Sunday, May 21, 2006

Pictures and Thoughts from the Ride of Silence

On Wednesday May 17, 2006 I was one of the hundreds of cyclists who rode in Seattle's Ride of Silence. Like many of the riders I spoke with before and after the ride, I had (and still have) mixed feelings about the ride. I want to honor the fallen and remind folks that cyclists are legitimate users of the public roadways. On the other hand, the Ride of Silence can also send the message that it's just too dangerous to ride on the roads and I don't believe that. I chose to ride to remember the fallen and two of the fallen in particular.

I knew Ken Kifer through his writings and we exchanged a few emails a few years ago. He was one of the good guys, a true philosopher, the kind of man Thoreau was describing when he wrote:

"To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically."

Ken wrote a lot of good stuff and posted it to his website. When he was killed in 2003, a lot of people knew that they had lost a true friend. Thanks to many fine people, Ken's legacy and his website live on. Despite the tragedy of his death, his article Is Cycling Dangerous? is still the best analysis of the subject I've found.

When I was riding on Wednesday, I was also thinking of Larry Schwartz. Again, Larry is someone I only knew via the Internet. Larry and I were both members of a club called C-KAP, the Canadian Kilometer Achiever Program. Although most C-KAPpers are Canadian, Canadian citizenship is not a requirement. Larry and I were both members of the club's American minority. Larry and I were also a couple of the club riders who logged a large number of kilometers each year. C-KAP publishes an annual report and each year I'd see my name in the top ten in terms of kilometers and each year I'd see Larry's name as one of the people who'd logged more kilometers than I had. Part of the friendly competition of the club is seeing if you can move up in the annual rankings.

When the 2003 C-KAP report came out, I was surprised to see I'd finally beaten Larry in the annual rankings. He was 14th on the list instead of being in his usual spot in the top ten. But I hadn't won anything, the numbers told a small part of the story and the cover story of the report told the rest. On May 1st, 2003 Larry Schwartz was riding his bicycle when he struck from behind by a school bus. Larry died without regaining consciousness on May 4th. He left behind many friends, including his fiancée Judith Ann Jolly. The driver of the bus was sentenced to six months in jail and five years probation.

Even though he's only lived to ride four months in 2003, Larry still rode 12,212 kilometers that year. Clearly, Larry loved to ride. Larry loved to ride and that love inspired others to ride. Larry's tragic death became the catalyst for the Ride of Silence. I rode with hundreds of other riders in Seattle and thousands of riders across the country to remember Larry and others like him.

Warren Zevon knew that life will kill you and Jim Morrison knew that no one gets out of here alive. Ken Kifer and Larry Schwartz knew that life is for living, for doing that which you love. Both those men loved riding and passed some of that love on to the rest of us. I rode on Wednesday and I ride every day because, like Ken and Larry, I believe in riding bicycles.

My pictures from the Seattle Ride of Silence are here:

Alex Wetmore's report and pictures are here:

Keep 'em rolling,



Anonymous said...

Another solid and informative post, Ken. (Same for the one on Sheldon, though I feel like a psychophant pointing it out to you, but what the hell, I have Vault Radio on as I write this. Great stuff.) Ken Kifer’s story still sends shivers down my spine. I had read his pages a couple of months ago – a cycling bible really – without knowing Ken’s tragic end. It left me cold. A remarkable person. I felt as though I knew him after having read his works. I have learned so much from him that I continually go back to his pages to re-learn things over again. We should never forget Ken Kifer’s contribution.

Tammy said...

Nicely said Kent, as always. I share your mixed feelings about this ride, as I'm sure most motorists have no idea what we are all doing out there, other than getting in their way. In some ways, it could cause more harm than good, but we gotta do something...

Nice seeing you. Talk soon.

Rick J said...

Your message this morning is very nice breakfast food for my soul. I am sure that as the day progresses, your words will linger in my mind like a nice after taste of say for example, some fine coffee.