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Deaths of pedestrian and cyclist raise concerns over safety on local roads

A cyclist in the city of Charlottesville and a pedestrian in Albemarle County were struck and killed by motorists less than 24 hours apart last week.

The deaths are evidence that the area’s roadways prioritize motor vehicle traffic and not human lives, according to Matthew Gillikin, who leads the Livable Cville group which advocates for better urban planning and infrastructure.

“The basic issue is that both the city and the county have, for decades, constructed roads with the primary purpose of getting cars from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible,” Matthew Gillikin told The Daily Progress on Tuesday. “Pedestrians, cyclists, people with mobility devices are an afterthought.”

On Thursday evening just before 11 p.m., a motorist struck and killed a cyclist traveling on Ivy Road near Alderman Road in Charlottesville. It was raining that night, and city police said the cyclist was wearing dark clothes with no helmet and riding a bicycle with no lights.

On Friday, Albemarle County police responded at 6:48 p.m. to a report that two pedestrians crossing Route 29 at Rio Road East had been struck by a motorist. One of the pedestrians died at the scene, police said, while the other was transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center.

No charges have been announced in either case, and in both cases, the drivers of the vehicles involved were reported to be working with the police.

Kyle Ervin, spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Daily Progress. Abbey Stumpf, spokeswoman for the Albemarle County Police Department, told The Daily Progress she was unable to provide any more details on the county incident by press time Tuesday.

Gillikin, who said he was not privy to any more information than what the police have reported in either the county or the city, said he took issue with the information the two agencies did provide – specifically the details of what the cyclist was wearing.

A statement from Livable Cville on Thursday said the Charlottesville police’s statement on the cyclist’s death essentially “blamed the victim for this tragedy.”

Regardless of what pedestrians or cyclists are wearing, they should have equal access to the shared road spaces where there are bike lanes or crosswalks, Gillikin said.

The stretch of Ivy Road where the cyclist was killed has a bike lane, but it is unprotected — meaning only a painted line separates motorists from cyclists. Though the intersection of Route 29 and Rio Road, where the motorist hit the two pedestrians, has crosswalks, Gillikin said it lacks necessary protections to keep everyone on the roadway safe. Crosswalks elsewhere in the area feature flashing lights and so-called audible walk indicators that announce when pedestrians should and should not cross.

“As long as most of that space … is used to move cars rather than having separated space and signals that are designed specifically for pedestrians and cyclists, we’re just going to keep having more of these things happen,” Gillikin said.

State and local laws do not require adults to wear helmets while riding bicycles.

Virginia law, however, does require that “every bicycle, or its rider, shall be equipped with a taillight on the rear emitting a red light plainly visible in clear weather from a distance of at least 500 feet to the rear when in use between sunset and sunrise and operating on any highway with a speed limit of 35 mph or greater.”

The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recommends cyclists “wear a helmet, wear bright colored clothing, and secure loose pant legs.”


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