Ride of Silence

I seem to have one of the few adult tricycles in Columbus.  Elsewhere, they are not so unusual.  (A friend who has traveled and taught all over the world said she often saw them in The Netherlands and in Israel, especially in the bigger cities.)  Despite that, I hauled myself and the three wheels of my Schwinn Meridian to City Hall two weeks ago to take part in the annual Ride of Silence, which honors bicyclists injured or killed in accidents with cars.

The ride launched from the east side of City Hall, sent off to the sound of “Amazing Grace,” on bagpipes, after reading the names of bicyclists who died or suffered major injuries when riding with cars.  (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) always comes to my mind whenever I hear “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes–it’s like hearing the “William Tell Overture” and thinking of the Lone Ranger.)

This is something that could only happen to me: In a ride dedicated to bicycle safety, I had my first accident.  I had not gone far in the ride, when I took my hands off the handlebar to aim the camera on my phone.  The handlebars and front wheel made a 45-degree turn, and the trike tipped over.  I spilled out of the saddle and landed hard on my right knee.

The only real casualty was my pride, except that my right knee still has a bad bruise.  The first few days, I could not bend the knee without pain, which made climbing stairs an ordeal.  Standing up and taking the first few steps caused pain, but I was able to walk once I cleared that hurdle–although I logged “only” seven or eight miles those days.

This is the perfect time to promote the fine work of Paradise Garage at 921 N. High St.  I adhered to the adage that when the horse throws you, get right back on.  Unfortunately, the trike handled very sluggishly, and it took all my energy just to pedal it a short distance.  With much effort, I managed to get to the Short North (the ride was long gone by then), and to Paradise Garage.  They realigned the trike, inflated the tires, and straightened out a bent fender, and it rode smoothly afterwards.  Their work was so swift and efficient, and reasonably priced, that I was able to jump back into the Ride of Silence as it came south on High St.

August Critical Mass

Another biking event, the Critical Mass Ride, prepares to launch from the west side of the State House.  (No pictures of the Ride of Silence, since I wiped out so early!)

This was not my first cycle accident.  I did not learn to ride a bike until I was 17, and on one of my first trips out on my own, I was riding on the sidewalk and hit my neighbor’s front steps.  This sent me over the handlebars and into a rose bush.  I tore my clothes and had various scratches from thorns, but I was too grateful I didn’t injure my eyes to dwell on my pain.

There will come a time, I am sure, that bicycles and other human-propelled vehicles, will be much more common on city streets.  They may even become more the rule than the exception.  I am not sure whether that will mean increased, or decreased, fatalities and injuries.  More bikes on the road increases the likelihood of more accidents, but if drivers–especially the conscientious ones–are more aware that they are sharing the road, it will be safer all around.

Both sides need to respect the power of the automobile.  A car outweighs a bicycle by about three tons, and can accelerate much more quickly, and travel at a greater velocity, than a bike.  A driver should not be behind a wheel when fueled by anger, booze, narcotics, or ego.  Bicyclists should never forget this, and “drive defensively” is a mantra a bicyclist should heed even more than someone driving a car.  (I always heard that defensive driving means assuming everyone else on the road is drunk.)

Unfortunately, at next year’s Ride of Silence, there will be new names.

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