Our hearts are heavy. No one should lose their life while riding a bicycle. We pride ourselves on our safe roads, friendly drivers, and culture of slow-moving vehicles on the roads of Western Rockingham County. This tragic crash left us heartbroken.
On Tuesday, April 11, Kenneth Zimmerman rode his bicycle east on Ottobine Rd, pedaling up a hill in Western Rockingham County. It was a warm spring morning when Kenneth was hit from behind and killed by the driver of an SUV. Kenneth and the vehicle’s driver traveled east on Ottobine Rd Route 257. The crash ended Kenneth’s life and hit us hard.
Vulnerable Road Users
The SUV driver was protected within a several thousand-pound vehicle, and Kenneth was on a two-wheeled bicycle with no additional protection. Everyone traveling on our roads without a car is considered a “vulnerable road user.” Such folks are especially at risk in a crash involving heavy and fast-moving automobile vehicles.
Ottobine Road is used daily by many people on bikes, horses and buggies, farm equipment, and other slow-moving vehicles. It is in a part of Rockingham County surrounded by farmland with drivers accustomed to slow-moving vehicles. Many of you have likely ridden a bicycle on this road and understand the important connection it provides.
What can we do?
First and foremost, we want to support Kenneth’s family. Kenneth left behind a wife and a small child. Please consider donating to our fundraiser for Kenneth’s family to support them during this challenging and tragic time.
What about the Road?
Our roads and infrastructure can be safer and better oriented to provide space and protection for people. Especially those folks biking, walking, and all vulnerable road users. We recognize that many of our rural roads in the Shenandoah Valley are not suitable nor require specific improvements for people biking and walking. We must take a harder look at certain corridors where we see a high amount of vulnerable road users.
257, Ottobine Road is one of these corridors. The 2016 Rockingham County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan recommends wide shoulders for this section of Ottobine Rd. The section is from Dry River Rd to Clover Hill Rd and is 4.18 miles long. The project barely misses the list of 2nd priority projects; it is the first project on the plan’s “vision” list.
Projects in the plan are scored based on various factors, from proximity and connectivity to safety and feasibility scores.
Question: Should 257 improvements be considered more important, given the volume of bicycle use on the corridor and this tragic death?
In addition, are there safety benefits in emphasizing wide shoulders on the uphill portion of this segment? Does that make the project or projects like this more feasible? We’ve reached out to VDOT to discuss this issue further and invite you to get involved with the Rockingham County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
Counties and VDOT Roads
Rockingham County (unlike cities and some towns) does not own or maintain its roads. As a result, any improvements on Rockingham County roads often hinge on a VDOT decision. The county certainly has input and the ability to help prioritize projects, but VDOT is the final decision maker and ultimately enacts any changes.
There are specific instances where the county invests resources or grant funding for specific projects. The Route 11 Sidewalk project north of Harrisonburg is a great example. In addition, the Rockingham County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan is a great starting point to help VDOT prioritize where to improve county roads.
Who to Contact?
It is ALWAYS helpful to reach out to key decision-makers and let them know you are concerned about safety on our roads and would like to see improvements for vulnerable road users like those people walking and biking.
Please send Emails to:
- VDOT (Virginia Department of Transportation) Harrisonburg Residency – Don Kamora
- Rockingham County Supervisors
We want to hear from you! What actions do you think the Bicycle Coalition should take in light of this tragic crash? Contact Us