By Steven Gaede
Departing from the Town and Country Parking lot to Foghat’s ‘Slow Ride”, the Bakersfield biking community commemorated bicyclists that have been injured or killed while on the roadways for the eleventh year of the Ride of Silence.
The origin of the event goes back to 2003 in Dallas, TX where an estimated 1,000 cyclists came together to show their support for bike riders who have been injured while on the streets.
“It’s a worldwide event to remember those that have been killed or injured on a roadway while riding a bicycle,” Bike Bakersfield, Membership and Communications Director, Brad Swanlund said.
Originating in 2003, the event has grown with each passing year, occurring on the third Wednesday of May at 7 p.m. In 2013, the Ride of Silence saw 368 registered events, spanning 26 countries and all 50 states. Participating in the event for over a handful of years, about 50 cyclists in the Bakersfield community showed up to show their support for those that have been injured on the roads.
“There are definitely people here in Bakersfield that have been killed so you’ll have some riders that are riding specifically for them,” Swanlund said.
“I knew people that have been killed or injured while cycling and I’m an avid cyclist myself, so I decided to give up some of my time to commerate them,” cyclist Steve Hartwell said. “They basically gave up their lives for us.”
To show support, cyclists wore black and red ribbons on their arms, indicating whether they knew someone who had been killed or involved in an accident themselves.
“The black is in memory of anyone that’s been killed and the red is if you have been injured on a roadway,” Swanlund said.
Riders of all ages showed up to show their support, sporting helmets and lights while cruising at a pace between 10 and 12 mph.
“Usually, everything we do is ages eight to 80. If it’s safe enough for a little brother to do it or if it’s safe enough for your grandpa to do it then it’s good for everybody,” Bike Bakersfield Educational Specialist and senior criminal justice major, Jonathan Moo said.
The event in Bakersfield lasted about nine miles. Riders went down Stockdale Hwy, hooking a right at Wible, Ming and Gosford before turning left on Stockdale to return to the meeting location. During the ride, no words were uttered. Motorists with questions about what was going on were given cards explaining the significance of the event.
“It’s not like critical mass where we are trying to disrupt traffic but we want people to see us. We want people to know that we’re out here,” Swanlund said. “The message for cyclists and cars is really just ‘share the road.'”
Along with the message of sharing the road, Bike Bakersfield also spreads the word of bike safety to local schools.
“Specifically for the month of May I’m pretty busy. We work with about 20 schools per year,” Moo said.
Being that May is Bike Month, Bike Bakersfield has been actively putting on events this month, with more to come.
“We have our full moon ride coming up on Friday the 24th. For that we expect anywhere from 100 to 200 people,” Swanlund said. “We ride along the bike path from Beach Park to the Marketplace. We’re going to have a barbecue at six and the ride at eight.”