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Revisiting River Road: Friend of cyclists killed calls for safer lanes

Published: Mar. 22, 2012 at 8:45 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 26, 2012 at 8:45 PM EDT
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Tunis was one of David's personal trainers. He invited her to ride with him and his son Trey...
Tunis was one of David's personal trainers. He invited her to ride with him and his son Trey that tragic Sunday morning.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - It's been nearly a year since a fatal crash that killed David Doolittle and his son, Trey -- but one local cyclist remembers it all too well.

Karen Tunis was almost on the same fatal bike ride as the Doolittles. Many months later, she's fighting for safer roads in the community, saying that the crash could have been prevented.

Tunis was one of David's personal trainers. He invited her to ride with him and Trey that tragic Sunday morning.

It just so happened that Tunis had already made plans.

"Me and my friend actually passed that accident, and my friend said to me, 'This is why I don't want you to ride on River Road anymore,'" said Tunis.

Tunis saw firsthand what she and other cyclists have always feared about the narrow and not-so-bicycle friendly roadway.

"River Road is known as one of the dangerous roads around, and the trails are problems, too," she said. "Every time we hop on a bike and cycle, it's at our own risk."

Other biking enthusiasts agree, saying that Wilmington has a way to go for pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

"I mean, it's scary, and I won't go on River Road because of that accident," said one cyclist. "You just hope you're going to make it through no matter what time of the day."

Cyclists say Wilmington has a way to go for pedestrian and biker safety.

While the Doolittles sadly didn't make it to their destination, Tunis finds a way to laugh and remember the man she once knew, even as the tears come down.

"I can tell you…he's looking down saying, 'Diamond lanes. Wide ones,'" said Tunis.

Now, Tunis is calling for wider bike lanes and wants the NC Department of Transportation and local leaders to follow in her tracks.

Engineers with the DOT say they've added more symbols and signs to emphasize the bike lane on River Road.

According to Senator Thom Goolsby, a speed limit change investigation for River Road was completed in May of 2011, showing that the 55-mph speed limit is accurate and in the 85th percentile.

To improve safety, that same month, a road engineer requested that alternating bicycle warning signs and bike lane signs were placed at one-mile intervals.

Now, bike warning signs now have to be posted every 1,300 feet and at each intersection and bike lane.

Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved.