The Ride of Silence

Today I participated in the annual Ride of Silence. The Chicago ride, organized beautifully by my friend Elizabeth, paid special tribute to cyclists killed on the city’s roadways. The ride visited several ghost bikes along the 10 mile route. Two of the ghost bikes are new in the past year – Jepson Livingston and Liza Whitacre. I know of two other fatalities in the last year, a 12-year-old boy and 13-year-old boy in separate incidents.

Clint Miceli';s Ghost Bike on LaSalle Street

A Mother's Message on Clint's Ghost Bike

In 2008, there were 1,043 traffic fatalities in the state of Illinois. 27 of the fatalities were bicyclists, 5 in the city of Chicago.

My Ride of Silence post from last year is here. As I discussed before, I participate in the ride to support the families of the victims – the bicycling community’s support means a lot to them.

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17 thoughts on “The Ride of Silence

  1. Steven Vance says:

    Dottie, there were 5 “pedalcycle” fatalities in 2008 in Chicago, according to crash data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, which you can read on this PDF:

  2. miss sarah says:

    I’ve been reading a lot about bike fatalities for my thesis work. And not to take away from the tragic instances when cyclists are killed, but bicycling is still far safer than driving. Despite there seeming like a large number of cyclist fatalities (though it should be zero), only 3% of all head injuries are attributed to bicycling. That’s compared to 97% of head injuries sustained by operators and passengers in motor vehicles and pedestrians combined.

    So it’s important to remember and miss those who aren’t with us anymore. And it’s important to remember to ride safe. But it’s also important to remember that cycling is healthy and safe, it’s the cars that are actually dangerous.

    • Dave says:

      I have mixed feelings about the ride of silence as well – I do believe it’s critical to mourn the loss of people who have died, no matter how they died.

      I feel, however, that rides like this may have a tendency to come off to the rest of the world as something like a tribe mourning the loss of their own – which then incidentally to them says “not one of us.”

      I certainly don’t begrudge anyone these rides, I know they are important for the people whose friends and family died while riding, and I appreciate that it’s comforting for them to have people gather around them to commemorate their loss, and that’s really important.

      I do also think though, that we’re going to really have to start coming at traffic safety as more than just a bicycling issue – both for the reasons miss sarah noted (that cyclists are actually statistically some of the safest members of traffic, the vast majority of people die in cars), and also so that people who aren’t involved in cycling see that traffic as a whole is a major problem and it’s not a sort of “special interest” issue.

      Motor vehicle traffic is the leading cause of death in America for people aged about 15 and under, and for most demographics of people, that goes up to age 34 (Accidental Injury, as categorized by the CDC, with the most common Accidental Injury by far being Motor Vehicle Traffic). That’s something that EVERYONE should be outraged over.

      • E A says:

        Thank you, Dottie, for the well-written post. As the organizer of the Arlington Heights RoS stated, this ride gives us the opportunity to “celebrate the lives of the victims as they motivate us to be noticed.”

  3. Lorenza says:

    A beautiful and poised post. We have ghost bikes also here in the UK, and my heart sinks every time I see one. One death is too many! It is so important to cycle safely, never taking anything for granted, there are so many unknowns out there and it’s impossible to foresee drivers and pedestrian’s behaviour. I witness on a daily basis scary stuff, and sometime I see cyclists who take unnecessary risks and my heart skips a beat dreading for their safety.

  4. Cherilyn says:

    @miss sarah–Any good sources for the data? I tweeted on this post and your comment.

    Biking still safer than driving in U.S . Check out miss sarah’s post in the comment section.

    I’m bikeblisschick.

  5. After 20 years cycling (commuting and racing) I haven’t had an accident at all, where many fellow cyclists my age have had a few big falls in that time. I keep reminding myself of a few things: 1. that cars WILL NOT see me; 2. that safe routes add time and that time on my bike is a good thing; and 3. to not push my luck. I had a friend who took the opposite tack. That’s right, I said “had”.
    These memorial rides, that have caught on all around the world, serve to remind those of us who have been lucky thus far, to make the safest possible choices moment by moment.

    • E A says:

      Well put. Inasmuch as this Ride memorializes killed and injured cyclists, it raises awareness — that we’re still here and we have a right to share the roads. I’m a big believer in safety and avoiding unnecessary risks. Educate the drivers and the cyclists.

  6. Everett says:

    A bike advocate here in Detroit has an interesting take on the Ride of Silence.

  7. […] doping, too. A look at the return on investment for years of bike advocacy. Chicago observes the Ride of Silence, while a Detroit bike blog says the Ride of Silence comes with good intentions but sends the wrong […]

  8. jjfantastic says:

    ok that picture of message on the saddle just made me bawl like a baby.

  9. Beautiful photos of a very somber memorial. All those flowers on the ghost bike evoke the vibrancy of the lives lost.

  10. Vicki Archer says:

    What a wonderful thing to do, well done to you…Happy weekend, xv.

  11. little fish says:

    so sorry heard about that .

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