Monday, May 23, 2016

Ride of Silence

Last Tuesday, May 18 at 7 PM I participated in the Ride of Silence. Hundreds of cities all over the world hold these rides to remember and honor bicyclists who have survived and those who have died in car crashes. The rides begin with a reading of the names of those who have been killed in the previous year. In Philadelphia, where I live, these include a young man who just graduated college, and a young woman who was celebrating her 7th wedding anniversary. The reading of names takes about 15 minutes. Then the group group of riders, all wearing helmets, pedal their bikes in silence for an hour (about 8 miles) on a route through the city, with a ghost bike at the end, to symbolize all the riders who can’t ride with us in body.

The ride runs from 7 PM until 8 PM.  My first thought was that’s when I go home to relax.  Sure, I ride 8 miles or more in one day. But not in one ride. Such a long ride when I’m already tired seemed daunting. But I decided to try it.

The route was planned carefully. It mostly avoided hills. Police blocked traffic, so we only had to stop a few times. I had no idea how much of the energy of biking is spent stopping and starting. That 8 miles felt more like 4 miles. The pace of the ride is about 10 mph. Not tiring at all.

We attracted small crowds who had no idea why hundreds of bicyclists were hogging the road.

We were silent. They called out, “Are you all the cyclists in the city?” And “Go faster!” And, “Why are you here?” We did not answer. The ride had been announced in every paper. The ghost bike had a sign “Ride of Silence.”  If they cared, they could google us from their cell phones.

When we arrived at the ride’s end, younger riders lifted their bikes over their heads.  That was one activity I didn’t feel up for joining.

Since we were all silent, I want to take this opportunity to say that we rode through town to get people to notice bicycle riders. Not just once a year for one hour, but every day at all hours. We can only avoid accidents if people see us. Pedestrians have to look for us when they dash out into the street between parked cars.  Drivers have to watch out for bikes, especially when they are making turns. They need to be careful not to make a turn into the bike lane. And folks getting out of their cars the street side need to look in the traffic lane for bikes as well as cars, before they open their car doors.

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