Ten days in, pretty much anyone who enjoys bicycling should already be aware that May is Bike Month.
Next week is Bike to Work Week (something we Chicagoans prefer to celebrate on a grander scale in June). This past Wednesday was Bike to School Day. Depending on what else is going on in the world, local and national media are pretty open to giving bicycles and bicyclists their due as the weather warms and more people resume riding. And we'll take all the positive PR we can get.
While each of these Bike Month events is designed to encourage more people to rediscover bicycling, there is but one event that reminds us of cycling's downside; the Ride of Silence.
The Ride of Silence pays tribute to all those cyclists who are no longer with us. Those honored are the victims of unfortunate bicycling accidents - usually at the hands of motorists. Like each of us, they were once "just riding along", enjoying everything that bicycling represented to each of them. But now they're gone...
It's very sobering to think about this. None of us want to believe that "there but by the grace of God go I." Each time we share the road, we suspend our disbelief and take it on faith that a fellow human being piloting a two-ton killing machine will recognize the sanctity of our lives and treat us with respect. We hope that a driver's distraction or impatient reaction to a momentary inconvenience doesn't end in tragedy for our loved ones.
The Ride of Silence reminds the public that cyclists are people. Vulnerable people. People deserving of their attention. People entitled to share the road. People worthy of their respect.
I have had the honor of participating in this somber event over the past two years (once in Arlington Heights, once in Crystal Lake). It is very moving to ride in a group, purposely silent, respecting the memory of those we have lost while subtly reminding our fellow citizens about the sanctity of life and our right to share the road.
The Ride of Silence is something every cyclist should experience.
Rides are held worldwide, this Wednesday, May 15th. Visit the website. Find a nearby ride. Experience it for yourself.
Keep riding and be safe.
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