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Cyclists to raise safety awareness with ride across country this year

July 06, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - Two years after a sport-utility vehicle knocked him off his bicycle, Pearson Constantino is planning to pedal, with pain, across America.

He and his brother will ride about 3,500 miles, from West Coast to East Coast, to promote safe co-existence by bicycles and motor vehicles.

Constantino said the person who hit him on June 29, 2006, near his upstate New York home drove away. He spent nine days in a hospital for treatment of a broken left femur, crushed lumbar vertebra and head trauma.

Before the crash, Constantino and his brother, Peter, thought about a cross-country trek. Now, they're plunging ahead, using the ride to educate the public and raise money for bicycle safety.

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Constantino and his wife, Julia Wrona, who is filming the adventure for a documentary, were at the Oasis Hookah Lounge & Caf in Hagerstown on Saturday to talk about the project.

Wrona said her connection to Hagerstown is her father, Len, who moved here a few years ago for work.

Pearson, 29, and his brother, Peter, 36, plan to cycle from Oregon to Massachusetts; they expect the trip to take about seven weeks. They'll follow U.S. 20, which Pearson described as a scenic spine of a resilient country.

They expect to contact bicycle shops and groups during their drive west to start their ride.

Pearson Constantino, who was wearing a helmet when he was struck, said his back hurts every day and he gets headaches and vertigo, but he won't let that stop him.

He quoted Ernest Hemingway, who said, "It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best. ..."

However, the roads can be dangerous.

Constantino, a musician, said his crash was one of more than 5,400 in New York state in 2006 involving bicyclists. Forty-five bike riders were struck and killed.

Each year, about 45,000 bicyclists are struck in the United States and almost 800 are killed, Constantino said.

He's urging motorists and bike riders to learn the rules of the road and be considerate of each other.

Although some bicyclists are guilty of infractions, "when has it become a crime that's punishable by death?" he asked.

Constantino said bicycle safety and etiquette will become increasingly important as soaring gas prices make it more expensive to drive everywhere.

He praised Hagerstown for the bike lanes it has set up throughout the city.

Wrona, who has worked on other documentaries, is calling the story of her husband's turnaround "The Long Bike Back." She wants to make a feature-length film.

She said the inspirational aspect of her husband's comeback is a universal story.

"It could be about anything," she said. "It just happens to be about cycling."

Constantino and Wrona, who got married in September, have formed a nonprofit organization to accept donations for the ride and the film. Information is available at www.longbikeback.com.

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