Rides of Silence May 19 honors cyclists who have been killed or injured while riding
A parked car at age 12 has been my only bike-vehicle encounter. I've been lucky. Last year 26 area cyclists were not.
Bike fatalities more than doubled in northeastern Illinois from 2019. Daily Herald reporter Marni Pyke wrote mid-February that cyclist fatalities rose from 12 to 26 last year, quoting Erin Aleman, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning executive director.
Why the increase? Biking boomed, but in the early shutdown, as cyclists noted, nearly deserted roads meant higher vehicle speeds.
Traffic data company INRIX analyzed COVID-19 effects on traffic, confirming bikers' observations: "Vehicle miles traveled dropped, but vehicle speeds increased between April and July," significantly factoring in the increased fatality rate on our nation's roadways. (https://media.bizj.us/view/img/11938204/inrixriskiestroadsus.pdf?utm_medium=email)
May 19 Rides of Silence
On May 19, many suburban cyclists plan a Ride of Silence, in-person or virtual, to commemorate killed or injured riders. Worldwide, cyclists ride solemnly each third Wednesday in May to raise awareness, reminding everyone to share the road.
Originating in Dallas in 2003, it was intended as a one-time tribute to local cyclist Larry Schwartz, struck and killed by a bus mirror. Organized in only 10 days, that first ride drew 1,000 participants at White Rock Lake. Word spread among cyclists nationwide and globally. By 2013, 26 countries observed Rides of Silence.
The Ride of Silence website, www.rideofsilence.org/memoriam.php, notes rides occurred in 47 U.S. states, 20 countries and more than 350 locations worldwide in 2019.
In 2020, group rides shut down. This year, as of May 3, the website registered 126 rides across nine countries, 13 in Illinois.
'Tonight's ride is to make others aware'
Nine Chicago-area groups are holding rides May 19. Elmhurst Bicycle Club publicity chair Kelli Morgan reports their 12-mile ride is open to all, with helmets required for riding and masks during stops. Held since 2016, this year's event honors the passing of club members Sam Gunda, Mike Teninger and Dick Diebold.
Starved Rock Cycling Association hosts its 12-mile ride from Ottawa's Thornton Park with a 5:30 p.m. check-in. Riders must sign a waiver and observe local COVID-19 guidelines. Held since 2012, the ride, open to all, remembers association member Dr. John Clayton Harbeck and Julian Wuylens, killed by motorists within four days of each other in October 2011.
'The road is there for all to share'
Bill Chalberg, Downers Grove Bicycle Club Advocacy chair, notes the club has conducted 10-plus Rides of Silence. This year, a five-mile ride with police escort is planned, is open to the community, and in memory of cyclist Scottie Graser.
According to club president Carrie Halle, Fox Valley Bicycle and Ski Club hosts its first Ride of Silence starting 6 p.m. at the Kane County Government Center in Geneva. While open to all, registration is required on the club's website, www.fvbsc.org.
Dr. Willard Hooks Jr., Ph.D., and Ralph King, who sustained life-threatening injuries, will be honored by this 12-mile ride. Club member Paul Rudden's sister, Rosaleen Rudden Waters, will also be commemorated. In May 2013, Waters was killed while crossing Higgins Road in Cook County's Busse Woods Forest Preserve.
'To those not with us or by our side'
Friends of Cycling in Elk Grove is also remembering Waters as well as Al Hattendorf. Starting at 6:15 p.m. at the Al Hattendorf Center, the event requires masks before/after the ride and helmets while riding. Per club president Dave Simmons, this is their seventh ride.
Open to all, the 10-mile route snakes through Busse Woods to the 280-foot bridge over Higgins Road, east of the accident location. Hastened by Waters' death, it was completed in November 2013, just six months after she died.
'May God be your partner on your final ride'
Pete Schmelzer, Ride of Silence coordinator for the Arlington Heights Bicycle Club, said their 12-mile ride starts at 6:30 p.m. at Recreation Park. Unlike years past, this is a members-only ride to keep group size within COVID-19 guidelines. The club has hosted this ride since 2005.
A few Evanston Bicycle Club members joined forces with the new Skokie Bike Network on April 24 at Evanston's Wheel & Sprocket Bicycle Shop to ride and video the club's traditional 11-mile route in silence.
Virtual rides, too
Ride coordinator David Barish explained: "We are doing a virtual ride this year due to the pandemic. EBC is currently having members-only rides, with limits on the number of riders and advance signup. This does not conform to the Ride of Silence mission as an open ride for the public."
Barish added: "We plan to post the video on social media to encourage riders to follow our route. Riders can watch the video on their trainer, Peloton or whatever. The Evanston Bicycle Club has held a Ride of Silence for about a dozen years. Wheel & Sprocket has been partnering with us for nearly 10. Our ride does not commemorate any particular person, but all those killed or injured by a motor vehicle."
Pandemic guidelines have also curtailed Chicago's Ride of Silence, which is forgoing its Daley Plaza gathering. A virtual event is being planned in hopes that small groups will ride to honor the past year's victims. For information, visit www.rideofsilence.org/chicago.
Elizabeth Adamczyk started Chicago's Ride of Silence in 2005 and serves as Illinois state coordinator.
"In 2004, using my bike to commute to work in the city, I had way too many close calls with drivers who were distracted, passed me too closely, and otherwise harassed me," Adamczyk said.
"I had read about the Ride of Silence and reached out to its organizer about how to start the ride in Chicago. Since that time, the Chicago event has become linked to the 'Ghost Bike' movement -- memorial bikes placed at crash sites of fallen cyclists."
Painted white, a ghost bike memorializes the site of a fatality and reminds motorists to share the road safely.
"Should the village require bicycle racks at all new commercial buildings?" By 59% in favor to 41% opposed, Hoffman Estates voters said yes on April 6.
• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at email@example.com.