I wrote the following article for Cal State-LA’s student paper and wanted to share it with a larger audience.
Ride of Silence Remembers Cyclists Killed or Injured by Motor Vehicles
One common misconception of bicycle riding is that it is a dangerous way to spend your time and by simply being on a bicycle, in traffic, you are risking your life. Fortunately this is not the case and simple steps exist to significantly reduce our risk of injury or death while bicycling. California, and most other states, give bicyclists the right to be on the street, taking a full lane when necessary, and with this right comes our responsibility to ride with traffic as vehicles. This means that bicycles do not belong on the sidewalk nor are they regulated to recreational trails or paths. The majority of bicycle and automobile collisions occur when bicycle riders are traveling on a sidewalk or against traffic. Unfortunately many automobile drivers do not recognize cyclists as having a legitimate right to be in the road and they create an environment that can be unfavorable or dangerous to cyclists. Like being a pedestrian or living in a major city, bicycling does carry some risk and every year we hear about the tragedies.
The Ride of Silence was created in Texas because of one such tragedy. A local rider was struck and killed by an automobile and on the one-year anniversary a close friend held a memorial ride with one condition: Everyone would ride in silence. One thousand cyclists participated. This delivered a powerful message that his death will not be forgotten and that future fatalities can be prevented. The ride is now an international event that takes place during Bike Week in May.
In Los Angeles, this will be the third year we have taken part. Last year, in an unfortunate coincidence, a close friend of the organizers was struck by an automobile in Hollywood just days before the ride. Morgan Beeby, a UCLA biochemistry doctoral student, had ridden Aids Life Cycle in 2004 and in 2005 raced the Furnace Creek 508, a 508-mile non-stop race through Death Valley. He was still recuperating in the hospital at the time of the ride. Fortunately he is fully recovered, back on his bicycle and finishing up his PhD.
Los Angeles, in my opinion, is one of the safer cities to ride in and tragic accidents are few and far between. What is problematic though, is a police and court system that is unfamiliar with the rights of cyclists. Often police take car-centric views on collisions and assume the cyclist is at fault. Accident reports are not readily available and in some cases drivers have been released without sharing their insurance information with an injured cyclist.
The Ride of Silence this year, while remembering local cyclists who were injured or killed, will also focus on education related to the rights of cyclists to be in the road and the rights we have when involved in a collision. Whether you drive, ride or walk, safer streets are our responsibility. We invite you to join our ride this year, starting at Hollywood Blvd. & Western Ave. at 630pm on May 16th. There are many other rides being coordinated simultaneously throughout southern California. Please see www.rideofsilence.org for locations. Also, for more a more in-depth analysis of the risks of bicycling, see www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/health/risks.htm.