On Saturday, 33 days after she spoke at her mother’s funeral, Morgan Cunningham pedaled her bicycle down to a place in the road still marked with the blue paint that police use for bad accidents. Her mother was killed there, just south of Annapolis, on Aug. 21 by a driver who tried to pass her as she rode her bike up a hill on an 18-foot-wide road that has no shoulders.
“I will do anything to get my mom’s story out there and prevent this from happening again,” Morgan said.
As if to drive home that point, she spent the morning leading hundreds of cyclists — among them her father, Jerry, and sister, Avery — to erect a symbolic bicycle, painted pure white and known as a “ghost bike.”
Already, the death of Trish Cunningham, a popular youth and high school coach, avid member of her church and well-known runner, has taken on a greater meaning. It has fueled discussion on the presence of cyclists on increasingly congested highways and on the laws that govern behavior of riders and drivers. It also has launched a torrent of e-mails to a county prosecutor, urging that the driver, Whitney Anne Decesaris, 37, of Huntingtown face charges. The prosecutor is expected to make a decision within days, and he said the possibilities range from involuntary manslaughter, to violation of the state law requiring drivers to stay at least three feet from cyclists, to a traffic citation, to a determination that the driver was not at fault.
‘The driver couldn’t wait?’
The day 50-year-old Trish Cunningham died, she had finished up coaching one of the first cross-country practices of the season, one that had her more fired up than usual because her daughter, Avery, was a new freshman member of the Annapolis High team.
She hopped on her bike and headed down Riva Road, a busy boulevard that winds south from the city before turning into a less traveled two-lane road.
As she neared the crest of a hill, a driver who had come upon her from behind attempted to pass her, although there was no way of telling whether oncoming traffic was about to appear from the opposite side of the hill. Police were told that there was a car coming the other way, and that the driver swerved back to the right and slammed into Cunningham.
Jerry Cunningham started to worry that evening when darkness fell and his wife had not returned from her ride. His daughter used a cellphone app to locate her mom. She’s just down the road, she said. Jerry figured she must have had a flat tire, so he set out to fetch her. As he neared her location, he found the road barricaded by police cars with lights flashing. They stopped him from approaching the crash. After a while, four officers came out down the road to talk with him.