Pedal-powered procession


They thought they’d get two dozen, tops. They got about 50 instead. The island’s first ever “Ride of Silence” managed to pull a fair amount of cyclists this evening, despite the threat of rain.

Read my report below. Sorry about the gory details. But if Chris Stanley had to live ’em, you’ll have to read ’em.

Ride of Silence a Rite of Remembrance
By Tristan Baurick

After a high-speed collision that broke his neck, smashed his lungs, cracked his skull and rocketed him 85 feet from his bike, it might seem unlikely that Chris Stanley would ever put his aching body back on the saddle.

But there he was Wednesday night, clipping toes to pedals with 50 other cyclists for Bainbridge Island’s inaugural “Ride of Silence,” a national event honoring riders killed or injured on roadways.

“I want to get the message across that drivers should look for bicyclists, since someone didn’t look for me one day,” Stanley said.

That day was April 17, 2004. Stanley was riding on State Route 305 when a young motorist struck him from behind. Distracted by her cell phone, the girl veered from her lane and knocked Stanley’s bike out from under him.

He points down at his left leg where the bumper hit, breaking his tibia in two places. He points to his throat where titanium now holds together what were once two sturdy vertebrae. The full list of injuries is too lengthy to list, but a few highlights include a lacerated liver, a square foot of ripped skin and a bleeding brain.

“I have pain in the leg on a regular basis,” he said. “It hurts when I sit for too long and it hurts when I walk a lot. The one thing that doesn’t hurt it is cycling.

“So it encourages me to be healthy and to ride a bike.”

Other cyclists shook Stanley’s hand as they gathered around ride organizer Kim Bottles before setting out on a winding route through Winslow.

“This is not a protest,” Bottles said to the crowd. “This is a solemn procession.”

The first Ride of Silence was organized five years ago in Dallas after cyclist Larry Schwartz was struck and killed by a bus mirror. Promoted as a one-time event mostly by word-of-mouth, the event drew over 1,000 riders the first year and 2,500 the second.

In 2007, more than 270 communities in 50 states and 15 countries had organized their own Silence rides. Seattle’s ride last year numbered about 1,000 cyclists.

The state Department of Transportation reported a steady rate of about 1,250 vehicle collisions with cyclists from 2002 to 2007. In 2006, over 120 cyclists were seriously injured and six were killed by collisions with vehicles in Washington.

Bainbridge’s last serious bike collision occurred last month when cyclist Mark Seawell was struck by a truck. The crash forced Seawell’s head under the rear tire of the vehicle, but his helmet prevented serious injury. The motorist was later arrested for hit-and-run and driving while intoxicated.

Seawell’s story struck close to home for Bainbridge cyclist Howard Kirz. A drunken driver killed his riding partner a few years ago in Snohomish County. Her picture was pinned to a black band wrapped around his arm.

“She was a very, very strong rider, a mother of two and a good person,” Kirz said. “She was another undeserved death on a bike.

“We ride for her.”