Cyclists unite in silence for a common cause

  • Local cyclists ride in a silent procession through Historic Kailua Village during Saturday’s Ride of Silence to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while riding on public roadways. (Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events)

Nearly 50 cyclists united on 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 for the 11th time in Kailua-Kona and during National Bike Month, the ride aims to raise awareness that cyclists have a legal right to share the public roadways with motorists. The Ride of Silence began at the Kona Community Aquatic Center and circled a two-mile loop through the Historic Kailua Village.

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Joining in the silent ride were cyclists from the Hawaii Cycling Club (HCC) and Coffee Talk Riders (CTR), People’s Advocacy for Trails Hawaii (PATH), Velofix, a few families with young children, and two officers from the Hawaii Police Department (HPD).

Officer Reuben Pukahi, who has been with the HPD for 14.5 years and participating in his fourth Ride of Silence as the police escort, said safety is the number one priority when on pubic roadways.

“I would like that we just share the road together,” Pukahi said. “Safety of course is the first priority and I believe a lot of accidents with cyclists and vehicles can be avoided. I think it’s about sharing the road and sharing aloha.”

Pukahi added that both the motorist and cyclist need to be aware of one another.

“I believe that when you are driving, try to put in yourself in the cyclist’s shoes,” Pukahi said. “If you see them on the side of the road riding, even if they are close to the white line, just slow down a bit to give yourself a little more awareness. If you can give them space, give them space. For the cyclist, I think a lot of the accidents occur at intersections. So, instead of just thinking that you have the right of way, be a little more mindful and aware of cars. Even if you see a green light ahead, maybe look over your shoulder and take safety precautions. Don’t take it for granted.”

Donning a bright yellow CTR cycling jersey, Mike Drutar, a 2013 Ironman World Championship finisher and owner of NextHome Paradise Realty, said Saturday’s event brought back memories of two cyclists who died after getting hit by a vehicle.

“One is someone whom I’ve never met, Mr. Jeffrey Surnow, who died on Waikoloa Road (March 2015), and a local rider who died around 10 years ago, Jessie Taylor (July 2012),” Drutar said. “Those are the two who come to mind for me because those were the kinds of accidents that cyclists fear the most — it’s the ones where they got hit from behind and never saw it coming. I think the Ride of Silence brings awareness to motorists about cyclists on the road and can help to prevent those kinds of accidents in particular which cyclists fear. Those are the ones that stick out to me, as they seem to have a lot of impact for various reasons in the community.”

Drutar said he and his wife, Lisa Drutar, teach cyclists their PVCs when riding on public roadways — be Predictable, Visible, and Communicate.

“Be predictable — do what cyclists are supposed to do on the road,” he said. “Don’t do things that a motorist won’t anticipate. One thing people often get confused about are that people are either a cyclist or a motorist. But almost every cyclist is also a motorist, and they know what a motorist looks out for. So being sure to do things a motorist can predict is the number one thing a cyclist can do to help. Be visible and wear bright colors — I know that when I’m driving down the highway, I can see a rider a mile ahead if they are wearing a bright color. But if they are in grey, you won’t notice them until they are a few hundred yards ahead. And Communicate — use hand signals to let people know when you are going to turn. So, PVC are the things you do.”

PATH Bike Safety Instructor and Race Director, Joe Loschiavo, who drove the PATH escort van over the two-mile route, believes targeting youth through PATH’s fourth grade bike safety skills and education program will help to save lives.

“Fourth and fifth graders are at the perfect age to learn this,” Loschiavo said. “It gives them confidence when out riding their bikes and it also makes them more aware of what they need to do to be visible and safe when riding.

“We go into schools across the whole island for a free three-day clinic. We hold one day in class, where we teach them the basic ABCs (air, brakes, chain) of checking their bike out, and then we do two days out in the parking lot where we teach them to check their bikes but to also do their ABCs on their own so that they will be safe when out riding their bike.”

Loschiavo added teaching Keiki the importance of safety by wearing a helmet and bright clothing, and checking their ABCs on their bikes before heading out, can help minimize youth cycling accidents on public roadways.

“And they should always look everywhere,” he said. “Right, left, then right again when checking for traffic. Never assume they see you.”

Bo Florendo, a retired Kona District Court Judge, avid cyclist, and HCC board member echoed Pukahi’s comments that motorists and cyclists need to be more aware and to share the road with aloha.

“I think motorists need to keep their distance from the cyclists,” Florendo said. “The preferred distance is three feet away from cyclists. We are blessed in Hawaii County with our roads because there is a little more space for people. So, keeping that three feet distance between yourself and the cyclist on the side of the road is very important. And also being patient when you are on a road that is more narrow and windy, like Napoopoo Road. When you do come upon a cyclist going around a curve, don’t pass unless it’s safe, you should wait until you can see ahead and it’s a straightaway.”

Florendo said cyclists should have lights on their bikes, to be aware of their surroundings, and to ride as far to the right as possible without endangering themselves.

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As for the message and hope the Ride of Silence brings, Florendo remains optimistic.

“The hope is for more roads to be bike friendly, more room on the shoulders, and more pathways so that people can get out to get exercise safely. Our roads were not designed for cyclists, they were designed for small cars. Making the change now will be difficult, but that is the hope for the future.”

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