Hundreds of metro Detroit cyclists are expected to participate in this year’s Ride of Silence — an event to honor cyclists killed or injured in traffic incidents. The event will take place on May 17 on Belle Isle. May is also National Bike Month, a designation started by the League of American Bicyclists in 1956.
The 10-mile Ride of Silence is open to all experience levels and attracts a mixed bag of cyclists: those who want to observe silence and those who attend for the “destination ride.” Participants must ride no faster than 12 miles per hour, wear helmets, and obey traffic signs and driving laws.
Experienced riders and employees from the riverfront-based bike shop Wheel House Detroit will act as “sweepers,” and disperse throughout the group with extra bike tools to help ensure everyone’s safety.
According to a report published by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, there were 38 bicyclist fatalities in the state in 2016, a 15 percent increase over 2015.
While cyclists can attempt to be safe by riding in the street with the flow of traffic, using illumination after dark, and learning the proper way to make turns at busy intersections, it’s important for drivers to be involved too, says Kelli Kavanaugh, owner of Wheelhouse Detroit, which organized the Detroit leg of Ride of Silence with Miller Canfield Cycling Club
Kavanaugh says an “us vs. them” mentality between bikes and vehicles still prevents both sides from safely sharing the road. “The only thing that can make it better is education,” she says. “I don’t think it happens overnight.”
According to a post shared on Wheelhouse Detroit’s blog, drivers can create more harmonious relationships on the road by driving the speed limit, using their vehicle’s blinker, slowly coming to a stop at signs, and staying behind the crosswalk line at lights.
“I always think it’s the responsibility of the less vulnerable user to look out for the most vulnerable user,” says Kavanaugh. “That’s just kind of a good rule of thumb for life in general.”
For more information and bike safety tips, visit rideofsilence.org.