Help Needed to Commemorate the Fallen
Devon Warner is a volunteer and advocate who has organized San Francisco’s “Ride of Silence,” which commemorates cyclists killed, for the past three years. She kicked off this year’s round of prep at a small meeting in the Lower Haight.
“I bought a can of white spray paint,” she said. That’s because she’s building a rideable “ghost bike” at home in preparation for this year’s ride, scheduled for Wednesday, May 17. It’s just one of a myriad of tasks Warner has to plow through to organize the annual commemorative ride. “I registered us with the [Ride of Silence] international web page, so we are now a 501c3 [nonprofit], so I can claim it as a write off.”
She was joined by Jeff Jones, another volunteer, whose life partner Charles Vinson was killed while cycling at the intersection of 14th and Folsom, in March of 2015. “I’ve got a spare pair of handlebars, if that will help,” said Jones.
In addition to putting together a ghost bike, she’s got to figure out route planning, coordinate with the police, set up the venue for a pre-ride ceremony, print flyers, and put together an updated commemorative slideshow. Every year, she ends up spending her own money. “I spent a lot of money last year, probably $200 to $250, because I always do flowers for every location.”
Last year’s ride, which was held on May 18, was meaningful and moving. But now the names of two more people have to be added to the list–Heather Miller and Kate Slattery, both killed on June 22. The events of that horrible night, coupled with the collective outrage of safe streets advocates, finally spurred Mayor Ed Lee to issue an executive order on safety. And while Streetsblog is pleased that there are now a few more safety improvements on the ground, it clearly isn’t enough. It’s also incomprehensible that the nearly fifty cycling deaths commemorated last May weren’t enough to spur fast action–does it require multiple horrors on the same day to get the city engaged in making San Francisco’s streets safer?
For Warner, it also means it’s become impossible to visit all the sites in a single ride. “There seems to be the will this year to ride out all the way to Golden Gate where Miller was killed,” she said. But for practicality’s sake, Warner thinks the best approach is to do two rides–one official ride to downtown locations, with a longer ride the following weekend to visit Golden Gate Park, Masonic, and perhaps Portola. Meanwhile, she’s hoping this year she can convince SFPD to send bicycle cops to join the rides.
An additional challenge this year: there’s a 4 p.m. Giants game planned the same day. Is that an opportunity for exposure, or a potential conflict, if the ride goes by the stadium? “There’s benefit to having thousands of people see us, but I don’t have the will to fight the rising tide of humanity–like 40,000 people letting out of the ball game.” Avoiding the stadium would also mean skipping the site where Diana Sullivan was killed in 2013. Warner and Jones seemed to agree it would be smarter to include a moment of silence for Sullivan at another location.
“I agonize over this all the time and I feel like I always come up short,” she said of all the logistical decisions.
Devon is also frustrated that, on the last ride at least, not one elected official came. “I think Jeremy Pollock showed up from John Avalos’s office, but that was it.”
For Warner, who has also been hit while riding her bike on San Francisco’s streets, the work she does preparing the ride is taking its toll. “I can’t do this myself,” she said.
Meanwhile, cycling advocate and Streetsblog reader Patrick Traughber maintains this list of those killed while riding.
If you want to help with this year’s Ride of Silence, contact Warner. Her email is “crabulux” and that’s at Yahoo.com.