Montgomery Co. leader calls for safety improvements on road where teen cyclist died

A Montgomery County, Maryland, leader is calling for safety improvements along a state road in Bethesda where a young cyclist died after he was struck by a car.

At-Large Montgomery County Council member Hans Riemer said he has biked many parts of the county but, in his experience, Old Georgetown Road is among the most dangerous.

“Without hesitation, I’d say that stretch of Old Georgetown Road was the worst,” Riemer said.

Jacob Cassell, 17, was biking along that stretch of road Wednesday when he was struck by a car. Police said he fell off the sidewalk and onto the roadway. He died Thursday.

Riemer said the problem is the lack of a buffer between the sidewalk and the busy roadway.

“There’s just no margin for error,” Riemer said.

Old Georgetown Road in Montgomery County is a state-run road, so improvements will have to come from the Maryland State Highway Administration. Riemer said he wants to see his colleagues on the council and state officials sit down to discuss options for making the roadway safer.

“We have so many problem areas, honestly, in the county, all over the county, but I think that this one clearly needs to get to the top of the list,” Riemer said.

When looking for ways to modify existing roads and design new roads, he said more emphasis needs to be put on keeping pedestrians and cyclists away from roadways, even if it might slow down commutes for drivers.

Riemer pointed to Great Seneca Highway, where several feet of grass separate the sidewalks from the road, as a possible model for improvements.

“If adding 30 seconds on the trip, through Old Georgetown Road into downtown Bethesda means that people are safe and everyone can be comfortable, and we don’t have tragedies, that would be a good trade,” Riemer said.

In an email Friday afternoon, State Highway Administration spokesman Charlie Gischlar said the agency “has recently implemented a statewide program to enhance pedestrian safety in urbanized areas, and in March, lowered the speed limit on Md. 187, as well as other roads in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.”

“Currently, the Montgomery County Police Department is investigating the incident to understand all the factors involved, and MDOT SHA will conduct a comprehensive engineering review as well,” Gishlar said.

This story was originally published Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. It has been updated to include a statement from Maryland’s State Highway Administration. 

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