Thursday, May 20, 2010

Guest Post: Sharing the Ride of Silence

Guest blogger: Jeanna Hofmeister

Photo: gNate

Everyday, cyclists are killed by drunk, aggressive and just plain inattentive drivers. They are too often texting, talking on their cell phones and in a hurry. It’s happening all across America, and it’s happened too many times here in my hometown of Spokane. Somewhere along the way, we Americans neglected to develop a “share the road” society, where all modes of transport are equal. Sure, we’ve passed laws… but the laws don’t seem like they’ve changed our behaviors much. This is not a rant, just an observation about reality. A reality I’d like to change.

Last night, I pedaled with 100 common-minded strangers through the streets of downtown Spokane on the first annual “Ride of Silence.” We gathered at the ghost bike… a monument of sorts to keep fresh in people’s minds the fatal crash between a bicycle and vehicle. (It’s not hard to imagine which one died in this tangle.) Not long or fast, the scant two-mile ride was an effort to make visible the fact that bike riders share the same roads, must abide by the same laws and have the same rights and responsibilities as the drivers of motorized vehicles.

At first, I was disappointed, seeing so few riders show up for such an important event. Then Spokane’s most avid bike activist, Barb Chamberlain, read this poem. Suddenly, 100 riders seemed pretty awesome.

The Ride of Silence...
Tonight we number many but ride as one
In honor of those not with us, friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, sons
With helmets on tight and heads down low,
We ride in silence, cautious and slow
The wheels start spinning in the lead pack
But tonight we ride and no one attacks
The dark sunglasses cover our tears
Remembering those we held so dear
Tonight's ride is to make others aware
The road is there for all to share
To those not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride
- Mike Murgas

Wordlessly, we set out and for the next 20 minutes, rode through downtown… a silent peloton of flashing tail lights and hand signals and riders deep in thought. I know. You’re probably thinking “Really? How could a 20 minute bike ride have some major impact on you?” All I can say is that it did. I had a lump in my throat the whole ride, glancing frequently at my favorite riding partner/husband who had driven 92 miles to take the silent ride with me. And I wondered what I would do if he, or our daughters or our grandkids were killed while riding their bikes. The thought shatters me. Enough so that by next year’s 2nd annual Ride of Silence, I will make sure that most, if not all of my family is there to ride with me, even the littlest ones. And, I will do everything in my power to see that maybe a thousand or two thousand or more riders will show up and prove that we can all share the road.

We owe it to those who haven’t survived trying. And to those of us who have.

1 comment:

spokane86 said...

Great post, Jeanna. Very touching.