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.