Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Ride of Silence

When a cyclist dies it tears the fabric of our world. While some drivers may erroneously think that bicyclists are inconsequential to the business of the road, we know riders in their greater context as coworkers, friends, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, fathers and mothers. Yesterday, thousands of cyclists took to the road to remember family and friends who had been injured or killed in accidents with cars while out on roads. More than 280 rides were held in 48 states and 16 countries around the world.

This spring, Southern California cyclist Eric Little was struck by a truck while on a lunch time ride. Road rash was the least of his problems. The force of the impact was so violent his helmet was crushed, and resulted in a brain injury. Several ribs were broken as well. The road rash is gone and the ribs are pretty well healed at this point. But his sense of taste has been reduced to sour and salty (no bitter or sweet tastes) and his sense of smell, doctors say, may never return. And this isn't the first time Eric has been hit by a car.

Suffice it to say Eric got motivated. Laying in his hospital bed he thought, "What if we got an American team, heck all the American teams, to wear black armbands on May 20th, during the Giro's 11th stage?" So after he was released from the hospital Eric contacted media relations people at Garmin-Slipstream, Columbia-Highroad and (while not an American team just yet) Astana.

If you noticed that Columbia-Highroad riders were wearing blue ribbons safety-pinned to their left shoulders yesterday, that's why. According to Team Columbia-Highroad's Ellen Cohune, "Team Columbia-Highroad riders were enthusiastic to support the Ride of Silence. Many of our men and women feel strongly about helping to raise awareness of safe road sharing. The blue ribbons were worn because we wanted to gain attention for the Ride of Silence cause, and some of the riders felt that the black armband was a little too morbid. The ribbons sparked interest in the peloton, as well as before and after the race. Ultimately, the Ride of Silence message finished on the top of the podium!"

Eric was asked to speak to the crowd that assembled at the start of his local ride in Irvine. He told them, "I want to go
home. I want to see my kids get a hit at their baseball game. I want to see their first pedal strokes without training wheels. I want to watch my daughter's dance recital. I want to enjoy their smiles as they proudly show me a school report card. And I want to hear them scream "Daddy!" when I walk in the door after work. At the same time, I want to ride as I love the sport. I should not have to choose between the two because we as humans can not safely share the road."

He later added, "Whether it was black armbands or blue ribbons, Columbia-Highroad's efforts carried my thoughts and concerns with those of thousands of others around the globe."

In a tragic coincidence, race organizers held a minute of silence at the start of the Stage 11 to remember veteran moto driver Fabio Saccani. Known as Roberto Bettini's ace motorcycle driver, Saccani was killed in a traffic accident on his way to the start of the Giro's 11th stage in Cuneo and had an accident in the town of Bra. This was Saccani's 33rd Giro.

Of Saccani's death Bettini said, "Today I lost a friend, someone who was more than a friend, a signore on two wheels. Fabio has taken me to the summit of the high mountains and down the most dangerous descents, always with the greatest care. Perhaps that care wasn't enough to avoid being struck by a murderous truck that in an instant took his life. Ciao, Fabio, you will always be with me."


Anonymous said...

I have a special issue "Share the Rode" license plate on my car. Many others in my local also have them. But the message doesn't seem to be working. (Yes, I got tagged by a car a few years ago.)

I am in favor of posting "Yield to Cyclsits -- It's the Law" sign posts with a bicyclist symbol at least as frequently as we now have "Buckle Up -- It's the Law" sign posts. Perhaps a little on-the-road education would be good for our drivers.

OTOH, I the numerous "Slower Traffic Keep Right" signs never seem to make a dent among drivers who think that they pay taxes for the left lane only.

Unknown said...

We participated in the Share the Road event here in Grand Rapids MI yesterday, just hours after a local cyclist was struck and killed by a City employee in a truck. He was not wearing a helmet, but it is still a tragic coincidence that it happened that day.
It underscores the significance of the issue and reminds us that all cyclists are vulnerable.
Hopefully, continued support of organizations who work on the behalf of bicyclists to change laws will eventually improve conditions on the road.

mathias_d said...

I too have lost my sense of smell due to a bicycle crash that also resulted in 3 days of amnesia, a basilar skull fracture and a punctured eardrum along with at least one fractured ossicle (bones inside the ear).

It was my fault, not a car's that I fell but I feel for Eric Little...however if you are going to lose one of your senses (or any brain function at all) due to a crash, smell is probably the least intrusive to your life along with taste.

Cheers Eric, I would be happy to send you a bottle of hot sauce as I go through the stuff in gallons now.