16th Greater Lansing Ride of Silence to honor bicyclists killed on streets
May is National Bicycle Safety Month, and Wednesday evening, hundreds of bicyclists are riding together from East Lansing to Lansing to advocate for safe roadways and to honor those injured or killed by drivers.
The Tri-County Bicycle Association Advocacy Committee and MSU Bikes are co-hosts of the 16th Greater Lansing Ride of Silence. A police escort and support vehicles will guide a group of about 200 riders as they travel west from Wells Hall at Michigan State University to the steps of the State Capitol in Lansing.
Pat Harrington is one of the organizers for the ride. He said many of the participants will be regular cyclists who ride thousands of miles a year. Others are riding to remember loved ones who were killed or injured while biking on the streets.
Harrington says he's been a local advocate for bicycle safety ever since a school bus crashed into him in 1976 in a hit-and-run accident. He adds the ride will show that the roads don’t just belong to motor vehicle drivers.
“The road right of way, it belongs to everyone to use as they wish. It's not just motor vehicles," Harrington said. "I should be able to ride my bike or walk, or if a person is in a wheelchair, disabled, or some other type of mobility challenge, they have every right to that right of way.“
The route will look a little different this year compared to previous iterations. Riders won't spend as much time on Farm Lane or on Michigan Avenue due to ongoing construction. The group will also make stops at Berkey Hall and the MSU Union to hold a moment of silence for the victims of the Feb. 13 shooting on campus.
At the Capitol, participants will share stories to honor friends and family injured in cycling accidents. Others will promote efforts to make streets safer to bicycle riders. Some members of the group will return to East Lansing, completing a nearly nine-mile trip, while others will stop for a celebration of advocacy efforts at a local brewery.
Lansing has seen some efforts to support non-motorized transportation at both the local and state level. A bill in the legislature would subsidize electric bikes to make cycling more affordable for low-income residents. City officials are also planning a redesign of Michigan Avenue that would include a protected bike lane along with other extensions to the Lansing River Trail network.
Tim Potter is an avid bicyclist and the sustainable transportation manager at MSU Bikes. He says data shows that deaths for motorists involved in an accident have been declining over the years while deaths for pedestrians and cyclists have been rising.
Potter adds that's concerning as more people have been going outdoors for walks or bike rides since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With that exposure, a lot more people out there, there's there's been a lot more people paying the ultimate price being out near the roadways,” Potter said.
He says the event helps remind drivers to watch out for cyclists while on the road.
“Bicyclists are out there on the roads and have a right to be on the roads, and, you know, aren't just supposed to be out of the way on the sidewalks,” Potter said.
The Ride of Silence began in 2003 after a bus driver killed a cyclist in Texas. Ten rides are taking place in Michigan, and hundreds of rides are being organized across the globe.
Registration opens at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Wells Hall courtyard, and the group will depart for the Capitol an hour later. Those who wish to join are required to wear a helmet and to remain silent during the ride.