This week we lost a dear friend. Jeremy Pope was killed while riding his bike near BWI. He was rear ended by a person driving a car. He often biked that route home from the light rail station, coming from work or spending time with friends in Baltimore. He was a fixture in a group of friends I am lucky to be a part of. His loss is felt by many. Our hearts go out to his family and friends who now have to carry on without him.
It’s never easy to be a bike advocate when someone loses their life in a preventable crash. It’s hard to find the right words. Each time someone dies, we are asked to reflect on what specific changes can be made to prevent another family from experiencing this tragedy. In Bikemore’s short history, we’ve written about this numerous times: for Aaron Laciny, for Ralph Roane and Marcus Arvin, and for Tom Palermo. Maybe it’s because I just saw Jeremy last Friday at Bike Party, maybe it’s because of the proximity to Aaron’s death, but this one feels particularly tough to write.
People drive too fast, too distracted, and are killing each other’s loved ones. I think by now it’s clear we need a dramatic change in our culture, and that change needs to be pushed forward by our civic leaders.
Every time I have to beg and grovel for a little bit of decency or consideration for people who bike on the roadway, it seeps into the subconscious of the collective that we don’t belong there.
Every time civic leaders weigh equally the safety of vulnerable road users against shaving a few minutes off someone’s commute or the convenience of getting to park right in front of one’s house, they are emboldening disregard for the lives of people who ride bikes. They make our deaths appear inevitable, of our own making.
I’m living this right now—in the midst of planning one memorial bike ride for Aaron Laciny and attending one for Jeremy tonight—I’m still being told by some residents in Canton how unreasonable I am for asking for protected bike lanes to be designed at federally-guided minimum width.
I met Jeremy Pope at my first Bike Party. I had just moved to Baltimore. In what was already a chaotic ride home through the park, Jed and I happened upon a crash, and were quickly called away to another crash on the other side of the park. When we got there, I saw bikes underneath a car, and all three back wheels on the bikes were bent. Jeremy was one of the people that was hit. Miraculously, nobody was badly hurt. I remember talking to Jeremy specifically, calming him down, encouraging him to stay level-headed while the responding officers treated the whole ordeal with the kind of disdain I’ve now come to expect. We worked with police to ensure all three had a safe ride home with their bent up bicycles. The next few days I connected the driver and the cyclists to make sure folks were working together to get bikes fixed and medical costs taken care of.
Jeremy was always generous with his gratitude after that. To me, he represented my first Baltimore bike advocacy success story. I was a source of calm and support during an intense and stressful situation for him. He repaid me tenfold over the next two years in hugs, smiles, and encouragement. It’s not often in advocacy you get a concrete win, so kind words from folks like Jeremy are what fuel me to keep going in the face of adversity.
Jeremy was on a path of self-discovery that is enviable. He constantly sought out ways to be more generous and bring others more joy. He was beginning his career in the bike industry—a career move that isn’t easy and comes with risks. He biked across the country raising money for cancer research last summer. He gave his friendship wholeheartedly to so many.