On May 20 at 7:00 p.m. a couple of hundred cyclists of all abilities and from many varied backgrounds gathered together to ride a short, silent tribute dedicated to remembering their fellow cyclists killed or injured on Alabama roadways and also, attempting to raise awareness – not only that cyclists legally are entitled to be on the road, but also that when a bicycle is hit by a car, the consequences for a cyclist can be permanent and, sometimes, even tragic. The event is a solemn affair that was then followed by food, music and fellowship at SOHO Square in Homewood. Similar rides took place in hundreds of cities across the nation.
As an avid cyclist myself, and as a lawyer that represents injured cyclists, I can tell you that this ride is a very, very moving experience, especially for cyclists (and their families) that have been seriously injured. Oftentimes, this is the first, or one of the first, times that the cyclist has been back on their bike, and it really is an accomplishment in the long and grueling recovery process. For injured cyclists that already have completed the "come-back" it is a reminder of what they have been through and how fortunate they are to be able to be back on a bicycle. And, finally, to those of us who ride and have not been struck by a car, it is a reminder of the risk that we all face.
I know that some people question the sanity of cycling on the road given those risks, and I also know that deep-down, some people think that a cyclist is responsible for what has happened, no matter how egregious the driver behavior – simply because the cyclist chose to ride a bicycle on the road. The fact of the matter is that life is inherent with risk – every time you get in a car, step on a plane, get in a boat etc. there is the possibility that the car crashes, the plane goes down or the boat sinks, yet passengers are seldom blamed when this happens. The rewards of cycling are great – you feel better, you gain fitness, you meet interesting people and develop new friendships and relationships, you learn to see the world (whether it be the place you live in or where you travel) in a new and different manner than you ever could in a car. Undoubtedly, accidents will happen and people will be hurt, however, the tragedy to me is that oftentimes serious injury and death is not really an accident – rather it is the result of negligent and sometimes idiotic behavior (i.e. driving drunk or high or intentionally "buzzing" cyclists) that can and should be prevented, and when it does occur can and should be punished so that similar conduct in the future will be deterred.