Pasadena’s Cycling Community Will Ride In Silence to Honor Loved Ones Killed On the Streets

Published : Tuesday, May 16, 2017 | 5:50 AM

Police will escort cyclists possibly numbering into the hundreds from the Rose Bowl to City Hall Wednesday night when they ride in silence to honor and remember loved ones who were killed while cycling – a tragedy that claims a thousand American lives on average each year.

Ride of Silence has become a worldwide event in cycling communities. It takes place on the third Wednesday of May, which is also National Bicycle Safety month, as a way to show a public display of solidarity among fellow cyclists.

Organizers say pointedly the event aims to remind motorists to share the road at all times and serves to support calls for local leadership and community help prevent more deaths.

“I’m looking for a change, a major shift in direction because right now somehow or other our society and around the world people are being massacred and most of the public doesn’t even know it,” said Ride of Silence Founder Chris Phelan.

Phelan was inspired to start the Ride of Silence in 2003 after his longtime friend and fellow avid cyclist Larry Schwartz was tragically killed while riding on familiar and routine route in their hometown of Dallas, Texas.

The brutality of the collision, which left Schwartz decapitated from high speed contact with an adjacent bus mirror, was a shocking experience that resonated with the local cycling community which was left reeling. Schwartz was an experienced cyclist who rode on average about 20,000 miles a year, according to Phelan.

Today, over 465 Ride of Silence events will take place around the world in 50 states, 48 countries and all 7 continents in honor of cyclists killed in fatal traffic collisions on our streets every day.

“It’s not just the numbers, but the cruelty of it all that there are people out there that actually think bikes don’t belong on the road when in fact they have a legal right to be on the road,” said Phelan. “Something has to change. We have way too many people getting killed. It’s a gigantic loss of life,”Phelan added.

In their most recent report, the California Office of Traffic Safety reported that 115 traffic collisions where a bicyclist was either injured or killed occurred in Pasadena in 2014.

An additional 100 more collisions were reported to involve pedestrians that year.

“It can be very, very scary out there. The bottom line is how do we all get along? How do we coexist together with a smile on our face and love in our hearts and compassion to all be out there and have it be safe for cyclists?,” said Pasadena’s Ride of Silence Organizer and avid cyclist Chris Cassidy.

According to a state report Pasadena records among the highest number of collisions involving cyclists in the region, and many are speed-related collisions.

“The likelihood of walking away unscathed is pretty close to zero,” said Cassidy.

Speed is a factor in one-third of all traffic-related deaths, and the chances of a person walking or biking surviving a collision with a car sharply decrease as speeds approach and exceed 30 mph. Five out of ten people survive being hit by a vehicle at 30 mph, but only one out of ten survive being struck by a vehicle traveling at 40 mph, according to Bike San Gabriel Valley.

“Generally when a cyclist does go down, very often, it’s a clavicle or shoulder that you break by the nature of where you tumble over. It’s almost always going to probably result in some broken bones and months and months and months of downtime and lots of pain and perhaps surgery and big medical bills,” explained Cassidy.

It appears that motorists and bicyclists may possibly be learning to safely coexist on City streets as indicated by data that shows bicycle collisions have decreased steadily since 2014, perhaps the biggest drop in recent years.

“We are pleased to report that based on the history of bicycle collision data reported in our collision database, the bicycle collisions have been on the decline since 2014. This is especially a significant improvement, because normally as bicycle users increase, the collisions tend to increase too,” said City of Pasadena Department of Transportation Administrator Bahman Janka.

However, this wasn’t always the case in Pasadena. The City experienced 109 bicycle collisions in 2014 that resulted in injury or death for parties involved compared to just 73 in 2009, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety.

“There’s a lot of distracted drivers out there with the new technology in vehicles and that are readily available at your hands. We’re doing our best to enforce those issues. I think people are learning with hands free, and realizing that it’s not worth a ticket and or causing injury or getting into an accident,” said Pasadena Police Department Lt. Diego Torres.

Under California Vehicle Code 21200, also known as the “move over law,” bicyclist are granted the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles. As slow-moving vehicles, the law states that cyclists must ride on the right side of the road with the following exceptions: when passing, preparing for a left turn, avoiding hazards, approaching a right turn lane, or if the lane is too narrow to share.

However, some motorists are not familiar with the CVC that allows cyclists to legally “take the lane”.

“If you were to take a yard stick and put it on the side of you bike when you’re riding along at thirty miles an hour in addition to a car going by you significantly faster — that’s not a lot of room. It’s very scary at three feet,” said Cassidy.

The City of Pasadena Department of Transportation reported a steady decrease in bicycle collisions from 2014 to 2016, from 93 incidents to just 45 in that two year span of time.

“Fortunately there haven’t been any recent [deaths],” said Lt. Torres about incidents in Pasadena.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 818 bicyclists died and over 45,000 were injured in crashes in 2015, with deaths rising over 12% from 2014 numbers.

Over the 10-year period from 2006 to 2015, the average age of cyclists killed in motor vehicle crashes increased from 41 to 45.

Alcohol involvement either for the motor vehicle operator or for the cyclist – was reported in 37% of all fatal cyclist crashes in 2015.

“We are pleased to attribute the reductions to our strong bicycle safety programs as well as enforcement efforts by our police department,” said Janka.

The Department of Transportation has been committed to steadily rolling out safety initiatives for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike since 2005 through movements like Ride Right. Ride Bright. Bicycle Safety Campaign., Bike Week Pasadena, bicycle light distribution events and countless more.

The reality is that accidents occur all over the City, making it hard to pinpoint specific areas that are particularly dangerous to motorists and cyclists.

“It’s usually areas where there is more traffic just because the potential is there, but [Pasadena] is building more bike lanes and people are becoming more aware of it,” said Torres.

California has the Move Over Law to share the road requiring motorist to pass bike riders with at least a three foot cushion.

“I think anything we have out there as an identifier or a reminder of caution is a good thing,” said Torres.

Safety precautions goes for both cyclists and drivers.

“You need to share the road and bicyclists need to follow the rules of the road just like cars, but the common sense factor is that the car is obviously a lot bigger than a bicycle. Bicycles are seen at times so just that due caution of cyclists is one of the main points,” said Torres.

“I definitely think the City is bicycle friendly,” added Torres.

Certain events in Pasadena are starting to offer the option for bike valet service to encourage cyclists to ride to otherwise high traffic events such as the upcoming U2 concert at the Rose Bowl.

“Bike safety is definitely getting better. There’s more awareness to it. We’re all realize that it’s an issue or can potentially be an issue, but it’s a priority on our end,” said Torres.

Local advocates including the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition are calling for the City of Pasadena to join other cities in California and across the country in adopting a Vision Zero Strategy which would establish the goal of eliminating all preventable traffic deaths among bicyclists and pedestrians in Pasadena, according to Bike San Gabriel Valley.

Riders who have personally been involved in a bicycle collisions are encouraged to wear red arm band at Ride of Silence and for those who are riding in honor of a friend or loved one who was killed in a collision to wear a black arm band.

“It would be great if the community as a whole were to see this and sort of ask questions like, ‘what is this all about?’, and to develop some compassion and understanding for what it feels like to have these close encounters and god forbid an encounter where you’ve been hit or lost a family member,” said Cassidy.

To join the ride, cyclists are to meet at Rose Bowl Lot K at 6pm on Wednesday.

The ride will depart at 7pm and will loop through Old Town on Colorado Blvd and will include a stop at Pasadena City Hall for a moment of silence, before heading back to the Rose Bowl to enjoy pizza.

For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/RideOfSilencePasadena.