Update: 2/9/11: Kenniss Henry, mother of Natasha Pettigrew who was killed on her bicycle last Fall, has been working tirelessly to convince Maryland's state legislature to enact stricter vehicular manslaughter laws. Now, Delegate Luiz Simmons has offered a new bill, HB 363, that would help achieve this goal. The petition letter has been updated to reflect this latest development by offerring support for this bill. Kenniss Henry has also "adopted" the petition under her own name. Please continue to sign and share. Maryland's House of Delegates will hold a committee hearing on the bill on Wednesday, February 23rd.
In September 2010, 30-year-old Natasha Pettigrew—a U.S. Senate candidate for the Maryland Green Party—was on her bike training for a triathlon just before dawn, when she was struck and killed by an SUV driver who left the scene thinking she had hit a deer.
At a vigil, Pettigrew's mother, Kenniss Henry, said she intends to fight to make the roads safer to bicyclists. This week, Henry is making good on her promise. She announced that she would run her daughter's "race to the finish line" and replace Pettigrew as the Green Party's candidate for Senate, promoting her daughter's platform and advocating for safer roads.
In cities and suburbs across America, the roads are dangerous for those in and out of cars. In 2008, federal statistics show that car wrecks killed 26,791 driver and passsengers, 4,414 pedestrians, and 718 cyclists in 2008.
And if the roads are unsafe, how in the world will we get more people to get out of their car and use their bikes—for their own health and the planet's?
Honor Pettigrew's death and her mother's memorial campaign pledge and tell the state of Maryland to a) commit to building bike lanes on more roads and b) pass the Manslaughter by Motor Vehicle Act, which would implement appropriate sanctions for reckless drivers who cause fatalities in a criminally negligent manner. You can read more about it on the website of Bike Maryland.
In the words of Pettigrew: "Maryland is a large community of several million people and we can all make a difference together....When we help those within our communities we allow for stronger, more cohesive communities. As we develop stronger, more cohesive communities, we can appreciate the strengths that each of us brings to the community table. The possibilities are endless."
You can do this by committing to build more bike lanes or by supporting Delegate Simmons' bill, HB 363, which would increase penalties for reckless drivers. The roads will never be safer for cyclists if drivers only receive minimal punishment for behavior that kills people.
With a concerted effort, Maryland could honor Pettigrew—a bright young star of the state—by becoming the East Coast's Oregon or Washington. That is to say, Maryland could become a role model for a better biking state: better lanes, better signage, better driver education, and stricter penalties for reckless drivers.
Please help make this happen.