Cyclists pay tribute to fallen friends

Friday, May 23

 

By Nick Prevenas, Green Valley News

 
‘Ride of Silence’ looks to raise awareness for cycling safety

Coping with loss is never an easy subject.

Some people find solace in the comfort of others. Some prefer to work through their feelings alone.

Others take a cue from Queen’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury. They get on their bikes and ride
 


Scott A. Taras | Special to the Green Valley News
Sahuarita police officer Mike Blevins and event organizer John Pilger
lead a group of Green Valley cyclists on the
“Ride of Silence,”
which started at East Center on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

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Southern Arizona cyclists gathered in the East Center parking lot on Wednesday night for the third annual “Ride of Silence,” to honor those they have lost to cycling accidents and to raise awareness for bicycle safety.

“It’s very important for people to share the roads and to know that we’re out here,” said Santa Cruz Bicycle Advocacy Committee co-chair Bill Adamson.  Along with fellow cyclist Jim Jordan, Adamson — whose bicycle also features a Greg LeMond signature — led nearly 40 cyclists through the Greater Green Valley area.

The setting sun cast a deep shadow over the riders, but spirits remained high despite the breezy conditions.  Five years ago, the first “Ride of Silence” was organized in Dallas after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the mirror of a passing bus and killed.  Chris Phelan, a friend of Mr. Schwartz and the person responsible for starting this initiative, thought the ride was a one-time event.  However, as word got out, other cyclists began to contact him with a desire to do the same thing in their own communities.

This past Wednesday, the Ride of Silence began in North America and rolled across the globe.  Green Valley picked up on the ride after one of their own passed away.  Nandor “Fred” Hettig died after being struck by a car on March 22, 2006. It was a devastating loss for what has developed into a tightly knit cycling community.  “Everyone here has been touched by Fred’s story and we’ve all known people close to us who have been involved in cycling accidents,” said Green Valley rider Bob Epstein. “We ride to show that they will never be forgotten.”

Epstein took up cycling 28 years ago as he prepared to compete in his first triathlon. A runner by trade, Epstein suffered a number of knee injuries that resulted in a full-time transition to cycling.  However, those injuries did little to slow Epstein.  “It’s only a flesh wound,” he said, referring to the famous quote from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”  Many of the other riders share Epstein’s enthusiasm for cycling, which has turned this small-scale event into a worldwide phenomenon.

Cyclists will take to the roads at about 300 locations in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways.

The first observance the Ride of Silence in the Santa Cruz Valley area was held two years ago. Thirty local cyclists participated.  Last year, nearly 80 bike enthusiasts made an appearance.  The goals of the ride are to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured, raise awareness to the existence of bicyclists and to ask that cyclists and motorists share the road.  The ride covered a seven-mile loop along Esperanza boulevard, La Canada drive, Duval Mine road and Abrego drive.  Officers from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department Motor Unit, along with bike unit leader Mike Blevins, provided escort.

Additional information about the ride of silence may be found at www.rideofsilence.org.

nprevenas@gvnews.com | 547-9747