The grieving process is no where close to finished for Daniel Langenkamp. It was back in August that his wife, 42-year-old Sarah Langenkamp, was struck by a truck while riding a bike along River Road in Bethesda, Maryland.
Langenkamp said he expects around 1,300 bicyclists to meet up with him at Bethesda’s Wood Acres Elementary School Saturday morning. From there, they’ll pedal through Bethesda to Capitol Hill, riding primarily along Massachusetts Avenue.
They’ll end at the Reflecting Pool on Capitol Hill where he’ll present a list of demands to Congress by way of Maryland Congressman Jamie Raskin, who supports the measures Langenkamp is pushing. Those who can’t ride can still meet at Freedom Plaza and walk down Pennsylvania Avenue to take part.
“Congress is looking at an appropriation for the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act,” he said. “It’s a long name for a program that the Department of Transportation was given, but it wasn’t given an appropriation. It wasn’t given any money.”
He said $200 million would help local governments like Montgomery County build safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Langenkamp is also asking the Department of Transportation to mandate other safety improvements for large trucks, including more training for certain types of commercial trucking licenses.
“Sensors and automatic emergency braking for trucks should be required,” he said. “There’s no reason you should be able to drive a giant truck that can easily kill a person through the middle of the city without sensors on it. If they had those Sarah would be alive today.
Langenkamp said trucks should have underride guards “which hang down on the sides of trucks that protect drivers and cyclists and pedestrians from getting crushed under the wheel of a giant truck.”
“If this truck had had those, Sarah would also be alive,” he said.
Langenkamp lamented the fact that pedestrian fatalities in 2021 in the U.S. were the highest they’ve been in decades.
“Our industrialized peers like England and France and Canada are actually getting safer every year for pedestrians and people biking and walking,” said Langenkamp. “The United States is going the other direction.”
Three months after his wife’s death, the grief is still understandably raw and traumatic for both him and his two children.
“We’ve been trying to put our lives back together again,” Langenkamp said. “It’s not easy as a single dad. Single parents around the world know this. You’re scrambling all the time.”
It’s just as hard on his kids.
“She left a huge hole in our lives,” said Langenkamp. “She kept us organized. She was our moral compass and our guiding light and suddenly we’re kind of adrift without her, honestly.”
He’s hoping as many other bicyclists as possible will join him to brave the cold and make a statement – so “elected leaders are forced to listen to us.” But Langenkamp acknowledged all the effort going into Saturday’s event might not be enough, at least at the moment.
So far, he’s raised $300,000 for groups that promote safer streets, and his goal now is to raise even more funds and hold more events in the future to continue honoring his wife, and make the streets safer for other bicyclists.
“We’re going to have to keep working to make sure people do pay attention,” he said.