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Through tears, a devastated mom demands DC do more to keep cyclists safe

State Department worker Shawn O'Donnell was run over by a heavy truck while bicycling to work. She was one of three cyclists killed in D.C. this month.

WASHINGTON — A grieving mom and furious safety advocates are demanding D.C. do more to save the lives of cyclists.

Three cyclists have been run over and killed on D.C. streets in July alone.

The victims include Shawn O'Donnell, 40, a brilliant state department worker, who was crushed Wednesday morning by a truck filled with gravel that appeared to lack required safety devices.

It happened at 21st and I Street, Northwest. O'Donnell was on her way to work.

"I will tell you some other family will be suffering just like I am today," her mother, Mary O'Donnell, a retired Coast Guard admiral, said through tears on a Zoom call from her home in Danville, CA. "Probably within a month. I don't know what it takes. I don't know what it takes. I don't know what it takes for these people that make the laws, or enforce the laws. They can say, okay, the truck drivers getting fired and we're putting aside cars on every truck and we're gonna give you $10 million. And you know, I'd say I don't have my daughter. I don't want that, doesn't matter, because she's not here anymore. She's in some refrigerator in a morgue."

Video shot from an office window above the intersection tells the story. O'Donnell's bicycle lies shattered under the heavy truck. Police say she was riding on the right side of the truck when it turned right onto I Street and crushed her.

"That's what the detective said, she was in the blind spot. If you're making a turn, and there's a person there, are you going so fast that you suck that person under your truck?" Mary O'Donnell asked.

There's been no response so far from the concrete company. DC Police are still investigating, and it's unclear if the driver will be charged.

But cycling safety advocates say D.C. law mandates heavy duty trucks have side underrun guards, as well as blind spot mirrors and cameras. 

"That truck did not have that," Jeremiah Lowery of Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) alleges. "It was supposed to have that, but it did not."

O'Donnell traveled the world, worked for Google, and with refugees at the State Department and Homeland Security.

"Did she feel herself being grounded up under this truck? Was that her last moment on this earth? How does a mother live with that?" Mary O'Donnell asked.

Safety advocates will hold three ghost bike memorials this weekend for the three cyclists killed in July alone. On Friday at 7 p.m. at Rhode Island Avenue and 7th Street, NW, they'll mourn Michael Gordon, who was killed on July 15. On Saturday at 6 p.m. at Minnesota Ave. and Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave. NE, they'll remember Michael Hawkins Randall, who was killed on July 2. On Monday, at 6 p.m. at 21st and I streets, NW, they'll say a prayer for O'Donnell.

Then on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., WABA is organizing a protest at the Wilson Building demanding the city enact new laws, like a ban on right turns on red lights, which is slated for a full council vote in the fall. Organizers are also pushing police to enforce laws already on the books.

Lowery complains that pedestrian and cyclist deaths have only increased since the city promised to eliminate them under its Vision Zero plan.

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