Yesterday evening, I had the great honor to take part in my first Greater Lansing Ride of Silence. One of more than 350 such events being held in all 50 states and 21 countries on May 15th, the Ride of Silence was initiated in 2003 by cycling advocates in Dallas, Texas after a local bicyclist was struck and killed by the side mirror of a passing bus. Since then the event has grown steadily in geographic reach and poignancy.
Here in Greater Lansing, the 2013 Ride of Silence took on even greater significance as a local cyclist was struck and killed by a hit and run driver Monday night, right in front of Sparrow Hospital. This tragic event clearly highlighted the dangers that both commuting and recreational bicyclists face each and every day. While it cast a pall over the celebratory events of Bike to Work Week, it did have the positive side effect of drawing much greater media coverage of the local Ride of Silence, as two television stations and two area newspapers covered the event, some participating in the ride and others providing live news feeds.
I would like to say that the efforts of the four of us who served on the organizing committee led to the impressive 70% increase in participation over 2012 (170 versus 103), but the notoriety from Monday’s tragedy probably had more to do with the terrific numbers than anything. Spectacular spring weather also helped draw more riders.
This year’s ride began at Wells Hall on the Michigan State University Campus and proceeded silently westward for 4.5 miles through parts of campus and then along Michigan Avenue from East Lansing to Lansing and the Michigan State Capitol. Aside from the powerful visual image of 170 brightly dressed bicyclists pedaling two abreast in formation, the ride took on a greater meaning as many riders displayed the peace sign while passing the scene of Monday’s tragedy and as a bouquet of flowers was laid at the street corner where the cyclist passed away. Rarely does one have the opportunity to participate in such a moving experience.
The Ride of Silence means exactly what it implies – all cyclists ride in silence to solemnly honor those killed or injured in accidents with motor vehicles. Throughout the entire ride, all that could be heard was the shifting of gears and the hum of tires rolling over the pavement. Otherwise, we were all left to reflect and remember…and that is exactly the way it should be.