It was a drizzly, cold evening May 21 at the James Street Park and Ride lot in Kent.
But the inclement weather didn’t stop a band of cyclists from the task at hand: riding an 11-mile route to acknowledge the untimely deaths of their comrades.
The event was the Ride of Silence, a worldwide rolling gesture aimed at those who share the road with cyclists, walkers and runners. And it was Kent’s first foray into the event.
“The roads are ours to use, as well as automobiles and trucks,” one of the cyclists told his cohorts, before the group snapped their cleats into pedals and began their ride through downtown Kent and Auburn.
As a cyclist, I hope their ride – taken in complete silence – was acknowledged by at least some motorists.
Every day, people in the Puget Sound area put their lives on the line to do something as simple as riding a bike. For all the health benefits that cycling – or running, or walking – brings, there is a dark cloud on the horizon when we take our healthy habits to the streets.
Of course, it is a two-way street. Cyclists and other non-motorized street users need to be aware of the rules of the road. Striding into a crosswalk without looking first, cycling into traffic without so much as a hand signal – these can contribute to the ongoing dilemma of accidents with cars.
But careful as we may be, that caution is for naught when a motorist isn’t paying attention. A 2,000-pound car versus a 20-pound bike is a one-outcome equation.
I know this from experience – I once was hit broadside by a car while on my bike. My body bounced onto the moving vehicle, denting the hood, and I was knocked unconscious when I hit the pavement, in spite of wearing a helmet. The cheekbones on one side of my face, which took the brunt of my fall, were knocked into misalignment, so now there is a permanent gap between the bones.
I’m one of the lucky ones.
This month’s Ride of Silence was partly to memorialize those riders who weren’t so fortunate.
Such as Bellevue dentist and mother Gail Alef, 54, who was struck by a car in September 2005, as she was riding with her cycling club in Redmond. The driver of the car swerved across the road and hit her, then fled the scene, leaving the car on top of her. He’s serving a 20-month prison sentence for her death.
Or Seattle resident Susanne Scaringi, 27, who died in September 2006, after her bike collided with a van that turned in front of her in West Seattle, as she was riding to work. She and her husband had only just moved into a new home, and had been discussing the possibility of children.
Or 19-year-old Bryce Lewis, a recent transplant to Seattle, who was killed instantly in September 2007 when a dump truck unexpectedly turned into him in Seattle’s Eastlake neighborhood. Lewis, an artist, had moved to Seattle with a friend a few weeks earlier, planning to be a college student.
Three-dimensional lives reduced to one-dimensional statistics.
As the Puget Sound region continues to grow and more cars ply its streets, cyclists and other road users need to be more careful than ever.
And as of July 1, hopefully there will be one less distraction to worry about: cell phones will need to be hands-free.
But new laws and political gestures can’t make up for one thing:
Please share the road with us. It’s the right thing to do, and our lives depend upon it.
To learn more about the Ride of Silence, log onto www.rideofsilence.com.
Laura Pierce is editor of the Kent Reporter. You can reach her at 253-872-6677, ext. 5050, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org