Ride of Silence: Good intentions, wrong message

Just a reminder that all posts on this bike advocacy web site belong to those of m-bike.org. ?They do not necessarily represent the views of other bike advocacy groups such as the LMB or MTGA.

Last year we noted that events like the Ride of Silence do not encourage more people to ride bicycles. Rides modeled after funeral processions aren’t going to get more people riding. It reinforces the perception that bicycling is dangerous.

And discouraging cycling makes it less safe for everyone — studies show there’s safety in numbers.

It’s clear to see just how discouraging this event is when you compare it side to side with another event: the Race for the Cure. Their message is absolutely positive, which explains their explosive growth through the years. The first Detroit race was in 1992. In 1998 they had over 21,000 participants. ?Over 30,000 are expected for their race this Saturday at Comerica Park.

The Race for the Cure color? Pink.

The Ride of Silence color? Black.

And this year cyclists can honor those killed by motorists by riding not riding on the road. One can ride on the velodrome in Rochester Hills, but presumably not at the prescribed 12 MPH.

If you truly want to improve local cycling conditions in Michigan, call your state representative and ask them to support House Bills 6152 and 6153. There’s more information on these at www.michigancompletestreets.org.

Don’t be silent.

17 Responses to “Ride of Silence: Good intentions, wrong message”

  1. Jim@goingFitness Says:

    I’d really encourage your readers to participate in this. People are killed be crazy automobile drivers every year. I’ve been close a few times myself. Road safety awareness for bicyclists is super important and I thank you for write about this! Don’t forget, 7pm, ride silent! 12MPH!

  2. Streetsblog.net » Seeking the Next Interstate System, This Time Without Asphalt Says:

    […] Beyond DC discusses why growth doesn’t cause congestion — reliance on cars does. And M-Bike.org says the the Ride of Silence sends the wrong image about […]

  3. Seriously, say it ain’t so, Floyd « BikingInLA Says:

    […] Ride of Silence, while a Detroit bike blog says the Ride of Silence comes with good intentions but sends the wrong message. A Maryland cyclist gets doored, and police ticket him in the hospital in violation of local laws. […]

  4. J.Steve Says:

    If you’ll take your attention to the RoS website for a moment, you’ll find that encouraging cycling is not why a Ride of Silence happened in 2003, nor why it is a movement today. The expressly declared intentions for Ride of Silence are: (1) To HONOR those who have been injured or killed, (2) To RAISE AWARENESS that we are here, (3) To ask that we all SHARE THE ROAD.


    While Ride of Silence does raise awareness that cyclists are killed, which might discourage some from riding, that fact that it brings out huge numbers of cyclists exactly in the face of the deadly risk taken every day by cyclists tells more than your critique of the Ride of Silence.

    We will continue to ride. We will encourage others to cyclist by our persistence.

  5. Steve Roach Says:

    I appreciate the point of view, but I do think it provides a valuable release for family and friends. It also emphasizes that cyclists are able to ride safely and lawfully in the streets.

  6. Michael Says:

    to address your points…
    Riding a bicycle on the streets is dangerous, accidents happened between vehicles which based on sheer size are much more visible so anything we can do to increase safety can’t hurt. If this spreads the message to other cyclist to be more observant and visible as you could be struck in an accident fashion.
    I lost a friend who was crossing through an intersection on a green light two years ago and this is an opportunity to memorialize him in our cycling community,how inappropriate would it be to wear pink in this situation. My hope is motorist who are not aware that a driver of an automobile killed my friend understand that mistakes happen, but this mistake killed someone. That driver could have been you or me, but awareness even for ‘us’ is never a bad thing.
    Out of the 8765 hours in one year, 1 hour each year I plan to be Silent. The others I will always be ready to speak out for what I believe in.

  7. Mike Keel Says:

    First, I fully agree with J. Steve about the purpose of the ride. Being the second person Chris Phelan invited to ride with him in 2003 (his wife was first), I know a little about the reason and purpose behind the ride.

