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‘Ride of Silence’ remembers those killed or injured

By Staff | May 13, 2015

The Sanibel Bicycle Club will lead the May 20 event honoring those injured or killed in traffic. Sanibel is recognized as one of the nation’s more bike-friendly communities. Organizing the May 20 ride are Sanibel Bicycle Club members Mike Miller (left), George Sousa, Mary Miller, Patti Sousa and Neal Halleran. CRAIG GARRETT

Most ride bicycles for fun or exercise. One annual event in Sanibel pays tribute to those who lost their life or were hurt while taking part in the sport they love.

The Ride of Silence is a yearly international bicycle ride to commemorate cyclists killed or injured while riding on public roads. It helps to raise awareness among motorists of the dangers they pose to cyclists. The event in Sanibel is May 20. Riders with the Sanibel Bicycle Club, friends and interested participants will gather at the Matzaluna Italian Restaurant.

Riders are encouraged to arrive for a short educational program that will begin at 6:15 p.m. The ride will begin at 7 p.m. and cross over the first two bridges of the causeway and doing the turnaround under the main span and returning to Matzaluna. Matzaluna will provide discounted refreshments for all riders. The event is co-sponsored by the Sanibel Bicycle Club, Matzaluna and Billy’s Bikes in Sanibel.

The Sanibel Bike Club since 2008 has hosted a local Ride of Silence to honor fellow cyclists who have been killed or injured in cycling accidents and to raise awareness that everyone should share the road. The Ride of Silence is a worldwide event that takes place each year at 7 p.m. on the third Wednesday of May. Club members, friends, neighbors and the community are invited to ride in this short, silent, slow ride. Helmets are required for all riders and front and tail lights are required.

The initial Ride of Silence in 2003 in Dallas drew 1,000 cyclists in response to the riding death of friend. Many participants found the experience to be very moving. Although it was conceived as a one-time event, it has been repeated every year since then. Cyclists in cities around the globe have joined this movement. In 2013 there were 372 confirmed locations worldwide for the Ride of Silence, in 26 countries, on all seven continents, including Antarctica.

The event in Sanibel is intended to be solemn, organizers said. Riders will wear dark glasses and ride in silence, Sanibel Bicycle Club vice president Patti Sousa said.

“It’s kind of cool,” she said of the 45-minute ride to the Sanibel causeway and back.

While southwest Florida continues to rack up those injured riding or walking, Sanibel has cemented its place as a top destination for bicyclists and others using the island’s ribbon of paved footpaths. The city in 2014 was recognized with a silver award by the League of American Bicyclists. The city in 2010 was awarded a bronze designation by the association that was founded in 1880 as the League of American Wheelmen to advocate for paved roads.

The silver “Bicycle Friendly Award” recognized Sanibel’s commitment to improve conditions and investing in bicycling pathways, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies. There are some 326 US communities with the same silver status, only three others in Florida.

And islanders since the 1970s have been at the edge of creating a bike-friendly community. Leaders of the movement, in fact, staged protests to fund pathways, blocking causeway traffic, risking arrest. They would raise some $50,000 selling T-shirts and buttons, holding raffles and selling phone directories to meet the goal. A bicycle rodeo was also part of the funding campaign. The first 2.1 miles of pathway ran from Lindgren Boulevard to the Bailey’s shopping complex. One of the leaders of the movement, Mariel Goss, is the wife of the city’s first mayor. She was awarded a bicycle pendant for her efforts.

Island and county bicycling clubs have fostered and further pushed for safety campaigns and path expansion efforts. Pathways today contribute to the economic health of Sanibel, officials said. Bike pathways in season, humorously suggested, are as congested as Periwinkle vehicle traffic.