Seattle Ride of Silence Deserves our Respect

Heading out with a small group on the 2009 Ride of Silence

Heading out with a small group on the 2009 Ride of Silence

As I mentioned, Wednesday was the 2009 Ride of Silence. Having been impressed by last year’s numbers  and the diversity of participants, I was really looking forward to paying my respects by riding with an even larger group this year.

Upon arriving at Gas Works Park, it was quickly apparent that I was a bit optimistic. In fact, riders were  so sparse, my first thought was that I missed the roll out and had showed up at a Cascade evening group ride.  Last year’s rider count was in the mid-hundreds (Wednesday’s ride leader mentioned “600” in past years), this year I counted 43 or 44 riders TOTAL.

I’m just going to come right out and say I’m really disappointed by Seattle cyclists. While other cities had growing numbers of riders, Seattle fell flat (Portland drew about 75 for their 2009 ride).

One thing I think would have made a difference in Seattle is some serious support from Cascade. The day of the ride they sent out a mass email about the Bike-to-Work challenge and a calendar of Bike Month events. The Ride of Silence was absent.

I can imagine the idea of promoting a ride that draws attention to the dangers of riding doesn’t exactly mesh with the up-beat marketing plan employed for Bike-to-Work month. I get that.

But it’s also no excuse. As the largest bike club in the nation they have a responsibility to take the lead in making sure Seattle riders are aware of and encouraged to participate in this international event.

As I mentioned, the turn out was poor across the board. I was the only cargo bike and the hipster fixie crowd was no where to be seen. Last year the Byrne-Invent race team must have brought 25 or more riders; They were by far the more biggest team in attendance, though other teams came out too.  That wasn’t the case this year.

This surprised me considering just last February the racing community lost one of their own to a car-bike crash. As it turns out, this  years  ride route was partially chosen to honor Kevin Black, making a loop through Ballard and up 24th.

I know Black had a significant memorial event following his death. I didn’t go because I didn’t know him. I wrestled with it and decided it didn’t seem appropriate. Maybe many  in the local cycling community wrestled with something similar about this event, I don’t know.

Few killed or injured riders receive support from the entire cycling community. Many are  quickly forgotten as we go about our lives on the roads. That’s what makes The Ride of Silence important. It serves to draw our attention to ALL of these riders, even if just for one evening.

Yes, Black was a bike racer. He was also  a father, neighbor, and (obvious if you read any of the moving tributes to him) a friend to many. That’s what this ride is about—remembering and respecting those friends,  mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and yes, children we or others have lost.

All of us who ride should be supporting and promoting this ride. It may hurt, but drawing attention to the fact that bad things can happen on the roads may help make us all safer. Like the riders we’ve lost, the Ride of Silence itself deserves our support, respect, and attention.

I hope next year we can do better.

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6 responses to “Seattle Ride of Silence Deserves our Respect

  1. I rode last year. I was excited by the number of people but when it got going, the whole thing felt awkward and ineffective. One or two people carried good signs but otherwise there was no way to tell what the ride was about. A woman in a car shouted out, “Are you riding for cancer or something?” and no one responded, because, well, it’s the Ride of Silence. Which is not exactly a great strategy for either commemorating our fellow cyclists or raising awareness of the public. Personally, that’s why I didn’t go this year though I think the spirit of the event is a good one.

  2. Judas I agree with you completely. If the public doesn’t understand why we are riding, then what is the point? (BTW I did the ride two years ago. )
    Tim, in the past Gary Strauss played a crucial role in getting the word out. I wonder how many people in Seattle didn’t even know the ride was taking place? I didn’t know it was happening until I read your post on the very day of the ride.

  3. Tim….

    You didn’t know Kevin, but you couldn’t have more in common…bike commuter, father of 2 (kids ride bikes to school also), UW grad student…friend of a friend…etc.

    Personally, I feel lumping Kevin with a tribute with riders who died in Dallas is…well…not so personal (I was also doing hill repeats that day).

    The community showed up for kevin’s memorial weekend and will continue to race annually in the Brad Lewis Memorial Crit, Larry Kemp Memorial Ride…and so on. We don’t forget.

    I spoke with a buddy who joined the Ride of Silence last week. He said it was moving, inspiring…but never mentioned #’s and who wasn’t there.

  4. MichaelSnyder

    One of the biggest problems is that we were a bit late in organizing it this year. The person who spearheaded the effort last year had to drop out and I know that I didn’t get the advertising out like I have in previous years.

    If you want to help for next year, join the organizing group’s new facebook group:
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=82626898433

  5. Hey Folks — Thanks for the comments and points made here.

    Marge and Judas — I totally get the “what are you riding for? Cancer?” issue. Even our small group got a few of those questions (that we couldn’t silently answer) this year.

    And Dave, my intent wasn’t to come across as preachy. I was more bummed about the lack of _everyone_ not just the racing community. I really wasn’t trying to single anyone (well, maybe Cascade, but that’s another post or two) out and meant only respect toward Kevin.

    Really, the more that I think about it, I’m not even sure why I am/was that bummed. Maybe this isn’t the event for everyone.

    And finally thanks Michael. I’ll check out the FB group.

    -Tim

  6. It’s worth noting, even with numbers still low, signs are provided for bikes and backpacks so folks see us as “Ride of Silence”, black armbands are provided too.
    The date is ALWAYS the 3rd Wednesday in May, rain or shine, ride underway by 7pm. Mark your Calendars!! May 20th, 2015 🙂
    As for Dallas, where ROS began in 2003, we ride to honor our LOCAL fallen & injured cyclists – http://seattle.rideofsilence.org/the-details
    With Cascade clearly turning/churning over new leaves, I hope they’ll be on board to at least umbrella the Ride of Silence a mention on their 2015 Bike Month roster of events / listings.

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