Patrick Stephenson is a copywriter at Minnesota Public Radio and the director of 30 Days of Biking. Follow him on Twitter, @patiomensch, where he tweets like 5,000 times a day.

The Ride of Silence

Posted by: Patrick Stephenson under Physical infrastructure, Transportation Updated: May 23, 2014 - 9:54 AM

 

On Wednesday night, I participated in the Twin Cities Ride of Silence, an in-motion tribute to cyclists who’ve been injured or killed while pedaling.

Organized by Ron Schwarz, whose brother Larry was killed in a hit and run in 2003, the ride was a slow roll up and down St. Paul’s Summit Avenue. Several dozen cyclists, from spandexed roadies, to jeans-wearing cruisers (like me) and hard-pedaling kids, joined in. Most wore the ride’s official T-shirt, a bright yellow number with Share the Road written in large type on the back. Led by bicycling cops, with ride marshals sprinkled throughout, we kicked off from a grassy spot by Summit Avenue’s overlook on the Mississippi River. Over the next hour, we rode toward the University Club atop Ramsey Hill and looped back around toward the river.

For safety, we rode with helmets on, in single file, in the bike lane. Mostly we biked in silence, apart from a few warnings about glass and cars ahead or behind. It was a solemn procession.

The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event, with group rides organized, on the same day across the world, in more than 200 countries. The very first ROS was actually inspired by the death of Larry Schwarz, a long-distance cyclist who was clipped by the mirror of a school bus that left the scene. The first ROS had more than a thousand participants, and the organization it birthed now aims to “raise the awareness of motorists, police and city officials that cyclists have a legal right to public roadways. The ride is also a chance to show respect for and honor the lives of those who have been killed or injured.” Ride organizers always choose high-visibility roads, like Summit Avenue at the tail end of rush hour, to emphasize this.

I was, as ever, impressed by how respectful everyone in our group was. The Twin Cities bicycling community takes events like this one — as well as 2014's previous memorial rides for Marcus Nalls and Charles Lord — very seriously. Traveling by bike is a lifestyle we’ve all chosen. We understand what it takes and know intimately the vulnerability it requires, and we want to honor our friends.

One takeaway from the ride: I truly do not enjoy bicycling on St. Paul's Summit Avenue. Despite its busy-ness as a bicycling throughfare, it's rotten for two-wheeled travel. The streets are congested at all times with traffic. The ever-unswept bike lanes are filled with rocks and glass, and are pretty much always in close proximity to doors. My own daily route, from downtown St. Paul to Minneapolis, includes Dayton and Portland Avenues, both of which parallel Summit but are highly preferable. 

Photo Credit: Camille Verzal

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