Friday, May 23, 2014

Ride of Silence - Radford, Virginia

(this and most pictures in this post are from Laurie Buchwald)

Wednesday I participated in our local Ride of Silence, one of 300+ such rides that took place across the US on the same day, at 7 pm local time. Last year over 12,000 cyclists joined in a Ride of Silence, from all 50 states and 26 countries. The slow, silent group ride honors those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways and serves as a reminder that we all share the road.

I had not participated in this prior, but this year I was intent on being a part of it.

The ride began with remarks from local bicycle advocacy leaders and the Virginia Bicycling Federation's Vice President, Tom Bowden. We heard from a rider who had a terrible accident as a result of a known problematic and unleashed dog. We were asked to set good examples and to sometimes ride in "normal" clothes like "normal" people to further encourage good community relations!

(where's Waldo?)

We were given the rules of the ride and then we lined up behind a police car to begin. There were maybe 120 riders of all ages on all sorts of bikes!

We rode at about 7 mph, which takes quite a bit of concentration and a lot of time on the brakes.

It was indeed very quiet. And peaceful. The silence was most evident as we pedaled along the bikeway, next to the New River, and away from the noises of traffic. I thought to myself how much noise we would collectively generate had we all been in cars. I thought about our vulnerability on the roads and wondered why an area cyclist recently had been deliberately run off the road? I also wondered what kind of person would drive by a dear friend, a wrecked bicyclist, and shout uncaring things out the window when he was down. I have yet to meet a cyclist who could be so mean-spirited.

It's hard to be a mean-spirited cyclist. Cycling puts you in the moment, leaving no room to dwell on the chaos of life or toxic people. I laughed silently when I conjured up a picture I'd seen recently that said "only bicyclists know why dogs stick their heads out the car window."

Cycling is therapy, it's transportation, it's freedom, it's happiness. But sometimes it's also tragic. This ride, with the ghost bike of killed cyclist Fess Green, was both a reminder of the dangers and a celebration of the community. I'd encourage others to take part in (or start one!) a Ride of Silence in their community next year.

Safe, happy cycling this long holiday weekend and always. Be careful out there!!