    In Texas, there are plenty of laws on the books to deal with the motorists who kill cyclists due to errors in judgement or not paying attention. If drugs ro alchohol are involved – or the motorist flees the scene, charges are almost immediate. Unfortunately, in case after case where those factors do not apply, a grand jury of our peers will not charge these motorists with a crime. When they do charge them, the jury generally finds them guilty of a lesser charge or simply not guilty. This would seem to indicate that we need to convince the motoring public, our “peers” – that people riding bicycles are real people who deserve the protection of our laws and courts.

    Bike rallies, club rides and charity rides all exist to encourage cycling. The Ride of Silence takes place in order to HONOR the fallen, RAISE AWARENESS of our presence on the public roadways and ASKS the motoring public to SHARE THE ROAD SAFELY with all other road users.

  8. Jennifer Buntz Says:

    Creating a safe environment for cyclists is not trivial. Events like the Ride of Silence are one piece of the puzzle. Big rides and tours are another. Education of cyclists and motorists on how to drive around the other is also important. Educating cyclists on their need to obey traffic laws another. Enforcement of traffic law another. Bike Rodeos for kids help them cycle more safely. PSAs reach others. Personal interactions between cyclists and non-cyclists are important. Etc.

    In education it is a well accepted idea that people learn differently. If you apply that principle to creating a safe cycling environment, then you have room for all types of events, outreach, information and programs. Let each activity or action connect with the people who best learn from that type of presentation.

    People also learn from repetition, so the more events and awareness building activities the better! There is more than enough room for everyone’s efforts.

  9. Laura Harris Says:

    One more reason the Ride of Silence is a positive influence–many people who know someone who was killed while riding come to the Ride of Silence, putting their fears behind them to honor the person who was killed. Now this one hour event has changed that fear into hope and that hope into action. And we have one more person riding a bicycle again.

  10. Thomas Fish Says:

    We fully support the Ride of Silence for exactly the reasons it was created. To honor those that were injured or killed. To raise awareness that bicyclists are here (and that the current system is not working correctly). And to ask motorists to SHARE THE ROAD. I believe it is silly to encourage people to ride their bikes without addressing these issues. Your comments seem to say, lets encourage people to ride their bikes, but hide the fact that it is dangerous currently to do so. In other words, a few found dead on the road is ok as long as your cause of encouraging cycling is complete. I believe the ride of silence addresses all the issues at hand, very well… and the ride here in Grand Rapids has grown in participation every year, drawing 150-200 cyclists from this small town. Job well done!

  11. Tim Potter Says:

    Being on the board of the Ride of Silence (& their webmaster) I obviously have a bias towards the mission of the organization. I would encourage the author of this post to visit the Ride of Silence web site and write the founder of the Ride of Silence, Chris Phelan, and offer your suggestions – feedback so that you can help improve what we’re attempting to do around the world. Simply criticizing the RoS’s efforts and events on a forum like this is hardly professional or constructive for the overall objectives of both organizations.

  12. Mark Hagar Says:

    I’m biased also. 1: I suggest the writer get his facts straight. 2: He currently doesn’t comprehend what the Ride of Silence is truly about. 3: I suggest he read below what a long time anti-advocate of the RofS, from the Wolverine Sports Club wrote to our Oakland Co. organizer this year, after attending his 1st ever Ride of Silence. 4: I suggest he attend a local Ride of Silence to fully understand what and why it is. If after attending one, he still doesn’t agree with it, a least his comments will based on factually experience, vs. no experience of the Ride fully is.

    “Ride of Silence

    This year’s Ride of Silence out of Rochester Hills was organized and directed by our very own teammate and friend Colleen Brown. The 2010 edition of the RoS was this writer’s first excursion to an event such as this and I’ll admit to being quite moved by the experience.  While Calvin Hughes and Dante Lanzetta from the LMB and Deano Shipman spoke to the crowd of nearly 100 road and track riders, it was riding the well marked and pleasant circuit while no one spoke a word, that I found it to be an amazingly surreal, even spiritual experience.  While I rode over to the ride with two o2 cohorts, Steve Balagna and Jay Server, riding back made be feel ill at ease speaking even though the RoS was over.

