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Ride of Silence Will Be DIY This Year

A prayer card for a Ride of Silence participant in Richmond. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Every third Wednesday of May, in communities all over the globe, people come together to ride in silence to honor and commemorate cyclists who have been killed on the road. The Ride of Silence is solemn, sedate, and moving; there is none of the chatting, laughing, bell ringing, or music that frequently accompanies group rides.

It can be eerie to float along in a silent group of bike riders, and startling to witness this soundless procession from the sidelines, too. Some ride organizers make a point of visiting places where cyclists have been killed, sometimes placing or decorating ghost bikes, sometimes honoring the dead with a moment of silence, or a poem or prayer.

This year, all is different. Group rides are pretty much out of the question throughout California, and the groups that usually organize a Ride of Silence have been recommending that people do the ride alone, or with a small household group, to make keeping a distance easier. Some are organizing virtual rides for those who have the equipment and want to get together–the official Ride of Silence website notes that residents of Palmer Station in Antarctica have been holding a virtual ride every year, so the idea is not unprecedented.

Local organizations in California are each taking a slightly different approach. They encourage people to participate however they feel safe, and to take pictures and share them online – many groups have Facebook pages for that purpose – using the hashtag #RideofSilence2020.

The list here is by no means comprehensive, but below are some of the plans/non-plans for the Ride of Silence taking place tomorrow throughout California:

In Richmond, Rich City Rides has led a large and moving ride every year. This year, said founder Najari Smith, “While we encourage others to do social distancing rides to commemorate lives lost due to motor vehicles, poor infrastructure, and unsafe streets, Rich City Rides will not be hosting a Ride of Silence this year.”

Smith has his own plans for a solo outing. By coincidence, that day he will attend a settlement hearing with the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Department for his false arrest and detention in 2018 when he was riding in a Bike Party event. “I intend to end the day with a solo ride through to Fruitvale to pay respect to Oscar Grant,” he said, “and I’ll make a stop at Lake Merritt and do a 2.23 mile run for Ahmaud Arbery.”

“In the spirit of the Ride of Silence, visiting a sight of an unfortunate incident of someone you know or someone you know of and honoring their life and the day with a moment of silence is something I would like to see,” he added.

Najari Smith, center, leads a moment of silence at the Ride of Silence in Richmond. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
Najari Smith, center, leads a moment of silence at the Ride of Silence in Richmond. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

The Fresno Cycle Club usually holds an annual Ride of Silence “to bring awareness to the community that we all have a responsibility to share the road and treat one another with respect, regardless of our mode of transportation, in order to create a safer community for all.” This year, “we plan to still ride,” writes Melissa Rose. “We have encouraged people to ride virtually, and ride at any time of the day. And they still have the option to meet for the ride time, but with a staggered start so we are not in a big group.”

“I am riding because I can, and because I have had my own tragedy on a bicycle involving a hit-and-run,” she adds. “Others are not so fortunate, and I ride for them.”

If you are in Fresno and want to ride, “please come to raise awareness for increasing safety for bicyclists, and to remember those who are no longer able to ride. Wear red if you have been injured by a vehicle; wear black if you are honoring a friend or family member who is no longer with us.” Fresno Cycle Club has planned a route and will meet up at the Bike Shop near Woodward Park at 6:30.

Half Moon Bay would have been holding its second Ride of Silence tomorrow–after “a complete rainout” last year. But the coronavirus shelter-in-place orders mean that instead riders are encouraged to plan their own rides, starting at 7 pm. “There is no designated route this year, to avoid overcrowding,” write the organizers. “Choose a route that is meaningful to you. Ride safely, ride silently, and wear a helmet! Keep a safe distance from others, and ride silently in commemoration of those cyclists who have been killed or injured on public roads.”

Santa Cruz Ride of Silence is still “holding” its event, but “it’s not going to be a group ride, just a ride a little on your own if you want to thing,” writes Greg Braithwaite.

“The Ride of Silence is a powerful group ride to honor cyclists killed by cars and promote cycling safety,” reads the event’s Facebook page. “Due to public health restrictions, this year you are being asked to honor these friends, loved ones, and strangers by doing a short ride on your own. Please consider posting a comment, picture, etc. using the tag #santacruzrideofsilence.”

Brathwaite also provides a suggested – not required – route, which can be found here.

Bike Ventura has canceled its event. But, writes Joey Juhasz-Lukomski, “we encourage people to ride on their own, in silence, and maybe use a hashtag on social media.”

Ride of Silence Pasadena originally planned to meet up at the Rose Bowl, and encouraged people to organize feeder rides to the event. “Sadly,” writes Thomas Cassidy, this year “we are not.”

According to the group’s Facebook page, “There will be no Ride of Silence this year with the current situation. We ask that you please ride CAREFULLY AND RESPONSIBLY, post pictures and your story here for now. If you would like to ride to a ghost bike and post a picture, that would be a nice touch. Be safe, and be well!”

Bike Sonoma is also holding a “virtual” event – “in other words, go out and ride by yourself or with your household,” writes Eric Weaver.

“You may wish to wear or display a commemorative sign of some sort on your back or on your bike,” suggests the group’s website. “When we do this as a group ride, we read the names of those who have been killed in Sonoma County over the past year, and often read a poem. Feel free to post poems, memories, photos here, or on your own page with the hashtag #rideofsilence.”

Bicyclists gather before Sacramento's Ride of Silence in May 2014. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog
Bicyclists gather before Sacramento’s Ride of Silence in May 2014. Photo: Melanie Curry/Streetsblog

Sacramento‘s Ride of Silence website reads, “There won’t be a formalized, official, big Ride this year for obvious reasons.” There’s a link to a video of past rides. “I hope we will all gather together again at the Sacramento Ride of Silence 2021. To this day, each ghost bike that has gone up still moves me and touches my heart. Just keep riding…<3.”San Francisco‘s Ride of Silence has been “postponed until further notice.”

The worldwide Ride of Silence is important to its participants, many of whom are honoring loved ones who have died, and it’s also important as a reminder that bicyclists are here, sharing the road, and drivers need to be aware. Participants are requested to:
1. Ride in silence
2. Remember and honor those who’ve been hit & killed while riding or seriously injured
3. Ride slowly and a relatively short distance – this is not a race
4. Wear a helmet & obey road laws for bicyclists

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