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The Story of the Ride of Silence

“A man may die. Nations may rise and fall. But an idea lives on." - JFK

A guest post from Chris Phelan, founder of the Ride for Silence. On May 17th, the Ride of Silence can be found in 450+ cities across the world to honor those who have been injured or killed, to raise awareness that we are here and to ask that we all share the road.

We have been told the Ride of Silence only exists to alienate cyclists, manipulate planners, profit from donations, and strangle local advocacy. That we are in fact trying to denigrate, demean, and dehumanize road users other than motorists.

It’s just not true. Not true!

This is an entirely grassroots movement, a 501©3 I’m proud to say, that has no cash flow, and where everyone’s a volunteer, from the top to the bottom. (It’s one of the reasons why we seek support SO desperately.)

The Story of The Ride Of Silence

I read something recently that fits what happened at, and immediately after, the funeral. “Don’t settle for a spark. Light a fire instead.”

Larry Schwartz ambled down the road on May 4, 2003, with his bike, but without a care, into history. He died 12 years ago on that day, becoming the initial inspiration for The Ride Of Silence.

It was late morning and everything was normal. He was well on his way to riding another 20,000-mile-year on his bike, a number that was numbing to other cyclists who thought getting in 2,000-5,000 miles for the year was outstanding. But not Larry. This was normal for him. But Larry was anything but normal to those who knew and loved him.

A bit elfish at 5’6” with a perpetual grin, he was born January 5, 1961, and always Mr. Positive. His upbeat attitude was infectious in the worst of conditions. He had been smart with investing and was able to retire at the ripe old age of 35. So, like the little kid that was believed to live inside of him, he could ride his bike. And ride he did. From coast to coast in record time, then back. Then from Texas to Canada. And back. Larry set world records for endurance cycling.

His common-law wife, Judith, supported his enthusiasm and zest for life. Together they rode to many of the area rallies, rode the longest distance that was offered (many times with the leaders of the pack), and then rode home. It wasn’t unusual for them to log 200-300 mile days, many times, for consecutive days. This was normal.On May 4, all was normal. It was a work day, the kids were at school, and the sun was out. It was another beautiful spring day north of Dallas.

On May 4, all was normal. It was a work day, the kids were at school, and the sun was out. It was another beautiful spring day north of Dallas. Normal, until the only vehicle that would share the road with him, a bus, came along in the same direction as Larry, with a full view through the windshield of Larry riding alone. It would be Larry’s final ride.

Larry was fatally hit when the mirror of a passing school bus struck his head from behind decapitating him, north of McKinney on FM 1461 around 8 a.m. on May 4.

A grand jury indicted Haynes on a charge of “Failure to Stop and Render Aid,” a felony punishable up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The decision to accept the plea was tough, says Judith Jolly, Schwartz’s widow, “but at least we knew that the defendant would spend six months in jail, and then for the next five years be closely monitored by the state. It is not only for us to remember Larry, but all friends and loved ones who died while cycling at the hands of a motorist.”

He was and will always be a legend.

Who rides in the Ride of Silence?

Racers, roadies, MTBers, BMXers, cross riders, triathletes, duathletes, downhillers, trikes, DF, ‘Bent, fixies, cruisers, trikes, elite, age groupers, commuters, critical mass, cycle chic, lycra, denim, tweed, recreational, casual, young, old, fast, slow – it doesn’t matter. We are creating an amazing experience, a moving tribute that brings light to a special shared healing for others, and yourself in the process.

Whether you know it or not, you are part of a large bicycle loving family, and this is your call to the family reunion.

Our purpose is noble; our cause is just.

Thank you for your passion as we ride silently in hope to end the tragedy on our roads, continuing the tradition of excellence that distinguishes The Ride Of Silence, and as together, we envision the path for the future.

The unity and visibility of this event depend on the solidarity of the cyclists taking a stand.

We are creating an amazing experience, a moving tribute that brings light to a special shared healing for others, and yourself in the process. Through this ride, we are showing that the weakest and most vulnerable of all road users are by law afforded equal protection, under the law, city, state, and federal law.

Join Us

The Bike Law network has been involved with Ride of Silence for well over 10 years. Every one of our members has a story and personal tie to the Ride of Silence. Join us at one of the Ride of Silence events near you on May 17th across North America and the world.

Ann Arbor
Boulder
Charleston
Charlotte
Chicago
Decatur
Kansas City
Lansing
Maine
New Orleans

 

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