As the popular athlete and Annapolis High School track coach neared the shaded top of that hill on her bicycle Wednesday evening, she was hit from behind by a Honda van whose driver was eager to get around the lone cyclist.
Cunningham, 50, was formally pronounced dead at a hospital, but a passing doctor who rushed to try to help her said she died on Riva Road, an Anne Arundel County road southwest of Annapolis that is popular with cyclists.
Police drew a preliminary conclusion that the driver, Whitney Anne Decesaris, 37, of Huntingtown, Md., was at fault. They said that alcohol and speed were not factors. Asked whether distracted driving might have played a role, police said the investigation is continuing.
County Deputy State’s Attorney William Roessler said he will weigh charges against Decesaris after receiving a final police report in several weeks.
Cunningham, her husband, Jerry, and their children, Morgan, Ben and Avery, were well known in the county’s athletic community as running and triathlon enthusiasts.
“Right now, the Annapolis Triathlon Club and the entire cycling community is devastated by this tragedy,” club president Ron Bowman said. “This happened to family, to one of our own. No matter how diligent we are as cyclists, we will always be on the short end of any encounter with a vehicle.”
It was the second death of a cyclist in the county this summer. Thomas Heslin, a teacher at Severn School, was killed in a July 17 collision with a dump truck.
Alex Pline, a member of the Annapolis Bike Racing Team, gave voice Thursday to a common theme as news of Cunningham’s death spread through social media.
“We are not going to stop riding because it’s too dangerous, and people are not going to stop driving,” he said.
“We all need to get along. Yes, the roads are narrow. Yes, all types of vehicles have the right to use our roads. And yes, it is frustrating to have to go slowly until it is safe to pass. But frustration and impatience can lead to snap decisions that forever change multiple people’s lives.”