For three and a half miles, not a single word was spoken. Gliding through the busy city streets, the mission was to convey a message simply with our presence. Done quietly. Done politely. Done for those who are unable to speak.
Taking up the traffic lane, ever mindful of those we shared the road with, our pedaling was slow, but deliberate. Vehicular laws were obeyed, almost to the point of overemphasis. But that's exactly what we were doing — making a point.
To be recognized. To be tolerated. To be welcomed. To be safe.
We were the silent nine. Men, women, and one child. A little brotherhood of cyclists. We assembled in Augusta, believing what was hopefully accomplished was important enough to show up. Strangers coming together, bonded by the belief that more can — and must — be done to help pedalers feel less vulnerable.
The Ride of Silence — held every year on the third Wednesday in May — gave us a united voice on this one particular night. Its quiet proclamation, to those willing to listen, was simple and direct:
— Honor vulnerable road users who have been injured or killed by traffic violence while bicycling.
— Help raise awareness that bicyclists have a legal right to use the road.
— And remind motorists to respectfully share the road with all users.
No one asked about our cause. No one even bothered to honk their horn. But hopefully, a driver or two, in noticing our flashing red lights, registered in their minds that care must be taken when approaching any bike rider ... no matter the circumstances. If that's the end result, then, as they say, silence is golden.
Truth be told, it is disappointing that other cyclists didn't have the desire to come, enabling us to display more pedal power. Surely, there must be more people in the capital area — besides our tiny group — who feel the same way? Others who have had "close calls," thus warranting their participation?
More needs to be done to get the word out about this kind of advocacy. So that in the future, the silent nine become the silent 100 ... the silent 200 ... and so on. All speaking out — silently — for what we strongly believe in. Stay safe!
'Thought for the day'
"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking." — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
From "Words To Ride By ... Thoughts on Bicycling" by Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books, 2017)