Local Bicyclists Rattled by Fatal Bethesda Collision

Large group of riders held a moment of silence near the spot where Tim Holden was killed Friday


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Tim Holden, the Bethesda man who was struck and killed while riding his bicycle Friday

Via Facebook

Avid local bicyclists knew Tim Holden as an experienced rider, someone who wouldn’t have been in the path of vehicles while scaling a hilly stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Bethesda.

To many, it makes the collision that took Holden’s life there Friday morning more unsettling.

“Where he was hit at the top of a hill is when you’re climbing. You’re not going very fast and it’s pretty visible,” said Rui Ponte, a bicyclist who knew Holden through a local riding group. “It seems like an odd way for someone to hit a cyclist. It’s really pretty disturbing.”

Montgomery County police said the driver who hit Holden, 22-year-old Ricardo Freeman of Edgewater, was traveling in his Chevrolet Malibu in the same direction as Holden. Holden died on the scene shortly after paramedics were called at 6:15 a.m.

Police said Friday afternoon they were continuing their investigation and that Freeman hadn’t been charged.

Flowers and U.S. flags—Holden was a former Navy SEAL—were placed at the spot of the collision over the weekend. 

Roadside memorial for Tim Holden near the spot on Massachusetts Avenue where he was struck by a driver and killed while riding his bicycle Friday morning. Credit: Aaron Kraut

Holden, 64, lived on Carlton Road, near the site of the accident. Ponte said Holden was on his way to meet one of his daughters for coffee.

Holden grew up in Wheaton before going to the U.S. Naval Academy. He served in the Gulf War and retired from the Navy SEALs in 2001. He entered the corporate world, was working at an Alexandria tech company and was an active member of the Church of the Little Flower near his home in Bethesda.

He’s survived by his wife and five daughters. His funeral is planned for Wednesday at the Church of the Little Flower and he'll be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sugar Ray Leonard, the legendary boxer, tweeted out his condolences Friday night. According to Holden’s Facebook page, the two worked together in 2012 during a fundraiser for the Navy SEALs Foundation.

On Saturday, a group of more than 100 bicyclists held a moment of silence for Holden at the Glen Echo fire station at Massachusetts Avenue and Sangamore Road, near the site of the accident.

The location of the collision is a familiar one to most local riders. Massachusetts Avenue gradually inclines from Goldsboro Road toward Sangamore Road, which provides a way to MacArthur Boulevard, another frequently used bicyclist route.

Ponte said it’s a popular stretch on many bicyclist loops around Bethesda because it provides a challenging hill with a relatively open and straight layout.

Eben Block, part of the Bethesda Edge Cycling Club, said his group of riders often scales the Massachusetts Avenue hill during their 6:15 a.m. rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays and 7:30 a.m. rides on Saturdays and Sundays.

While there aren’t dedicated bicycle lanes, there are wide shoulder areas on each side of the two-lane road. It’s common for riders in large packs to take up the regular traffic lane on early morning rides.

Block said he knows of a bicyclist who was struck by a vehicle while on the downhill stretch of Massachusetts Avenue but that the spot where Holden was hit Friday isn’t considered particularly dangerous.

“I just don’t get it,” Block said. “It’s very odd that someone would get hit going up the hill. It’s beyond me.”

The last fatal bicyclist accident in Montgomery County happened in November 2014, when a man was hit by a vehicle near the intersection of Darnestown Road and Quince Orchard Road in North Potomac.

Ponte said that over his 25 years of riding in Bethesda, people seem to have gotten more respectful of bicyclists. But increased traffic congestion, more bicyclists and added driving distractions such as text messaging have made the situation as dangerous as ever.

“It’s so easy for a driver to take your eye off of the road for 10 seconds, or less than 10 seconds,” Ponte said. “There’s just more opportunities for drivers and cyclists to have some kind of contact.”

Block said he’s faced his share of road rage from drivers while riding locally, though he agreed that more cars and bicyclists are the main sources of any difficulties.

“Bethesda’s becoming more and more congested and people are looking for shortcuts,” Block said. “Everybody’s in a rush to go nowhere.”

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