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Couple wants motorists to 'Share the Road'

May 05, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. -- A Shepherdstown, W.Va.-area mother of three teenagers last week talked the Jefferson County Commissioners into endorsing an effort that she and her husband are leading to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety on the rural road that runs by their home.

Suzy Munnis and her husband, James, both 44 and both active runners and bicyclists, needed the commissioners' endorsement as a requirement by the West Virginia Division of Highways to install "Share the Road" signs along a four-mile stretch of Shepherd Grade Road from its intersection with W.Va. 480 to the National Conservation Training Center.

"Cars travel too fast on this road, and drivers are not used to seeing pedestrians or bicyclists," Suzy Munnis said.

When motorists have to pass cyclists going in the same direction and there's an oncoming car, they think they can squeeze by, she said.

"It's like close your eyes and hope you make it," she said. "They're not stupid. They're just unaware that there are riders out there."

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She said there's no room for a pedestrian or cyclist to get out of the way in some spots on Shepherd Grade Road because of narrow or nonexistent shoulders.

She wants the state to build paved bicycle and hiking paths along many country roads, including Shepherd Grade.

Her husband disagrees.

He wants warning signs and 3-foot-wide shoulders. Widening the shoulders is cheaper than building bicycle paths, he said.

"We've got to start someplace," he said. "Why not the four miles in front of my house?"

Suzy Munnis, a professional trainer, bicycles mostly with her family. She runs an average of 30 miles a week, she said.

James Munnis, a United Airlines pilot, also is a runner. He did the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon this year. He is also a fanatical bicyclist who pedals 50 to 100 miles on sunny Sundays.

When he can, he said he rides three to four times a week with a loosely organized group of cyclists from the Martinsburg, W.Va., area called the Sylvan Grove Cycling Club.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, West Virginia ranks last of the 50 states in protecting bicyclists. Washington State is ranks first.

While every state has room to improve, Washington is making the greatest strides, according to the league. The Mountain State's low bicycle usage rates, and high cyclist crash and fatality rates indicate it does not adequately meet the needs of cyclists, the league said.

According to its Web site, the league represents 57 million cyclists.

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