Nothing Says I Don’t Care Like Ignoring A Death You Caused

Background Reading

Summary

The Downers Grove Bicycle Club will participate in the Ride of Silence on May 20. (Downers Grove Bicycle Club, Handout)

The Downers Grove Bicycle Club will participate in the Ride of Silence on May 20. (Downers Grove Bicycle Club, Handout)

Sometimes, nothing speaks louder than silence.

Local bicycle rides will remain quiet in hopes motorists and others are reminded that bicyclists have a legal right to share the public roadways. The rides will remember those who’ve lost their lives or been injured in accidents on public roadways.

The Downers Grove Bicycle Club and the Elmhurst Bicycle Club are participating in the Ride of Silence on May 20. Similar rides will take place across North America and the globe, according to the Ride of Silence website.

Bicyclists will ride no more than 12 miles per hour, will wear helmets, will abide by the rules of the road and will not speak.

“It’s intended to publicly identify that it’s a mutual responsibility to share the roads safely,” said David Doemland, a member of the Downers Grove club.

Organizers said their communities do not have a high number of bicycle accidents, but incidents do happen.

The Active Transportation Alliance has analyzed the most recent data provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation to learn more about bicycle accidents. According to its analysis, there were 14 bicycle accidents with injuries in Elmhurst in 2012, 13 in 2011, and 16 in 2010.

In Downers Grove, the number of bicycle accidents with injuries was 10 in 2012, 8 in 2011, and 10 in 2010. In Lombard, where the Elmhurst Bicycle Club will conduct its ride, the number was 11 in 2012, 9 in 2011 and 14 in 2010.

Jim Merrell, campaign director for the transportation alliance, said the study also showed one bicyclist died – in 2010 in Lombard — in those communities during those three years.

Merrell said the Ride of Silence is a good way to raise awareness about safety.

“I think these community and cultural activities are an important part of a comprehensive strategy to make streets safer for cyclist and pedestrians,” he said.

Betty Bond, a Lombard resident and member of the Elmhurst Bicycle Club, said the ride will be through visible areas.

“We won’t be on the busiest roads,” said Bond, who is still mapping out a course. “We won’t be on Roosevelt Road. But we’ll ride around the downtown in Lombard.”

The rides are open to anyone and participants in the one organized by the Elmhurst Bicycle Club are asked to meet at 7 p.m. at the Wilson Avenue entrance to Madison Meadows Park in Lombard. The ride will be about 20 miles and Bond expects about 20 participants.

In Downers Grove, riders are asked to gather before 7:15 p.m. on the sidewalk along Mochel Drive in front of Lemon Tree Grocers. The ride will go south through the village and conclude at Emmett’s Ale House.

Bill Chalberg, president of the Downers Grove club, said his group also is working on promoting and improving infrastructure for cyclists in the village. A bicycle task force is teaming with the village to try and install more bike parking in the downtown area, he said.

The Elmhurst Bicycle Club, which has more than 500 members from across the suburbs and other states, is a step ahead. It has helped earn the city the designation as a Bike-Friendly City from the American League of Bicyclists, because of efforts to install more bike parking in the downtown and a bicycle repair station near the Metra train station.

Merrell said his organization also tries to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians through support for Safer Routes to Schools, a program that encourages school children to walk or ride bikes to school and enables communities to build safer streets. Another program, Family Friendly Bikeways, seeks to encourage more trails and improve street infrastructure, such as adding bike lanes with physical barriers that keep bikes and motorists separate.

That’s an idea that some larger cities have adopted and the transportation alliance would like to see expanded.

“We hope to adapt these urban ideas to the suburbs,” Merrell said.


TakeAways

If this statement is true:

Sometimes, nothing speaks louder than silence.

and I believe it is, then the collective avoidance of pedestrians we as a group have managed to kill (including at least one here in Illinois) is shameful. What we are doing in ignoring the deaths we as a community have caused is like honoring the dead in our local military cemetery each year, but laying wreaths at only the graves of those soldiers who were white. In our small-minded world they were the only ones whose lives mattered.

But:

All Lives Matter

We as a community are more than fond of raining down opprobrium on our fellow citizens who drive automobiles. They are in fact the ones who cause most deaths.

And if this statement is true about the Ride of Silence:

“It’s intended to publicly identify that it’s a mutual responsibility to share the roads safely,” said David Doemland, a member of the Downers Grove club.

Then we are doing something shameful here in Illinois, California and New York by not visiting the sites where our fellow citizens on foot were run down by one of us. In fact the person who died here in the state of Illinois was an elderly woman and she was struck by a boy not quite in his teens. You could not find a more poignant story than that.

But there will be no one riding past the sidewalks in the Castro neighborhood to pay homage to the elderly Asian gentleman who was crossing the street when a cyclist (who major concerns were his Strava™ score and whether his expensive helmet had been damaged).

No one will be in Central Park this year to honor the memories of the two pedestrians run down by cyclists there. One of them was indeed using his Strava™ score as his motivation as he run down a middle-aged woman of wealth as she crossed the street.

And the irony of ironies is that one of the Central Park pedestrians was also a fellow cyclist (who was out on training run) and was hit by a reckless teenager.

There are other less recent deaths that have occurred in New York and in fact a foundation was set up by one family mourning the death of their affluent father and husband who was like all the others, hit and struck by a cyclist only to die a few days latter from traumatic brain injury.

I can think of only one reason why we are reluctant to include ‘our kills‘ in the Ride of Silence. These deaths do not fit our collective narrative as victims. How could we hold this kind of ride if we too were numbered among the killers?

I think it is high time that we took a look at ourselves. We are as capable of killing pedestrians as we are of being killed by motorists. In fact I would not be surprised to read of a pedestrian on a skateboard who managed to hit and kill a cyclist. But I have no doubt that the Ride of Silence will cover that death. It leaves our ‘narrative of victimhood‘ intact.

We Need To Find A Way To Honor Our Victims Too.

We Need To Find A Way To Honor Our Victims Too.