Last night was the worldwide Ride of Silence honoring those who have been killed or injured while cycling. It is a touching event that brings together a community of people who share the tragic experience of injury or loss of a loved one and raises awareness of cyclists on the road.
I arrived early at Riverside Park, signed a waiver, tied a red ribbon around my arm and stood back to watch the somber occasion unfold. I had wanted to attend the Ride last year - shortly after I was hit by a car while riding - but I was unable to make it. So this year was especially important to me.
Over the half hour or so that I waited, 150-200 riders arrived – lycra-clad racers on carbon frames, folks in jeans riding 30-year-old steel bikes, families with kiddie trailers and tandems, Rapid Wheelmen club members, kids on department store bikes and one teen BMX rider with a bad attitude.
People from all different walks of life riding for the same reason.
When the ride was scheduled to begin, the organizer told us about the many other rides taking place in Michigan, across the US and in 26 different countries. A local woman shared the story of the loss of her son, who was hit by a car while riding. And Mayor Heartwell read a prayerful poem illustrating the heart of the Ride of Silence.
The ride spoke volumes with its silence. No one got frustrated with the slow pace. No one complained when a child cried. It was truly meaningful every time someone walking down the road asked one of the bike police officers who stopped traffic for us what this silent procession was all about.
We rode from Riverside Park through downtown Grand Rapids about 5.5 miles to the John Ball Zoo, where a group of bagpipers played Amazing Grace. We all stopped to bow our heads before looping around to head back past the YMCA, over the Grand River, past the theater…
It was an experience of unity, remembering and hoping for change.
In the news: