Bicycle path named after safety advocate

November 04, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

For decades, John Overstreet has been known as "Mr. Bike Safety," passing out free helmets, compiling statistics on accidents and pedaling about 100 miles a week in Anne Arundel County.

Now, at 80 and slowed by Alzheimer's disease, the facts and figures don't come the way they used to, but he still is out on his blue tricycle every chance he gets -- always with a helmet.

Yesterday, at Saw Mill Creek Park in Glen Burnie, where over the years Overstreet biked the paths miles at a time, state and county officials unveiled signs for the new John Overstreet Connector -- a 1.5-mile path that links the Baltimore & Annapolis Trail to the BWI Trail -- to honor a man who taught the basics of bicycle safety.

At least 10,000 children have heard his message in the past three decades.

"I enjoy promoting bicycle safety. A lot of kids don't know it, and a lot of parents don't either," Overstreet said. "I would tell them if they don't wear a helmet, they might fall down and mess up their heads, and their heads are the computers that make their bodies work."

He passed out bookmarks and brochures and showed videos on bike safety throughout the state. He would tell anyone who would listen to "ride with traffic and 3 feet from parked cars."

And for 15 years, the Maryland State Police and the state Department of Transportation's highway safety division relied on Overstreet for detailed reports on bicycle accidents in Baltimore, Prince George's, Montgomery and Howard counties.

Gathering statistics would take Overstreet, a resident of Glen Burnie, about six months, he said.

His reports landed on the desk of Michael Jackson, the transportation department's director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access, who has known Overstreet for about 25 years and suggested the designation.

"John has been a shining inspiration with his level of commitment and service, and he's helped to save untold lives and prevent injuries through education," Jackson said.

David Dionne, Anne Arundel County Trails Park Superintendent agrees.

"John did such a great job. He really raised the culture of safety in Maryland," Dionne said. "It gives him some of the recognition he so richly deserves."

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