Quiet honor:
Six-mile ride a call for safety on roads

Sunday, May 20, 2012

By Mike Touzeau Special to the Green Valley

Local cyclists gathered Wednesday evening at the East Social Center to be part of the 10th annual Ride of Silence to honor those who have been killed or injured while cycling, and to encourage motorists to share the road.  Led by a Pima County Sheriff and SAV escort and protected from the rear by Green Valley Fire District Station 151, about 90 riders did a six-mile loop up Esperanza to La Canada to Duval Mine Road, and back to the East Center in the customary slow single file and completely silent way that characterized the first Ride of Silence.

Riders escorted by Pima County Sheriff
Photo by John Weakly

Chris Phelan of Dallas organized the first ride in 2003 primarily by word of mouth as a gesture for his friend who was killed by a passing bus, and a thousand bikers showed up.  The event grew quickly and now is held on all seven continents, with 24 countries and all 50 states participating.  Itís always conducted on the third Wednesday in May as part of National Bike Month.

The Santa Cruz Valley Bicycle Advocate Committee (SCVBA) organized this one, their seventh, as part of its ongoing efforts to promote safe cycling.   Representatives from Green Valley Council, Town of Sahuarita, Bike Patrol officers, and owners of two local bike shops were in attendance.

SCVBA leader Chuck Hill read the names of several bikers in Southern Arizona who lost their lives in accidents in recent years, including Jerome Featherman, who was struck down in 2009 on Desert Bell Drive.

Green Valley Concert Band member Ray Soper followed the reading of names with the poignant trumpet sounds of "Amazing Grace" and the playing of "Taps" while the cyclists silently lined up in fading sunlight to begin the memorial ride.  People on the sidewalks along the route stopped to snap photos and a resident on Abrego paused in front of his home with his hand over his chest.

"This is especially meaningful for me," said Green Valleyís Marsha Schoenneberg, who was amazed that she was able to ride after four pelvic fractures and 12 days in the hospital recovering from being struck by a car on Abrego near Duval Mine Road in January.  "I didnít know if Iíd be walking," she said.

Bob Epstein and his wife, Linda, who ride one of the tandem bikes every year, remember the 2010 GABA ride down Mt. Lemmon when an impatient driver tried to pass, then swerved to avoid oncoming traffic and knocked him off his bike, separating his shoulder.  "I never miss one of these," said Epstein, who still bears the scars on his legs.

About 30 riders a year are killed in Arizona, Hill said in his opening remarks, and thatís only about a quarter of those who die in more populated states like Florida.

More information on the group rides is available on the organizations website, at www.scvbac.org.