Each May, thousands of cyclists worldwide participate in the Ride of Silence to commemorate cyclists who have been killed or injured on public roads. The city of Boston has significantly added to its cycling infrastructure throughout the past several years, which has led to a noticeable increase in the number of people riding for recreation or commuting. The Ride of Silence aims to bring attention to this growing group of road users. “The idea of the Ride of Silence is to draw attention to the human toll caused by roads that are poorly designed for bicycling and by motorists who fail to drive safely around bicyclists,” said Price Armstrong, Program Director for the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (also known as MassBike), the state’s largest cycling advocacy group. Participants keep a slow pace (below 12 MPH) and follow all traffic laws to draw the attention of motorists, pedestrians, local government, and law enforcement. Although the riders remain completely silent throughout the ride, many often carry signs or banners to explain their purpose to onlookers or to honor friends or family members who have been involved in bike accidents.
Chris Phelan organized the first Ride of Silence in Dallas, Texas in 2003 after cyclist Larry Schwartz was struck and killed by a passing bus. “Cyclists have become an invisible population to motorists, authorities, courts, and city planners. It is the Ride of Silence that champions those who use a bike to get to work or as a way of exercise, enjoyment, and exploration,” said Phelan.
This year, rides are planned all across the United States and in places as far abroad as South Africa, Australia, Israel, and Malaysia. Even the researchers at Palmer Station in Antarctica participate by riding their stationary bikes in the station’s gym. Boston’s Ride of Silence will take place in the middle of Bay State Bike Week on Wednesday, May 18th, 2011*. The six-mile route begins at the Seven Hills Park behind the Davis Square subway station in Somerville, crosses through Cambridge into Boston, and ends at the Charles Street entrance to the Boston Common. MassBike advises participants to arrive by 6:45 PM, and riders will depart at 7 PM. Two other rides are scheduled in Leominster and Worcestor. Details are available at the Ride of Silence website along with resources for planning rides in other areas.
* Due to weather, the Boston Ride of Silence has been postponed until Tuesday, May 24th. Check massbike.org for the latest information.