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Ride of Silence to honor cycling victims, raises awareness

By Staff | May 9, 2018

PHOTO PROVIDED The 10th annual Ride of Silence will be held on May 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. and start out from Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen on Sanibel.

An annual event on Sanibel next week will commemorate cyclists who have been injured or killed while riding, as well as raise awareness about the importance of sharing the road.

Marking its 10th anniversary, the Ride of Silence will be held on May 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. and start out from Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen. Hosted by the Sanibel Bicycle Club, Billy’s Bike Shop and Matzaluna, the route will take cyclists to the shop and then back and forth over the Sanibel Causeway.

“The Ride of Silence is a way to memorialize those people who have been killed or injured while biking on public roads,” Mike Miller, past president of the Sanibel Bicycle Club, said. “And to remind the community and nation that it’s important to share the road between cyclists and motorists.”

He noted that the local ride supports the objectives of the national event.

“The first ride was done in Dallas in 2003,” Miller said. “We started doing it in 2008.”

PHOTO PROVIDED The Ride of Silence commemorates cyclists who have been injured or killed while riding and raises awareness about the importance of sharing the road between cyclists and motorists.

“We decided that it was a good ride to do,” he added.

In 2016, there were 223 bicycle crashes in Lee County, along with nine fatalities and 209 injuries, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle. The agency also relies on a report exchange system website, which is maintained by LexisNexis on its behalf.

Four bicycle crashes were recorded last year on Sanibel, with four so far in 2018.

“We all remember an event in 2011,” Miller said.

On May 7, 2011, Tracey Kleinpell, 46, of Fort Myers, was cycling across the causeway heading off island when a driver drifted into the bike lane along Span C, striking Kleinpell and her bicycle.

PHOTO PROVIDED Open to the community, the Ride of Silence route proceeds from Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen to Billy’s Bike Shop, then circles back to include the first two bridges of the Sanibel Causeway, before turning around and returning to Matzaluna.

“Knocked her off the bridge and killed her,” he said.

A second cyclist with Kleinpell was not injured in the accident.

Since 1956, May has been recognized as National Bike Month. The Sanibel City Council recognized and proclaimed May as National Bike Month for the city at its regular monthly meeting on May 1.

Miller noted that about a dozen cyclists took part in the local ride the first year.

“It’s grown over the years,” he said.

Miller estimated that about 50 participated last year, with approximately 70 cyclists in 2017.

Open to the community, the ride route proceeds from Matzaluna to Billy’s Bike Shop, then circles back to include the first two bridges of the causeway, before turning around and returning to Matzaluna.

“We’re going to have a Sanibel police officer with us to help in those cases where we have to cross a road,” he said.

The eight-mile ride will be done in silence and at 10 mph to 12 mph.

“We’re going to ride for about 45 minutes,” Miller said. “It’s done at a slow pace.”

Matzaluna is providing discounted food and drinks before and after the ride.

Those interested in participating should be on site by 6:45 p.m.

He explained that there will be introductions, along with a brief history of the ride and explanation of the route before taking off at 7 p.m. There will also be a equipment safety check for participants.

“Making sure everyone can participant in a safe manner,” Miller said.

Cyclists will be required to wear a helmet and sign a wavier.

“After the event, a lot of people stay at Matzaluna for something to eat,” he said, adding that they all should have taillights. “If they’re going to ride their bicycles home, they’re going to need lights.”

Miller suggested ways cyclists and motorists can make the road safer for each another.

His first tip for both groups: be cautious and alert – expect the unexpected.

“I’ve seen motorists do some dumb things, but I’ve seen cyclists do some dumb things,” Miller said.

Cyclists should wear high-visibility clothing and use taillights and headlights, even in daylight.

“It’s good to be visible as a cyclist,” he said. “So that motorists are aware that you are present.”

Motorists should provide a 3-foot clearance when passing a cyclist, as required by law.

“Be sure to comply with Florida’s 3-foot law,” Miller said.

He offered safety tips for cyclists taking advantage of Sanibel’s share use path.

“If they’re going to turn, signal in some way to let other users around them know what’s going on,” Miller said, noting that if they come to a stop, they should clear the path for the others users.

“If passing others, say passing on the left or right (out loud),” he added.

The community is encouraged to take part in the event.

“It is a relatively short ride and done at a slow pace, so it’s something that everyone can participate in,” Miller said. “And, it’s an opportunity for everyone to participate in a community statement.”

For more information about the Ride for Silence, email Mike Miller at millerlawfl@earthlink.net or any of the other organizers at salli@sanibelbike.com or mblust@prawnbroker.com.

Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen is at 1200 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.