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Cyclist killed in West Carson Street collision was riding for his health

| Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016, 9:27 a.m.
Matthew Carrick, 29, of Sharpsburg, prepares to go out on a bike ride in protest of preventable traffic deaths and in support of safer streets in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The cyclists attended the Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting at Carnegie Mellon University and followed with the ride.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Matthew Carrick, 29, of Sharpsburg, prepares to go out on a bike ride in protest of preventable traffic deaths and in support of safer streets in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The cyclists attended the Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting at Carnegie Mellon University and followed with the ride.
Dennis Flanagan, of McKees Rocks, was killed Tuesday, Aug. 30 in an accident on West Carson Street in Pittsburgh.
Dennis Flanagan, of McKees Rocks, was killed Tuesday, Aug. 30 in an accident on West Carson Street in Pittsburgh.
Advocacy Director of BikePGH Eric “Erok” Boerer of Lawrenceville, speaks at the beginning of a bike ride in protest of preventable traffic deaths and in support of safer streets in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The cyclists attended the Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting at Carnegie Mellon University and followed with the ride.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Advocacy Director of BikePGH Eric “Erok” Boerer of Lawrenceville, speaks at the beginning of a bike ride in protest of preventable traffic deaths and in support of safer streets in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The cyclists attended the Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting at Carnegie Mellon University and followed with the ride.
Carnegie Mellon University project manager Mike Kelley, 48, of Beaver, listens during the Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The two-part project, which is slated to start in fall of 2017, is to include pedestrian-crossing enhancements at Forbes Ave. intersections, a repaving of part of Forbes, new lane configurations and possible bike lanes.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Carnegie Mellon University project manager Mike Kelley, 48, of Beaver, listens during the Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The two-part project, which is slated to start in fall of 2017, is to include pedestrian-crossing enhancements at Forbes Ave. intersections, a repaving of part of Forbes, new lane configurations and possible bike lanes.
A full room raises their hands to ask questions as PennDOT officials present plans for road improvements in Oakland at the Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The two-part project, which is slated to start in fall of 2017, is to include pedestrian-crossing enhancements at Forbes Ave. intersections, a repaving of part of Forbes, new lane configurations and possible bike lanes.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
A full room raises their hands to ask questions as PennDOT officials present plans for road improvements in Oakland at the Forbes Avenue Corridor Safety Improvement Project Public Meeting at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The two-part project, which is slated to start in fall of 2017, is to include pedestrian-crossing enhancements at Forbes Ave. intersections, a repaving of part of Forbes, new lane configurations and possible bike lanes.

Dennis Flanagan rode for his health and his daughter.

He tried to bike 10 miles every day after a high blood pressure diagnosis convinced him to take better care of himself. He wanted to be sure he'd see his daughter graduate high school.

“He had a heart the size of Texas,” his sister Amy Lourenco, 40, of North Planfield, N.J., said. “He loved his family, and he adored his daughter.”

Flanagan, 49, of McKees Rocks died Tuesday following an accident with an SUV on West Carson Street during what was his final bike ride.

His daughter Corra Flanagan is 16.

The crash happened about 3 p.m. on West Carson at the West Busway, closing the roadway for more than two hours. Paramedics rushed Flanagan to the hospital in critical condition; he died shortly before 6 p.m., officials said. The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office ruled Wednesday he died from blunt and crushed injuries to the head, chest and extremities and that his death was an accident.

The crash rekindled concerns about biking safety in Pittsburgh. Advocacy group BikePGH on Wednesday held a bicycle ride, which organizers described as a “protest of preventable traffic deaths and in support of safer streets.”

The ride started after a PennDOT public meeting about upcoming pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements to Forbes Avenue in Oakland. State officials discussed roughly $10 million in improvements from the Birmingham Bridge through Carnegie Mellon University's campus.

The work, scheduled to be bid out in November 2017 with construction beginning in 2018, includes repaving, upgrading traffic signals and installing bike lanes in several areas.

The project will be funded primarily with state and federal funds, PennDOT officials said. CMU will contribute money, too.

A few pedestrians and bicyclists at the meeting applauded the plans. Others said they didn't go far enough to ensure safety and called for more, including measures to better control motor vehicle speed and further distinguish proposed bike lanes from motor vehicle lanes.

PennDOT District 11 Executive Director Dan Cessna said improving bicycle and pedestrian safety in Pittsburgh is difficult, but PennDOT works with the city and the Port Authority of Allegheny County to be as adaptable as possible.

“I've had many times when I bike and a car comes and nearly brushes my knee,” said Rich Keitel, 55, a BikePGH member, who bikes from Squirrel Hill to his job Downtown every day. “It was just such a tragedy what happened on West Carson Street yesterday.”

Family members believe Flanagan was returning home from the South Side docks when the crash occurred. Lourenco said he loved being at the docks and loved the water.

“He decided he needed to take better care of himself,” she said. “He decided this was one of the ways he was going to get healthy.”

The driver of the SUV involved in the accident remained on the scene after the crash, Emily Schaffer, a Public Safety spokeswoman, said Wednesday.

BikePGH will sponsor a ride in memory of Flanagan at 7 p.m. Sept. 6. It will start at South 27th Street and Tunnel Boulevard and conclude at the South Side Works Healthy Ride Station.

Flanagan's family is accepting donations in lieu of flowers through a page at youcaring.com.

Michael Walton is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5627 or mwalton@tribweb.com.

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