting director of the Department of Transportation Everett Lott said driving slower goes a long way toward safety.

“A pedestrian that is struck by a vehicle at 20 mph has a 90% chance of survival — their chance of survival drops to only 10% at 40 mph,” Lott said. “That’s why the speed limit was reduced to 20 miles per hour on all residential streets in Washington, D.C.”

Jon Saunders, highway safety office director for Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, said a crash involving a pedestrian or cyclist can be devastating for those without the protection of a heavy vehicle.

“Our children find themselves in this precarious position, and most dangerous category of road user,” Saunders said. “Their lives will never be the same, holidays will never be the same — all shattered on impact.”

With a program that encourages a partnership between all who use the road, drivers were reminded to slow down, obey crosswalks and allow at least 3 feet distance while passing cyclists.

Pedestrians are asked to cross at crosswalks, look both ways, and avoid cellphone use while walking.

People on bikes, including e-bikes and electric scooters, were reminded to ride in the same direction as traffic, use bike lanes when possible, use hand signals and wear helmets.

Police will hold high-visibility enforcement events, with the hope of preventing a tragedy.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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