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Ride Of Silence Honors Chicago's Fallen Cyclists

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Event A Solemn Reminder To Share The Road, Drive Safely

On one side of the wrought iron fence, that separates Damen Ave. from one of the three baseball diamonds at Hamlin Park, young children practice fielding ground balls and running bases.

On the other side of the black fence a women's bike, painted completely white and locked to a light pole, stands as a silent tribute to the life of Liza Whitacre.

It's at this spot where 20-year old Whitacre fell underneath a truck while riding on October 21, was run over and killed.

Whitacre's bike is one of five ghost bike memorials that will be visited by several hundred fellow bike riders this evening during the Chicago Ride of Silence.

The Ride of Silence first began in Dallas, TX in 2003 to honor a local bike rider who was killed when he was hit by a school bus mirror. Since then, the event has grown to be held in all 50 states, 18 countries and 296 cities including Chicago which started their ride in 2006.

In its fifth year here in Chicago, the Ride of Silence is essentially a two-wheeled funeral procession honoring the memory of local cyclists who have been killed or injured while riding and struck by a motor vehicle.

Perhaps the only thing you'll hear will be the sound of shifting gears, the soft whiz of bicycle wheels or the muted sound of rubber tires rolling over hard asphalt when riders solemnly leave Daley Center to start their ride at 7 PM.

"It's a strong, silent statement," said bike commuter, blogger and Chicago Ride of Silence organizer Elizabeth Adamczyk of the event. "It can be an emotional experience. There's no conversation, it's silent. It's not like the loud and happy Critical Mass rides with people shouting 'Happy Friday.' We're trying to have our voice heard in the silence."

Riders will gather downtown at Daley Center Plaza at the Eternal Flame, at 6:30 PM and depart a half hour later. Cyclists will wordlessly pedal the 10 mile route taking them through the city to briefly visit the five ghost bike memorials.

Ghost bikes are completely whitewashed with paint, adorned with placards in remembrance of the person who was killed and locked to a pole or other object, act as solemn if not haunting reminders to both motorists and cyclists of the tragic results when cars and bikes collide.

"Part of the goal of the ride is to call attention to the fact that bicyclists share the road with you," explained Adamczyk. "We want the motoring public to know everybody has a right to the road. We hope to make that statement in a powerful and organized way."

From Daley Plaza, riders will ride to Clint Miceli's bike on LaSalle, followed by Blanca Ocasio and Mandy Annis' bikes at Kedzie and Armitage, where the two were killed within six months of each other a few years ago.

The third bike on the route is Jepson Livingston's, the most recently deceased cyclist being remembered. Livingston was killed this past December 15th at Diversey and Avers when two vans chasing each other at high speed collided, lost control and struck the 32 year old Livingston. The driver of the van which killed Livingston is now facing murder charges.

After a stop at Western & Logan Boulevard, where Tyler Fabeck's bike marks the accident that took his life, the ride concludes at Damen and Wellington where Whitacre's bike memorial is located.

Her ghost bike, covered with colorful plastic flowers and sometimes real flower is a cold dose of driving reality against the backdrop of clapping, cheers and the voices of children from the ball field just a few yards away.

The ride should take approximately two hours to finish, with the event expected to come to its last stop at around 9 PM when some concluding remarks will be made by Adamczyk and Whitacre's uncle, Fr. Andy Powell, an Anglican priest.

"It's not a race," Adamczyk said. "The ride will pause at each ghost bike. We want to give everyone a chance to grieve and mourn along the way."

A post ride event will take place at Lill Street Gallery, 4401 N. Ravenswood, which is directly across the street from the 1000 Ghost Bikes Monument, created by artist Kat Ramsland on Ravenswood at Montrose.

Several other Ride of Silence events will be taking place in the greater Chicagoland area including, Arlington Heights, Downers Grove, Joliet and Evanston.

Photos copyright and courtesy of bike ema's Flickr photostream.



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