Big Island cyclists are coming together next Saturday for the Ride of Silence — an annual event held worldwide in May to commemorate cyclists who have been fatally killed or seriously injured while on public roadways.
Held during National Bike Month, the ride aims to raise awareness that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways, while encouraging people to ride a bike for active transport, recreation and exercise.
“This is done not just in the U.S. but in a lot of countries,” said Franz Weber, president of the Hawaii Cycling Club. “It is to raise awareness so people are encouraged to have a better understanding of how vulnerable cyclists are.”
Weber, an avid cyclist, volunteer extraordinaire, and founder of Paying it Forward West Hawaii, said realization of his own vulnerability out on public roadways occurred while riding his motorcycle.
“When I rode a motorcycle, I had three serious motorcycle accidents within two years,” he said. “That also created a lot of awareness of how vulnerable you are on a bike. The first one occurred at an intersection when someone made a right turn into me, another vehicle came head on into my lane after cutting a corner, and the third, someone hit me from behind. These are examples that were pretty clear of drivers doing something wrong. But that really showed me how vulnerable you are — whether you are on a bicycle or motorcycle — that you are not seen, that you are not visible out there.”
Weber added that because he had so many close calls, he now has a better understanding of how motor vehicles perceive cyclists.
“They mostly don’t understand how fast a cyclist can go,” he said. “They look at cyclists like a pedestrian. Because cyclists are not riding on four wheels, they look like a narrow silhouette and that looks like a pedestrian so they don’t realize how fast this rider is moving.”
Weber said being visible by using a back light that is strong enough to be seen during the day, and being attentive while riding will greatly reduce the chances for a serious injury or fatality.
“Always look half a mile ahead,” he said. “As a cyclist you always want to look far ahead to see what’s happening and to evaluate the situation. Ride as far to the right as possible. Don’t hug the white line. There are people who like to ride on the white line and that’s dangerous. When going through an intersection, be clear of your intentions – always signal, just like using the turn signals in your car, and be out of the way of cars as much as possible.”
The Ride of Silence — which will be held for the 11th time in Kailua-Kona — will begin from the Kona Community Aquatic Center pool parking lot next Saturday (May 15) at 9:15 a.m. and is free to all who participate. Supporting organizations include the Hawaii Cycling Club, PATH (People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii), Coffee Talk Riders, Velofix, and the Hawaii County Police Department.
HPD will escort cyclists over the slow paced, two-mile route, which will begin at the Kona Community Aquatic Center pool parking lot, then onto Alii Drive and through Historic Kailua Village, to Hualalai Road and Kuakini Highway, then finally back to the pool parking lot.
“Everyone is welcome and it’s free,” Weber said. “Participants can join us on a cruiser bike, a Bikeshare bike – anything!”