We have so many people to thank for making this year's Ride of Silence experience such a meaningful one:
Event Planning Chair—Kathleen Koechlin
Planning Team members—John Bannon, Eliza Farrel, Rob Hendricks, Pat Landusky, David Curran, Jeff Gove, Rahel Babb, Abby Rhodebeck
Sponsors—Ohio Department of Transportation, Westerville Bicycle Club,
Speakers—Mark Gibson (reading the Ride of Silence poem), Columbus Chief of Police Kim Jacobs (her comments are here), State Representative Mike Stinziano (his comments are here), Yay Bikes! Executive Director Catherine Girves (her comments are here).
Escorts—The Columbus Police Department
And—Leslie Strader, Office of the Mayor; Julie Walcoff and Michelle May, Ohio Department of Tranpostation
And+—All the riders who braved the chill, followed the rules and made a silent statement of solidarity with those whose lives have been impacted by unsafe driving.
Below is the official report we will be submitting for the international Ride of Silence website, written by our Event Planning Chair Kathleen Koechlin.
It was a chilly, gray day in Columbus, Ohio, but that did not stop the 333 or so cyclists from gathering at City Hall to make the eight mile ride in honor of those killed and injured while riding on our streets. This was the first year that Yay Bikes!, a local bicycle organization whose mission is to increase trips by bicycle and reduce bicycle crashes in the Central Ohio area and beyond, organized this event. The core planning committee was deliberately comprised of persons directly impacted; four have been seriously injured and one has a brother who was killed while cycling on a public road. It was very important to the planning committee that onlookers understand the purpose of the ride; in past years, this was not always the case, leading to some hostility when cyclists did not respond when spoken to. To this end, ghost bikes were placed around town several weeks before the event with signs linking people to the Yay Bikes! Ride of Silence webpage for information about the ride. Posters were printed and hung in windows along the route as well as in bike shops and local businesses around town to raise awareness and encourage participation.
People began gathering at 5:30 pm and the program started at 6:30 pm. Volunteers greeted cyclists, had them sign waivers, provided them instruction, and tied on armbands – red if they had been injured and black for everyone else.
The friend of two cyclists struck by a minivan on April 23, 2015 near Zanesville, Ohio (who was also hit by a car in the past) opened the program by reading the Ride of Silence poem and giving a brief biography of Brenda Hoffman who died in the collision and an update on Brad Hollingsworth who survived but was seriously injured. Brad’s wife, mother, and mother-in-law were there and rode with us. The Chief of Police, Kim Jacobs, spoke briefly, followed by State Representative Michael Stinziano. The final speaker was Catherine Girves, Executive Director of Yay Bikes!, who made a call to action for peaceful streets. Cards with information on specific local and statewide initiatives around safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists were distributed, and people were encouraged to get involved. After reviewing how to ride public roads safely, Catherine ended her time at the podium by reading the names and dates of death of all bicyclists killed on public roadways in Ohio in 2014.
Cyclists rode off in silence, riding two abreast, to a bagpiper playing in the background. We were led by Columbus police officers on motorcycles, followed by a cargo bike with banners announcing the ride. While some police were paid to lead and protect us, several police on bicycles joined the ride on their own accord and helped at intersections, including the Chief of Police, herself. As we rode, some people on bicycles who were not part of the ride joined in as well. The cargo bike set the pace at approximately eight miles per hour to simulate a funeral procession, and the police treated the ride as such, blocking intersections as we rode an eight mile loop on two busy urban roads. Signs were mounted to the bicycle racks of 15 cyclists who were dispersed throughout the large group of riders, again to alert onlookers as to what they were witnessing since we all rode in silence. The final cyclist pulled a ghost bike which was so impactful that one onlooker was brought to tears.
A food truck was provided at the end of the ride to encourage people to stay and reflect on their experience. The event was well covered by media, both through a blog post from a fellow bicyclist at the local newspaper, the Columbus Dispatch, and at the event by all three local television stations. A press release was also issued.
This ride could never have been so successful without the support of the Westerville Bicycle Club, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and individual donations. We thank them all from the bottom of our hearts!