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Gathering where one of their own was killed a week ago on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, more than 300 cyclists rode to the sites of three other recent bike accident deaths Saturday as a memorial to those victims and a notice to cyclists and motorists alike to share the road responsibly.
At the location of each accident, a "ghost bike" memorial -- a bicycle painted white --was placed in remembrance of those who were killed.
"We want people to be alert," said Sven Matton, one of the rally's organizers. "This is not about getting cars off the road. This is not about getting bikes off the road. People need to be educated on both sides.
The victim near the intersection of Summit and Snelling Avenue was Virginia Heuer Bower. Her ghost bike was surrounded with flowers and short messages in her memory.
Heuer Bower's mother, Marilyn Heuer of Roseville, was at the rally in honor of her daughter. "I've never visited this site [since the Sept. 27 accident]. I just couldn't. But I wanted to thank these people. It's overwhelming," said Heuer.
Jess Ford of St. Louis Park, who had worked with Heuer Bower, blinked back a tear at the memorial. "I encouraged her to ride. It was her way of exercise and a peaceful way to do it. The accident was a horrible shock," Ford said.
The long line of bikers covered 13.6 miles to also visit the accident sites of Jim Nisser, killed Sept. 11 along Excelsior Boulevard near Lake Calhoun, and Nicholas Morton who was killed on Sept. 23 on Fifth Street near Nicollet Mall. A separate 14.3-mile ride was made to Blaine where Dale Aanenson was struck and killed on Sept. 22.
"Hopefully, this sends a message to authorities about taking automobile-bike safety seriously," said Paul Smith, a Minneapolis cycling enthusiast. "Bicycling doesn't have to be dangerous. It's a safe act if everyone is paying attention."
Mattson said more and more people are starting to commute to work on bikes in the face of high gasoline prices. A recent federal survey showed that the number of Minneapolis bike commuters increased by 52 percent between 2006 and 2007, from 4,840 commuters to 7,200.
Despite the recent cycling fatalities in the Twin Cities -- an anomaly Mattson said -- research conducted in California suggests that the number of cycling collisions lags behind the rise in cycling numbers.
"A motorist is less likely to collide with a person walking and bicycling if more people walk or bicycle," researcher Peter Lyndon Jacobsen wrote in Injury Prevention magazine.
Jacobsen's calculations conclude that the 52 percent increase in bike commuters would have led to just a 17 percent increase in collisions involving bikes.
Jeremy Werst, one of the rally's organizers, told the group as they prepared to embark on their memorial tour, "This is about remembering that cyclists lost their lives in the last month and to reaffirm our commitment to the need to share the road with everybody."
Staff writer Steve Brandt contributed to this report. David Phelps • 612-673-7269