A Sad but Hopeful Ride of Silence

With last year's "Vision Zero" stats, memorial riders have hope for a safer future

This year's ride of silence. All photo's Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted
This year's ride of silence. All photo's Streetsblog/Rudick unless noted

“She did gorgeous street art,” said Gail Schickele, remembering her friend and neighbor Diana Sullivan, who was killed in 2013 when she was run over by a cement truck while riding her bike near Third and King. Schickele reminisced about the time she walked out of her home and Sullivan had written ‘happy birthday’ to her on the sidewalk with colorful chalk. “Diana was so lovely and vivacious.”

Schickele was one of about twenty people who participated in the “Ride of Silence” yesterday evening–the annual ride to remember fallen cyclists. It was her first time on the memorial ride, which circulates around the city, stopping at locations where people were hit or killed while riding their bikes.

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Gail Schickele at the shrine for Diana Sullivan. Note this is not the location where Sullivan was killed–there are now too many sites to fit them all into one night’s ride.

Before heading out from the Sports Basement on Bryant Street where the ride begins, participants shared refreshments, talked, and looked at pictures of the fallen.

“In exactly a week from today it will be the five-year anniversary from the day my son was killed. These deaths are preventable,” said Julie Mitchell, a regular at the event. She co-founded the organization San Francisco Bay Area Families for Safe Streets. “It’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of fighting.” Mitchell is still too afraid of the conditions of San Francisco’s streets to ride a bike; she follows the ride by car.

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Devon Warner, the faithful organizer of the event, with Julie Mitchell at the Sports Basement

In 2017, the death rate for pedestrians and cyclists in San Francisco was lower than the previous year. Is that an anomaly or the results of hard-fought advocacy?

Fatalities by year. Source: Vision Zero SF
Fatalities by year. Source: Vision Zero SF

It’s too soon to say. But that fact gave the people in the room reason to be hopeful. “In 2017 there were 20 people killed on our streets, in 2016 there were 30,” said Brian Wiedenmeier of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. “Let’s make sure [that decline] becomes a pattern.” He stressed the importance of keeping up the pressure to fix the streets.

When it comes to the importance of keeping up the pressure, nobody knows it better than Antony Ryan, who has had two scrapes with death on the streets of San Francisco. In one of them, he was seriously injured when a car hit him while he was riding down Ocean Avenue, one of San Francisco’s notorious high-injury corridors. Just last month, an elderly woman was killed at exactly the same location where he was hit, yet the intersection and street still have not been upgraded. “It’s very frustrating…just the callousness of some people in the city,” he said of city managers and bureaucrats who, in his view, allow dangerous conditions to persist.

“Policy makers should be doing better…nothing less than lives are at stake,” said mayoral candidate Mark Leno, who was  at the beginning of the ride.

The ride set out on its course around 6:30.

Photo: Paul Valdez
Riders assembling behind the Sports Basement, getting ready to start the Ride of Silence. Photo: Paul Valdez

As the ride made its way around the city, examples abounded of some of the progress that’s been made–such as the newly protected bike lanes in SoMa. But there were also examples of streets that are still dangerous, without protected bike lanes, and with dangerous intersections and substandard pavement. As one rider said, only if the progress on our streets continues–only if road deaths and serious injuries become truly rare events–will it be said that those who have fallen did not die in vain.

More photos of the ride below.

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Gashaw Clark’s ghost bike. He was killed last year.
Flowers for the fallen. Photo: Paul Valdez
Flowers for the fallen. Photo: Paul Valdez
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Julie Mitchell remembers her son Dylan at the ceremony before the ride
MissionBlvd
Photo: Paul Valdez
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The stop at Market and Sansome commemorated three people killed close to this location, including Mark Heryer
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The stop at 2nd and Folsom, where Diana Sullivan and others were remembered
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In front of SF City Hall
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7th and Howard, where Kate Slattery was killed in 2016
Photo: Paul Valdez
An example of the auto-uber-alles designs that still need to be fixed…and all the work these dedicated advocates have in front of them. Photo: Paul Valdez

For a list of the fallen, see Patrick Traughber’s Medium post.

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Jeff Jones, whose partner was killed in 2015, and Devon Warner, starting the long process of prep for this year's Ride of Silence. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

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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 last night at Cafe International in the Lower Haight.
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