This evening at 7:00 pm, cyclists around the country will ride in silence for about 45 minutes to honor cyclists who have been injured or killed while riding their bicycles. In addition, the ride will call attention to the fact that cyclists have the same basic rights to the roads as do motorists. In Birmingham, Alabama the ride will start behind Homewood Cycles and end at SOHO plaza in front of Homewood City Hall.
While the great majority of motorists treat cyclists with courtesy and respect, unforunately, too many still do not. These motorists see cyclists as unwelcome intruders on roads that are meant to be used by cars and trucks, and cars and trucks only. What often results with this minority of the motoring public is inconsiderate and dangerous driving (like passing cyclists too closely, quickly accelerating to pass cyclists and then decelerating to make a quick turn in front of them) or worse yet, intentional harrassment in the form of yelling, throwing things, or aggressive driving meant to intimidate and scare cyclists. When this happens and the slightest miscalculation occurs, it is the cyclist that is going to be the one hurt and/or killed.
The fact of the matter is – even if cyclists and motorists both try to be vigilent and respectful on the road – mistakes will happen and people will be hurt. However, when you add intentional, aggressive and disrespectful driving behaviors the odds of a fatal or life changing crash increase dramatically. I recognize that some cyclists ignore traffic signals and otherwise ride in an unsafe manner (as do some motorists as well) however, even when this occurs, these offenses should not be punishable by death by an irate motorist.
It is clear to me that many more people ride bicycles than was the case 20 years ago. If gas here becomes as expensive as gas in Europe ($8-$10/gallon) it seems likely that the number of cyclists will increase as more people ride not only for exercise and recreation, but also as a matter of necessity. When this happens, it is my firm belief that the number of motorists who act aggressively toward cyclists will decrease given that these motorists will be cyclists themselves, or will know people very close to them who are cyclists.
Hopefully, the Ride of Silence will hasten the time when everyone treats cyclists with respect and courtesy while driving by helping make people aware that cyclists have a right to be on the road, and even more importantly, that when that right is infringed upon, especially by aggressive and hostile motorists, that real people – mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, will suffer .