Ride of Silence’ commemorates fallen cyclists

Grace Johnson

Members of the Evanston Bicycle Club and other cyclists took to the streets in Evanston on Wednesday night as part of a worldwide “Ride of Silence.”

“The purpose is to honor the riders who have been killed or injured to raise awareness that cyclists are on the road and that we should all share the road,” said David Barish, McCormick ’80 and organizer of the Evanston event.

The ride, which began in Dallas in 2003, will take place at five different areas in the Chicago area: Evanston, downtown Chicago, Arlington Heights, Downer’s Grove and Joliet, said Chicago organizer Elizabeth Adamczyk. The Evanston event drew 20 cyclists, while the Chicago ride was expected to draw as many as 300.

“This is a ride for all cyclists,” she said. “Whether they are endurance cyclists or a family of riders, we want them to know they can participate anywhere they are.”

The Evanston ride holds special significance, as the route will take cyclists past the intersection of Sherman Avenue and Lake Street, where Archana Sriram, WCAS ’07, was injured while riding in a hit-and-run accident in 2006, Barish said.

“There had been a number of fatalities involving cyclists a couple of months before her accident, maybe even a couple of weeks before it,” said Neal Ney, president of the Evanston Bicycle Club at the time. “So everybody was pretty outraged.”

Members of the club and participants in the ride have been in accidents while riding as well. Bill Rizek was struck by a car in December 2008 and suffered four fractured ribs and a collapsed lung. Jerry Williams has had five accidents, the most serious occurring in 2004 when he was left unconscious for 10 days and lifted out of the mountains of Las Vegas in a helicopter. Williams was never deterred from biking, however.

“I always wanted to ride,” he said. “I just had to recover first.”

Because riders pedal in near-silence, participants in the Evanston ride took time before the start to discuss safety and memorialize past riders. Barish emphasized safety concerns that could come up if riders don’t alert each other to obstacles.

“It’s a ride of silence, not a ride of indifference,” he said.

The Chicago ride’s route will take participants past five prior accidents where “ghost bikes” will stand as monuments, Adamczyk said. The white painted bikes commemorate fallen riders, the most recent death coming last June.

In terms of cyclist safety, even before Sriram’s accident, Evanston was doing a good job, Ney said.

“Evanston is on the right track in terms of what communities should be doing for cycling,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean drivers always behave well.”

Cyclists at the event recognize that both drivers and pedestrians need to be wary. Justin Himel, a member of the club and participant in the ride, emphasized a sense of cooperation and collaboration.

“Too many people think it’s a battle between two-wheelers and four-wheelers, and it’s not,” he said.

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