No speak, just spokes

It was a beautiful Bike to Work Day 2012 when hubby and I discovered we fell into a very special category of cyclists. Our close friend, neighbor, and all-around Speedy-Gonzales-on-a-bike Philip laughed good-naturedly when we showed up to the ride wearing comfy pants and sneakers. “You know what we used to call people like you, back when I raced in California?”

“Freds.”

Granted, we’re not the most stylish people — even in real life, let alone on two wheels — so this was no big surprise. We decided to take it as a compliment, a badge of honor that we represent the ill-coordinated but well-meaning commuters. We may not own spandex but, by george, we’re doing our part to keep the Earth from bursting into a carbon-soaked ball of flame. And most importantly, riding a bike is ridiculously fun.

Unfortunately it’s not always fun and games. In 2003, cyclist Larry Schwartz was killed by a school bus, and less than three weeks later, the first Ride of Silence was organized. That event in Dallas drew 1,000 people, and word quickly spread to other cities. The tradition continues across the globe each May during National Bike Month, and tonight Brad and I were proud to join in on the tenth annual ride.

Police escorted our group along the route, through major intersections and the downtown area. No one speaks. At all. But there are pats on backs and fist bumps of support. It’s incredibly moving, and I had to wipe away tears when a cyclist stood in the Broadway median saluting as we passed.

I wish I could say that bike accidents were a rarity, but in 2011 alone, 677 cyclists were killed in the U.S. by inattentive drivers. Brad and I both have been seriously injured by cars, as have many of our friends, but we both feel the tide is turning. Our hometown is becoming more and more bike friendly, and so many committed people are now working with groups like Bicycle Columbus to make major improvements in alternative transportation.

So I’m going to walk away from tonight’s event not feeling sad, but hopeful. Hopeful that the more two-wheeled wonders there are on the road, the more drivers will get used to looking for us. Hopeful that cycling deaths will begin to decline again, reversing the ugly trend of the last couple of years. And hopeful that the cycling community will continue to grow exponentially, reaching out to riders of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds.

Even us Freds.

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