Ride of Silence

2016 Ride of Silence recap

Winding back towards downtown. Photo credit: Keith Lugs

Winding back towards downtown. Photo credit: Keith Lugs

Thanks to Columbus Ride of Silence committee chair Kathleen Koechlin for her leadership and this write-up, which will be featured on the national Ride of Silence site. Contact Kathleen to join the team planning next year's ride!  

Approximately 400 people (380 of them riders) participated in the 2016 Columbus, Ohio Ride of Silence, which started and ended at City Hall. People began gathering at 5:30pm; some of them enjoyed dinner from a food truck as they awaited the start. Volunteers secured arm bands and provided instruction for the ride. 

The program began at 6:30pm with a welcome by Catherine Girves, Executive Director of Yay Bikes!, which has organized the Columbus Ride of Silence since 2015. Catherine’s remarks were followed by the reading of the Ride of Silence poem by Abby Rhodebeck, who lost a mentor this past winter when a car crossed the line and hit him as he was riding on a wide berm. Then, as Columbus Chief of Police Kim Jacobs spoke, representatives from four neighboring jurisdictions (Grove City, Hilliard, Reynoldsburg and Upper Arlington) joined her onstage. Transportation professionals from around the region then joined the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Manager Michelle May as she described how she and her colleagues are working to build better infrastructure for cyclists on the road. To close the program, local cyclist Bambo Sanusi read the names of all cyclists killed on Ohio roadways from January 1, 2015 through May 18, 2016; there were 26. 

Bag piper David Celebrezze began playing “Amazing Grace” as the cyclists silently lined up to begin the slow-paced ride led by police on motorcycles. The first bike in the line-up pulled a cart with Ride of Silence banners attached so onlookers would know what they were witnessing. Silence was maintained throughout the ride by the cyclists, but there was a palpable silence by onlookers as well. Cars stopped and patiently watched as they waited for us to pass. Ghost bikes were placed along the route—eight in all. At the end of the procession the final rider pulled a ghost bike, a representation of why we ride. 

Local filmmaker Pete Vogel created this video, which is now being featured on the national Ride of Silence webpage.

2015 Ride of Silence Recap

high street ride of silence
high street ride of silence

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

MediaThe Dispatch and nbc4i

Food truckTatoheads

PhotographerBryan Barr

Bagpiper—Scott Caputo

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!

Columbus Police Chief Kimberly Jacobs — 2015 Ride of Silence

chief jacobs ride of silence
chief jacobs ride of silence

The following is the full text from Chief Jacob's comments at the Ride of Silence. We thank Chief Jacobs for her presence at the event and for her work to ensure the safety of everyone in our community.

My name is Kim Jacobs and I'm the Chief of Police for the City of Columbus. I'm here to speak and ride with you tonight on behalf of Mayor Coleman.

Recently many of us took to the streets to celebrate National Bike to Work Day. That was a fun and exciting day, seeing so many cyclists together making a statement. Today, the statement we make is a somber one as we remember and honor those who have tragically been killed or injured while riding a bike.

Many of you probably read about a great city employee, Bill Lewis. Bill and his intern Stephanie Fibelkorn were walking to a meeting, and had nearly made it to the bus stop just a block from where we stand now, when they were hit and killed as a result of a reckless driver. No, Bill wasn’t on his bike at the time, but he was using a public street, like we all do when we ride, with full rights to be there. Bill spent many years of his professional life advocating, planning and designing roadways to accommodate all users. We will continue this important work always in his memory. We miss him and fondly remember him and the others who have been killed while cycling.

Yay Bikes! Executive Director Catherine Girves — 2015 Ride of Silence

catherine ride of silence
catherine ride of silence

The following is the full text from Catherine Girves's comments at the Ride of Silence.

2/21/2014 Frederick Carey

3/18/2014 Zachary Kerns

3/22/2014 Joe Giampapa

5/8/2014 Cleo Turpin

5/30/2014 Glenn Barna

5/30/2014 Lafayette Orr

7/18/2014 Dorothy Miller

8/8/2014 Harvey Bell

Mike Schengelsberger

Steve Barbour

Brenda Hoffman

The list goes on . . . and on . . . and tragically on.

My name is Catherine Girves, and I am the Executive Director of Yay Bikes! Tonight we join thousands of others worldwide in a silent slow-paced ride to honor and remember people who have been injured or killed while riding their bikes on public roadways.

But we are not just here to remember, we are here to act so that another name is never added to the list of those we've already lost.

You were given a card when you arrived that will help you take action to create peaceful streets in our communities.

If you live or work here in Central Ohio, I ask you, I beg you, to participate in the planning process currently taking place to decide what our streets will look like for the next 30 years. The next set of public meetings for the Connect Columbus plan are from June 1st through the 4th. If you can't make a meeting make comments on the web site, attend a future meeting, make sure your voice is heard. Make sure we are planning for safe streets for people who ride bikes.

At the Statewide level, I ask you to remind your legislators that roads need to be safe for those who ride bikes. Call or write your State legislator and ask them to co-sponsor HB 154 a law that would require people driving cars to give people riding bikes at least 3 feet when passing.

And at the Federal level – our wonderful Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, Secretary Foxx, has issued a challenge to every Mayor in the United States. The Mayors Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets raises the bar for creating safe conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians. Mayor Coleman has accepted this challenge and the Department of Public Service is working in every area of the challenge. If you are not from Columbus, return to your home community and ask your Mayor to follow in kind.

Further, I make a personal ask of each of you. Ride roads in ways that are visible and predictable. Take the space you need to ensure your visibility to people driving cars. Signal your intentions to change lanes. Stop at lights and stop signs. Ride no more than two abreast. And ask every other person you ride with to do the same. In your everyday behaviors create safer streets for all.

I will not have another one of us lost. Join Yay Bikes! in demanding action in good street design, legislation to protect vulnerable road users, and enforcement of laws that protect people who ride bikes. Support us in educating people how to ride roads lawfully.

In a few moments we will head out to ride, two abreast on public roads. Maintain your position once we start. Silently honor those we have lost.

State Representative Michael Stinziano - 2015 Ride of Silence


The following is the full text from Representative Michael Stinziano's comments at the Ride of Silence. We thank Rep Stinziano for his presence at the event and for his work to protect Ohio's vulnerable road users.

I appreciate the invitation from Yay Bikes! to talk about the Ride of Silence and safety in our community. I am Representative Michael Stinziano and I am working within the Ohio House to improve safety for all road users.

In Ohio, an average of 1 person died or was seriously injured each day in bicycle-related crashes last year.

In just the Columbus region, there were 24 bicyclists involved in crashes, resulting in 21 serious injuries and three fatalities.

It is vital that drivers and bicyclists share the road. One death or injury is too many.

Research shows that one issue contributing to these crashes is speed. I recently introduced legislation to help combat the issue. If HB 107 is enacted into law, it will allow residents to petition a speed limit change for their own community. We feel that people lining in our diverse neighborhoods understand the traffic patterns they live with on a daily basis.

I am also co-sponsor of HB 154 which would require motorists to give bicyclists at least 3 feet when passing.

Safety is everyone's responsibility. Many of you know the faces representing these tragic deaths. This event honors our loved ones who have been harmed on Ohio roads and improves awareness for all road users.

Everyone has the right to be on and use Ohio's roads.