These cyclists rode in complete silence Wednesday, here’s why
Retired Pasadena firefighter Armando Salazar was sitting on his bicycle, waiting for the start of the Ride of Silence on Wednesday at the Rose Bowl, when an organizer fitted him with a black armband.
The gesture meant he would ride in memory of a cyclist killed on a public street.
“He is known only to God,” Salazar said, when asked from whom he was riding. Though they met, he never did learn the victim’s name that day, one day after Christmas in 1982 on Summit Avenue in Northwest Pasadena. An 8-year-old boy was riding his new bike down his driveway and into the street when a car traveling 50 mph struck and killed him, he said.
“I picked him up and took him in the ambulance to the hospital. He expired on route,” Salazar said. The next day, the young firefighter handed the boy’s mom flowers. Even 37 years later, the little boy’s death haunts him.
“It hit me so hard. I’ll never forget it,” Salazar said.
Remembering those killed on a bicycle was part of the reason for the 17th annual ride, which took place in Pasadena, Orange, Fullerton, Murrieta and Los Angeles in Southern California and 400 cities worldwide. Some rode in memory of fellow riders, others for themselves, having survived being hit by a car while cycling.
“It is to bring awareness to everybody — the drivers, the bike riders and the community. So the drivers can watch out for all the cyclists on the roads,” said Thomas Cassidy, organizer of the Pasadena-area ride.
Surviving a crash
Vic VanCleve, 72, who recently moved to Southern California from Miami Beach, wore a red armband, marking him as a survivor. He lived through two cars-vs.-bike accidents while residing in Florida. One was minor. The other left bruises on his body and his psyche to the point where he thought about finding another hobby.
“I was stopped at a red light. The car didn’t see me. He hit me in the back, and I did a somersault — flipped me right out of my cleats. I landed on my back in the middle of the intersection,” he said.
“The whole time I thought, I am not getting back on my bike. It scares me too much,” VanCleve said. The bumps and bruises healed, but the scars remained. “I told my wife what happened, washed the blood off, and I decided I’m not going to give up. I love it. It is a great way to get from Point A to Point B,” he said, smiling.
17th annual ride
At exactly 7 p.m., some 45 riders followed a police motorcycle escort around the Rose Bowl into Old Pasadena where their presence reminded drivers that the road is to be shared with cyclists. At the iconic City Hall building, they observed a moment of silence, then rode back without talking to the Rose Bowl for some free tacos prepared by a volunteer donor.
The first Ride of Silence took place in Dallas in 2003, when Chris Phelan memorialized his buddy, Larry Schwartz, hit by the mirror of a passing bus and killed. Each year on the third Wednesday in May, cities in the U.S., Europe and even China organize memorial rides.
The World Health Organization estimated in 2015 in a Global Report on Road Safety that road accidents kill about 1.3 million people per year, and injure between 20-50 million each year.
In the week leading up to the ride, several cyclists were killed, according to BikingInLA, which keeps track of cyclist deaths on public roadways. These included cyclists killed in Redlands, Ladera Ranch, Santa Ana and downtown Los Angeles.
The website puts the number of bicycle fatalities in Southern California so far this year at 28. Orange County averages 16 cyclists killed each year over the past five years. In March, Costa Mesa fire Capt. Mike Kreza was struck by a car and killed while riding his bicycle.
Shortly after that, Konghao Wei, 19, of Irvine and Charles Kam, 78, of Huntington Beach were killed. Also, Long Beach church leader Paul Smith, 64, was killed riding on Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach.
Local riders remembered
Ride of Silence organizers, in conjunction with the League of American Bicyclists, put together of those killed on a bicycle vs. motorist crash for the past 30 years. Those in Southern California include:
- Shaun Eagleson, 30, of Fountain Valley, who died cycling on East Coast Highway in Newport Beach in 2014 when he was hit by a suspected drunk driver. He was survived by his wife.
- Thomas Brewer, 26, of Los Angeles died in Echo Park on April 23, 2016. He was struck by a truck driven by a 22-year-old drunk driver going 60 mph on a city street. Brewer wanted to be a screen writer.
- Andrew Fang, 23, killed in Granada Hills when he reportedly traveled through a red light and was struck by a truck. A Facebook post admired his welcoming spirit: “You were my first friend in L.A.”
- Michael Ray Vega, 25, of Norco, killed in Rancho Cucamonga on Aug. 28, 2012 on Foothill Boulevard when a truck struck him from behind. The impact knocked him out of his shoes, according to media reports. He was wearing a helmet. His family holds memorial rides for him on the anniversary of his death every year.
- Randolph Stephenson, 62, killed on Barton Road in Loma Linda on Aug. 19, 2016 by an alleged hit-and-run driver, the San Bernardino Sun reported.
Strength in numbers
Biking coach Rick Babington, of Sunland, who helped start the Pasadena ride about 10 years ago as one of the first in the nation after Dallas, offered advice for new riders, saying there are ways to stay safe. First, always wear a helmet. Second, learn and follow the rules of the road.
“Join a local cycling club. There is strength in numbers. We love to ride in groups. Because we command more space on the road it tends to be safer,” he said. Also, club members enjoy mentoring younger riders. “That should increase confidence and improve their skill sets,” Babington said.
Before the riders began their slow, silent ride, Cassidy read aloud a list of local riders recently killed. “That is far too many people,” he said.