    A beautiful evening and an outstanding venue at the International Velodrome at Bloomer Park and many friendly riders who donned arm bands for the short tour experienced a unique riding event. Jon Levin commented on the asthetics of the evening light and the large turnout.  There was media coverage and food following the ride.   Colleen put forth a huge effort organizing the route, publisizing the event, arranging the courtesy protection offered by the Rochester police and the support of all the volunteers is to be congratulated and thanked.”

    EJ Levy

  13. Nancy Bestard Says:

    I was one of those people that thought roads were for cars until my son and friends started riding. I have a different perspective now, roads are for everyone cars, motor cycles, bicycles and walkers. Please people, be careful, share the road. Take an extra second to look twice. The life you save might be a husband, son, child or friend.

  14. Stephen Mikesell Says:

    The ride of silence in Madison, Wisconsin, seemed very upbeat even though we were memorializing various people from the community, and it drew additional bikes as it went along and the attention of bystanders along the way. A bicycle policeman explained new innovations in the laws, such as the European-type bicycle zones and going through non-tripping red lights, to the bicyclists beforehand and took up the rear, something that was really helpful for introducing the bicycle police to the bicyclers. Though the ride went at 12 mph it was very careful to follow all the laws to a fault and not block traffic. Everybody was very moved by it, it was covered on the community radio and commercial TV, and I’m sure more will ride next year.

  15. Colleen Brown Says:

    I am the organizer for the Oakland County Ride of Silence, I created this area’s event 2 years ago after losing my best friend who was riding along a country road to a drunk driver. Initially I started the venue as a way for myself and the family to be together once a year to remember, it is turning into so much more. One truly needs to spend an hour in silence on the ride to feel the emotion of the riders as we join together to mourn in a way that lost loved ones enjoyed.
    I joined with the International Velodrome of Bloomer Park this year to hold the ride, yes it is true the riders on the track are not on the road however most of them do at some time ride road bikes and the staff of the Velodrome lost a key member to a automobile/bike accident, there is no reason to deny them their moment to mourn. The track riders road the standard 15mph or more on the track, it is not safe to ride on a velodrome at 12mph and as the organizer for the event it was up to my discretion to make that decision based on what was best for all. On the road cyclists are asked to stay at 12mph since we have many every day riders who don’t spend long hours and miles on the bike, some only ride once a year and that is for the Ride of Silence.
    On my ride I ask the riders to wear white not black, as the white stands out for safety and uniformity, what should be known is this ride is for the ones left behind by a tragedy give them their time and space to have one hour a year where they can mourn with others who share the same pain.
    After the Oakland County Ride of Silence there is a small get together on the infield of the Velodrome, we have this for the cyclists to celebrate life, which is very positive and fun.

  16. Jason Says:

    If there is safety in numbers, isn’t a large group ride like the ride of silence good? I also don’t see the comparison to the Race for the Cure. Maybe if that race was to remember people that died while walking or running, it would be a comparison, but it is not. The ride of silence has nothing to do with Cancer so I don’t get it.
    Also, what the Race for the Cure does is tell people that walking and running is good to do once a year at special events. Some people train for it, like one of my co-workers did, but then she stopped after the race was over. Isn’t it funny that regular exercise can reduce risk of health problems like cancer but how someone would remember their lost love ones by exercising one day a year?
    Sure, there are plenty of regular runners and walkers that participate in this event and probably many other events, but I would be interested in finding out what the average participant’s exercise regimen is like.

    So going back to the ride of silence – that ride reminds people that we are out there everyday. After the larger group disbands we are all individuals still riding. If someone can’t handle the reality of riding a bike regularly then they really shouldn’t be riding. Sorry, but I disagree that a bunch of ignorant cyclists barely handling their bikes are a positive addition to the road. Quanity doesn’t equal quality. So thinking of anything that puts more bikes on the road as a good thing doesn’t run with me. If that were true I would be riding a fixie conversion.

  17. Matt Picio Says:

    The Ride of Silence is a memorial to honor those who died while cycling. It’s not meant to encourage for people to cycle, it’s meant to honor the dead. There are 364 other days of the year to hold rides meant to encourage cycling, advertise how safe cycling really is, and get people gung-ho. We don’t have to have every single event geared (pardon the pun) towards getting more people out on the road – in fact, the cycling “community” is much healthier when there are different rides with different purposes.

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