Green Valley's silent ride

Sunday, May 22, 2011

By Nick Prevenas Green Valley News

For seven miles, nobody said a word. But Wednesday night's Ride of Silence spoke volumes about how far cycling safety has come for this area - and how far it still needs to go.  High winds put a dent in this year's participation.

 

Chuck Hill (far right) leads more than 70 Southern Arizona cyclists
during Wednesday’s Ride of Silence - John Weakly Photo
 

Roughly 70 folks took part in this year's ride (Southern Arizona's sixth), compared to approximately 120 last year. But those who did take part in the ride saw just how tightly knit this area's cycling community is.  This year's ride took place in more than 300 different locations in all 50 states, as well as 25 international locations, including Palmer Station, Antarctica, of all places.  "They don't have many roads in Antarctica, so the rider down there is participating on a stationary bike," said event co-organizer Chuck HillRiders observed the world-wide guidelines for the Ride of Silence and ride at a slow and comfortable pace while conducting the ride in total silence. This goal for this year's ride was to elminate the wide gaps that tend to occur when a large group attempts to ride single file.  Local bicyclists led the way, while the Pima County Sheriff's Department, the Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteers, and the Green Valley Fire District provided support.

Even though there weren't as many riders this year, a handful of Green Valley residents took part as spectators, watching as the cyclists - all of whom with helmets, most of whom with black arm bands - passed by.

Prior to the ride, the participants paid tribute to a pair of beloved local cyclists who lost their lives on the road. The local cycling community was deeply saddened by the death of Sahuarita's Fred Hettig on March 22, 2006 - an event that proved to be the catalyst for Green Valley's participation in the Ride of Silence.

In addition, the death of Jerome Featherman on Sept. 3, 2009, still has this community awfully shaken up.

"Jerome was a great friend to all of us. He did everything right. He wore visible clothes. He obeyed all traffic laws. But a distracted driver hit him from behind," Hill said.

The nation's first Ride of Silence took place in 2003 when Chris Phelan of Dallas organized the event after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the mirror of a passing bus on an empty road and was killed. With only 10 days notice, the event attracted 1,000 riders.

For more information on the international Ride of Silence event go to www.rideofsilence.org, or visit the Santa Cruz Valley Bicycle Advocate Committee at scvbac.org.