image from www.rideofsilence.org

Ride of Silence

Take Critical Mass (which the organizers of this event - at least on their webpage - don't seem to be aware of) and mix with a funeral procession. The result? The Ride of Silence, a 15km slow ride across the city to commemorate fallen cyclists around the world.

Started in Dallas in 2003, the Ride of Silence has since spread across the US, and has begun to make inroads across the world. Aside from the desire to remember cyclists hit and killed by motorists, the ride also aims to raise awareness of cyclists and to remind vehicular traffic that the roads deserve to be shared safely by all. Laudable goals that anybody can support. I wasn't there though - I wasn't allowed.

In a move that can only be described as foolishly divisory, the ride organisers chose to exclude anybody who doesn't own a helmet (and presumably those who own one, but feel safer without). It is a policy which fails on all counts.

If the goal of the ride is to attract the largest group possible, banning those without helmets cuts them off from huge swaths of the riding population - and even greater numbers in Europe and Asia, where few if any cyclists wear helmets. If the goal of the ride is to demand that the streets be made safe for cyclists everywhere, then the ban sends a poor message; cyclists are not safe until they no longer feel the need to wear body armour just to get to work. It is the countries with the safest riding history, and the most cyclist-friendly public policies where helmet rates are lowest. To send a message that cyclists need helmets is to score a goal for the motorists who likewise believe that cyclists belong on the sidewalks.

This is not an appropriate message.

Nevertheless, the notion of rememberance is a good one. If you really want your heartstrings pulled, do visit the memoriam page of the Ride of Silence - and when you're looking at it, vow to yourself to bike or drive safely. It's a big road, but we all need to share it.


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