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Annual Ride of Silence returns to islands to recognize cyclists, more

By TIFFANY REPECKI / trepecki@breezenewspapers.com - | May 18, 2021

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

The 12th event for the islands, the Ride of Silence will be held on May 19 at 7 p.m. starting out at Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen. Organized by the Sanibel Bicycle Club, Billy’s Bikes and Matzaluna, the route will take participants to the bike shop and then back and forth over the Sanibel Causeway.

Hundreds of events are held worldwide on the same day in recognition of the movement.

“The number one reason the ride was created was as a commemoration to show respect for cyclists who have been killed or injured,” Tom Sharbaugh, club board member and past president, said.

The first Ride of Silence was organized by Chris Phelan in 2003 in Dallas, Texas, after cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the mirror of a passing bus and killed. The island event was founded in 2008.

Sharbaugh noted that there is local importance to the issue.

“Lee County has one of the worst records in the country in bicycle-pedestrian crashes (involving motor vehicles),” he said. “It really does impact the people in our area. The Sanibel Bicycle Club wanted to make sure we were doing our part to make that point and to join in that commemoration.”

The event also aims to raise awareness among motorists, the biking community and law enforcement.

“Bikes are vehicles and have the right to use the road and need to be shown the respect to use the road,” Sharbaugh said, adding that bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road and traffic if they use it.

“On Sanibel, we have this lovely Shared Use Path system and many bicyclists use the path,” he said. “The complexity is that there are at least two kinds of cyclists.”

Sharbaugh explained that there are the slow and casual riders and there are those who ride for exercise, distance and speed. While the SUP is perfect for families, casual riders, pedestrians and people out walking dogs, adding those bicyclists who are intent on exercise, distance and speed can be dangerous.

“So bikes are allowed to be on the road,” he said of the more appropriate traveling space for the latter.

Sharbaugh noted that the event also highlights the 3-foot law in Florida.

“It helps to reinforce the rule of passing by cyclists on the road,” he said.

Due to the pandemic, organizers canceled last year’s island ride.

“It’s our blank space in our long line,” Sharbaugh said.

Typically, approximately 30 to 40 people have participated in it.

Free and open to all, the route proceeds west from Matzaluna to Billy’s Bikes, then circles back and crosses over the two bridges of the causeway, turns around and returns back to Matzaluna.

“It’s open to anyone who wants to and is comfortable riding,” he said.

Taking about 40 to 45 minutes, the seven- to eight-mile ride is done in silence at about 12 mph.

“This is not a social ride. This is not a chat with each other while you’re riding,” Sharbaugh said. “We’re there to make a serious statement — to remind people that it’s a procession that’s in honor of people who have lost their lives.”

Afterward, Matzaluna will provide discounted offerings for participants.

Those interested in taking part should arrive by 6:45 p.m. in the restaurant’s parking lot. They will be required to wear a helmet and sign a wavier; headphones, ear buds and such will not be permitted.

Organizers will also familiarize participants with the route and go over safety measures.

“We try to remind people in that prep period of why we’re there,” he said.

Those planning to stay after the event should be conscious of the approaching nighttime.

“We would encourage everyone to have a headlight and taillight so they’re visible,” Sharbaugh said.

The club offered its thanks to Matzaluna and Billy’s Bikes for sponsoring the ride.

In 2019, there were 221 bicycle crashes in Lee County, along with four fatalities and 214 injuries, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Sharbaugh offered some tips on ways cyclists and motorists can keep the roads safe for one another.

Bicyclists should be thoughtful about where they can ride and where they can properly place themselves in terms of safety considerations, such as whether to use the SUP or road. When using a road, they should be aware of their surroundings and allow vehicles to pass when appropriate.

Cyclists on a road are considered a vehicle and need to follow the rules of vehicular traffic.

“Obeying traffic signage, speed limits and staying where you’re supposed to be in the flow of traffic,” he said.

For motorists, do not ignore bicyclists when you encounter them.

“Do not only focus on other motor vehicles,” Sharbaugh said. “Cyclists can sometimes become invisible to them if all they’re aware of is other cars.”

Respect the rights of bicyclists, and stay behind them until it is safe to pass.

“When you pass, be at a safe distance from them so that you’re not too close,” he said. “The 3-foot rule is the standard.”

Residents and visitors are encouraged to take part in this year’s island event.

“I think it’s an important opportunity to make a statement about this topic, which sometimes is misunderstood, and to create the awareness that there are multiple users on our roads and they deserve to be there, provided they’re living up to their responsibility in following the rules and regulations,” Sharbaugh said.

“It’s also an opportunity to make a statement that the safety record that we have in Southwest Florida is just not acceptable and we need to do what we can to acknowledge it and fix it,” he added.

For more information, visit https://sanibelbicycleclub.org/ or contact Allison Todd at allisonht13@gmail.com.

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




Annual Ride of Silence


May 19 at 7 p.m.; arrive by 6:45 p.m. to register


Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen, 1200 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel


Free and open to the public