Wind, Tears and Cold Rain Mark this Year’s Ride of Silence
Cyclists do their annual tour to remember the fallen
Twenty cyclists with this year’s “Ride of Silence” braved the rain and bluster near the corner of Howard and 6th yesterday evening to adorn Tess Rothstein’s ghost bike with flowers, as seen in the lead image. As Streetsblog’s readers are no doubt aware, Rothstein was killed in March at this spot when a motorist flung open a car door and propelled her into the wheels of a passing truck.
Today, Howard’s protected bike lane has been extended to that block–a lane that would have prevented Rothstein’s death. It was hard for the riders to celebrate a safety upgrade from a dysfunctional city that only seems to act with expediency after someone is killed–and then only for a few blocks at a time (see the last picture in this story–still nothing on Folsom).
A few minutes before arriving at that somber corner, the cyclists were gathered at the Sports Basement on Bryant. The numbers were lower than in previous years, thanks no doubt to the bad weather. But there were also new faces.
“I didn’t know Tess, but we had a mutual friend,” said Stefania Siragusa, who lives near Union Square and rides some three hours a day as part of her job. She worries that she will eventually be the next victim of San Francisco’s violent streets. “Every day I get out of the house and I’m scared it’s going to be my day…I had to be here.”
“I think this has been an especially bad year,” said Dani Arias, who was also doing her first commemorative ride with the group. “Drivers have to learn how to drive around cyclists.”
Derek Korn, originally from Hamburg Germany, has lived in Russia Hill for several years. He learned the hard way, shortly after arriving, that San Francisco’s streets are not safe. Last night was Korn’s first Ride of Silence.
“I fell at Columbus and Greenwich… had some stitches. The potholes and cracks [in the pavement] are appalling.”
That experience taught him to turn in his road bike for something with bigger tires, but he also learned that his Supervisor, Aaron Peskin, is especially disinterested in adding protected bike lanes and making the district safe.
“They recently resurfaced Columbus, but made no changes,” Korn explains. “To see one of the richest cities in the U.S. have such bad pavement and road conditions,” he said, shaking his head.
Before the riders set out, Paul Valdez, seen above, explained the route and the reason for the Ride. “Every time we ride… my thoughts are always this could have been me. Am I next? I should not have to be this way.”
Valdez then read a list of the fallen they would honor on the ride:
He explained the route and that they would conclude by leaving a ghost bike in front of City Hall, to remind leaders what’s at stake when they falter on their Vision Zero commitments because of car parking and other motoring interests. He then invited others to speak.
“It could have been me. It could have been any of us,” said Devon Warner, a long-time Ride of Silence organizer. She said she’s still appalled at conditions on the street, but feels there’s been progress. “Ten years ago, the Chronicle always asked if the cyclist was wearing a helmet,” which she likened to asking whether a rape victim was wearing tight jeans or a short skirt. “I encourage you not to be discouraged. It’s a crappy, rainy night and all of you are here… that encourages me.”
Valdez thanked the hearty bunch, decked out in cycling rain gear, for braving the cold to join the ride. “It’s just rain,” he said. “It’s still worth honoring the lost.”
And with that, the group headed out.
More pictures of the ride below:
Special thanks to the SFPD motorcycle division for stopping traffic and escorting the ride. The organizers (and Streetsblog) hope someday officers from SFPD’s bicycle division will join.