Annual ride draws new faces, repeat cyclists to honor those injured, killed
Following safety checks and an introduction, an estimated 40 bicyclists headed out of Matzaluna’s parking lot on May 16, riding quietly and in single file, for the 10th annual Ride of Silence.
Hosted by the Sanibel Bicycle Club, Billy’s Bike Shop and Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen, the event commemorates cyclists who have been injured or killed while riding, as well as raises awareness about the importance of sharing the road. A ride recognized nationwide, the island had held one since 2008.
“It’s important because every year there are more people that are injured in bicycle-car related accidents,” Mary Miller, past president of the Sanibel Bicycle Club, said. “This is to honor those folks who survive and, especially, those who do not.”
Salli Kirkland, owner of Billy’s Bike Shop, agreed.
“The most important thing it does is it creates awareness,” she said.
Kirkland noted that cyclists and motorists can share the road safely.
“It’s very important for drivers to understand we deserve a piece of the road, too,” she said.
Open to the community, the route travels 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. Done in silence at 10 mph to 12 mph, the eight-mile ride takes participants about 45 minutes to complete.
Miller said participation was about the same as last year.
“We were fortunate it didn’t open up and pour,” she said of the weather.
Miller reported that there were no issues during the event.
“It was a great ride,” she said. “It was a very smooth ride.”
Ed Ford, of Fort Myers, explained that it was his first time taking part in the Sanibel event, but for a number of years he took part in the ride organized in Charleston, West Virginia. A cyclist for 40 years, Ford said he chooses to participate for solidarity with other riders and to honor the solemn occasion.
“It’s kind of a tribute to them,” he said of those hurt and killed in accidents.
Ford noted that it also demonstrates that cyclists can be good citizens and share the road.
“I think it’s important to get together as responsible riders,” he said.
Seasonal Sanibel resident Katy Carnahan was also riding for the first time.
“I thought it was a good cause, so I’d join in,” she said.
“I think it’s a great way to honor those who were out riding,” Carnahan added of the cyclists injured and killed while on the roads. “It’s a very kind thing to do.”
She also felt that the event raised awareness for safety and riding etiquette.
“I ride every day,” Carnahan said.
Before the ride’s start, the official “The Ride of Silence …” poem was read aloud by Mark Blust, vice president of marketing and operations for The Prawnbroker Restaurant Group, which owns Matzaluna.
“It’s read at the start of the ride every year,” he said.
The annual event is close to his heart.
“I am a road cyclist – I was hit by a car five years ago,” Blust said, explaining that it was an early morning ride and the driver fled the scene. “I never saw him. My helmet was cracked in three places.”
Four years ago, he and his wife took part in the Fort Myers ride for the first time. Afterward, they discussed how great it would be to have one on Sanibel, which lead them to learning about it.
“I just wanted to jump in and get involved in it,” Blust said of the island event.
Unfortunately, not all stories end with someone walking away.
On May 7, 2011, Tracey Kleinpell, 46, of Fort Myers, was cycling across the causeway when a driver drifted into the bike lane along Span C, striking her. Kleinpell was knocked off the bridge and died.
Jerry and Laura Antenucci, also first-time riders this year, recalled the incident.
“We felt compelled to go to it because we were here the week that that accident occurred a few years ago,” he said. “I’d actually ridden the causeway on my bike a few days before.”
“We felt it was something to do once we read about it in your paper,” he added.
Antenucci was pleased that he and his wife participated.
“That was a really good ride, it was really nice,” he said.
Miller thanked everyone involved, including Billy’s Bike Shop for providing reflective vests for cyclists and Matzaluna for offering up discounted food and drinks before and after the ride.
“Both of the sponsors did a wonderful job, along with the Sanibel Police Department that provided folks to get us across Periwinkle (Way),” she said. “It helps to have someone there in authority making sure the traffic does, in fact, stop.”