Ride of Silence



Crooked Tan Lines: July 18: Remember?

Remember your first bike ride? Do you remember the sense of freedom and independence you felt? You could go anywhere. The world was yours at last.

Do remember your first bike? Of course, you do. Do you remember your first really bad crash? Probably.
Now I’m asking you to remember those that have gone before us, who have died doing what was a legal right to do, ride a bicycle. It’s a sad fact there are very few of us who don’t know a friend, a relative, a co-worker who wasn’t killed through no fault of his own.

There are those who feel we are a futile bunch for riding a bicycle, even doing this ride. Yes, there is an opposition to what we do, what we’re doing right here right now, and what we think. There is a distinction between those who ride and “get it,” and those who don’t. Unfortunately, those who don’t have a louder voice than those of us who do “get it,” the pleasure of being self-powered down the road with the sound of an engine other than our own breathing and pedaling, traveling at a speed that allows one to take in his surroundings so much more than by a motor vehicle.

We can see things, smell things, and I dare say, feel things our motoring brethren can’t. That’s too bad because it is such a world out there to be experienced and felt and seen and smelt, from sunsets to the rain, from shadows to light, from hay fields to autumn leaves falling, from another cyclist’s back tire spinning like a roulette wheel down a hill to the beat our legs pumping up a hill.

But them out there, they don’t get it. “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from life, because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. They have lost all sensitivity.” [Eph 4:18-19]

If we are a light, there are people who want to put that light out, and thereby, forget; forget us on the road and those who have been killed, forget there is another way to live and travel. They want to reject what we do. Whatever.

Thankfully we don’t have their point of view or bully angst of oppression and opposition. We are not anti-cars, but rather firmly believe we can all co-exist just as the law allows. We know we have a legal right to use the roads. We also know motorists have a legal obligation to share their roads.

We ask that people in Dallas, in Texas, in the US, and around the world allow us our right to ride without worry of harm or death, to make it as safe from motorists as pedestrians walk ways, and at the very least, with the same legal ramifications when a motorist does hit a cyclist.

A dirty little secret cyclists are well aware of is if a motorist is sober and doesn’t leave the scene of killing a cyclist, he will never spend a day in jail or be fined. How do we know this? Because to date, no motorist has. It’s a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card for motorists.

It wasn’t until the Ride Of Silence did anyone know or realize the extent to which cyclists are being killed, not only in Dallas, but all across Texas, this country, and the world. Your world and mine. Everyday.

On April 20, the The Federal Aviation Administration reported over 200 people dying as a result of birds getting sucked up into airline engines, since 1988. Since 1988. Twenty-four years. 200 people.  Meanwhile, we’ve lost thousands (!!!!) of cyclists in only a few years from motorists running into cyclists. Our message is obviously NOT getting out there. There is obviously a gap, a disconnect, as well as a great imbalance. I’m not here to debate why, but to point out it exists.

I’m asking you to remember; to remember this privilege we have to ride, to remember why you ride and why we ride tonight; to remember those feelings of freedom and accessibility of first ride. I’m asking you to remember our legal right to be on the road that appears to be eroded away by those that have forgotten the law, motorists’ legal responsibility to share the road.

Let us be consoled that our ride is attracting attention to the deaths of cyclists that are taking place. These cyclists did not die in vain.

MICHAEL ORTIZ lost his brother on March 22, as he was riding his bike to work in San Diego. He will be organizing a Ride Of Silence in his brother’s name. He wrote me this on April 16: “Thank you for your condolences and support. Fortunately, I am not doing this alone; I have the support of friends and family to help make this event become reality. Three weeks ago, I had no ties to the bike community; I don't even own a bike. Now I find myself becoming an advocate for safer conditions for bicyclists. This event continues to grow because people have been and continue to be affected adversely by tragic bicycle accidents, whether directly or indirectly. My brother was my best friend, and now he is gone. Riding in his honor next month will let his family and friends know he still has a voice and will be remembered.”

Our tears are our only truth. Tears cried for fellow cyclists are the only absolute truth. Any one can spout moral babble and sound sincere or even intelligent. But do they care? Do they back their words with action, or inaction? Do they have tears?

Alone we are but a whisper. But, together tonight we will speak loudly through a silence that will resonate around the world.

Let us ride for Larry Schwartz and every cyclist who’s been hit. Let us come together to remember, and to feel what its like to ride a bike. Let us ride in silence.