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Bicyclist Killed in Front of Seven Locks Elememtary

Recent traffic and pedestrian deaths raise questions about safety.

A Potomac bicyclist was killed when he was hit by a car at the intersection of Bradley Boulevard and Seven Locks Road Monday afternoon.

Wolfgang Jakobsberg, 71, of the 11600 block of Milbern Drive in Potomac was bicycling on the shoulder of Seven Locks Road going south when he drifted into the traffic lane and was struck by a Lexus SUV that was also traveling southbound, according to police. Jakobsberg was taken to Suburban Hospital and died from injuries sustained in the accident.

The driver of the SUV, Andre Derell Cooper of the 7800 block of Scotland Drive in Potomac, remained at the scene. He and his passenger were not injured in the accident.

Montgomery County Police received the 911 call at 1:21 p.m. Traffic backed up on Seven Locks Road as the intersection was briefly closed. The entrance to Seven Locks Elementary School was closed and buses taking children home were delayed. Many parents picking up their children had to approach on foot.

The intersection of Bradley Boulevard and Seven Locks Road has been the site of numerous accidents over the past few years. "It's a bad intersection. There are so many dangerous intersections along Bradley Boulevard," said Eugene Roesser, spokesman for Cabin John Volunteer Fire Department.

State Delegate Brian Feldman (D-15), who lives near the intersection, agreed. "The whole safety issue there at Seven Locks and Bradley has been a longstanding one," he said. "From a safety point of view not much has been done to Seven Locks in the past couple of decades."

Civic activists who have been working for safety improvements along Seven Locks Road were distraught over the fatal accident.

"I'm personally very upset about it," said Amy Gleklen, co-president of the Seven Locks Civic Association. The civic association was started specifically to lobby for sidewalks on Seven Locks Road between Bradley Boulevard and Wootton Parkway. Sidewalks are present only in small sections of that stretch. Gleklen noted that the group was successful in getting funding in the Capital Improvements Plan to put in the sidewalks, but preliminary planning won't start until July of next year.

“I feel like if we had been sooner in this fight," the accident could have been prevented, Gleklen said. "There's just no shoulder there. There's no shoulder to ride a bicycle on."

"I'm surprised they don't have [sidewalks and bike lanes] up there already, frankly, as dense as that area is," said Roesser.

Jakobsberg’s death is one in a tragic series of pedestrian and automobile accidents in the past week, including a student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and an accident on River Road in Poolesville.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, Samuel Morris, a 15-year-old student from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, was struck by a car crossing Massachusetts Avenue before dawn on his way to his school bus. The teenager died the following day.

Over the weekend, five teenagers died and four more were critically injured in three separate single-car accidents in the county.

The first accident took place Friday at around 11:30 p.m. near Spencerville. Alicia Maria Betancourt of Silver Spring, a 16-year-old student at Blake High School died, and Hersh Kapoor of Olney, the 16-year-old driver, is still hospitalized. He was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the collision, police say.

Two more fatal accidents took place in the two hours between 11 p.m. Saturday night and 1 a.m. Sunday morning.

Robert Joseph Middaugh, 17, and Michelle Timchalk, 17, both from Laurel, were killed and a 16-year-old girl was seriously injured in Burtonsville. Police said the crash was alcohol-related.

Just hours later a car that police said had been involved in a drag race went off the road and struck a tree on River Road in Poolesville. The driver, Edward Steve Monterroza, 19, of Damascus, and front seat passenger Elmer Alfredo Martinez, 18, of Gaithersburg were killed in the crash. A rear passenger who was thrown from the car was treated at Washington County Hospital and released. The other rear passenger was flown to Prince George's Hospital with serious injuries.

The events raise questions about the efficacy of traffic laws protecting pedestrians and of Maryland's graduated licensing laws, which phase in the privileges of young drivers over an 18-month provisional period, said Del. Bill Bronrott (D-16), who has worked to improve safety legislation.

Pedestrian safety, "[is] a big question" he said, "and our approach takes into account what we call the three E's: education, enforcement and engineering." The keys are more responsibility on the part of pedestrians and bicyclists as well as drivers, more visible traffic enforcement by uniformed officers and more sidewalks and bike lanes, Bronrott said.

"I will tell you its expensive, but we have no choice. ... Where the rubber meets the road is getting past the rhetoric and getting the money, brainpower and the resources," from state and local leadership, he said.

Two laws improving pedestrian safety at crosswalks and bus stops will take effect Friday, Bronrott said, and in the next legislative session he said he plans to again introduce a proposal that would restrict teens from riding with a provisional driver during the first six months a teenager has a license.

Highway crashes are number one cause of death and disabling injury among those 30 and younger, "and teenagers bear the brunt of that," Bronrott said. "But there’s something we can do about it. It's preventable."

Bronrott and several other Maryland delegates held a press conference to discuss the new pedestrian safety laws Tuesday and County Executive Doug Duncan, County School Superintendent Jerry Weast and Police Chief Thomas Manger held a conference Monday to address the weekend traffic deaths.