Through their silence, 25 people rode bicycles through Seymour on Wednesday to make a loud statement about safety and to encourage motorists to be more aware of cyclists on the road.
The annual Ride of Silence is organized by B2 Bikes and Boards in Seymour and also serves as a tribute to cyclists who have been injured or died while riding.
Cyclists are asked to refrain from talking during the ride for personal reflection on safety and to enjoy the peace riding can bring.
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Paul Starks of Columbus participates in Wednesday night group rides in Seymour and said this was his second year to participate in the Ride of Silence.
“I’ve known people that have been killed riding,” he said.
A lot of thoughts went through his mind as he pedaled.
“People ought to pay more attention to bicyclists,” he said.
Although he has never been injured himself while riding, Starks said he knows it could happen.
“I’ve had a couple of close calls,” he said. “One time, I was riding through because the light was green, and somebody came to a stop and decided they were going to turn on a red light. They’re looking at me because I’m looking at them. I had to stop and they didn’t even say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry.’”
Starks said with summer almost here, more people will be out riding, and motorists need to be more educated about cyclists.
“More people need to get focused on why they’re out there,” he said. “They’re out there for exercise and to have fun. Just because you’re in a car doesn’t mean you get to run over people.”
Matt and Amanda Wheeler and their son Samuel, 13, are avid cyclists, participating in the Seymour Multisport Club and the Wednesday night riding group. They are no strangers to the Ride of Silence.
“We’re thankful because he is a survivor,” Amanda said of her husband, who was hit by a car several years ago while out riding his bike.
During the Ride of Silence, Matt Wheeler said it’s difficult not to think about those kinds of things.
“We want (motorists) to be more aware that we are out there,” he said.
But cyclists also need to do certain things for safety, he said.
Choosing routes that have less traffic, wearing bright reflective clothing and having a headlight and taillight at night, wearing a helmet, using appropriate hand signals to make turns, riding the same direction as traffic, following all traffic laws and being aware of one’s surroundings are all steps cyclists must take to ensure their own safety.
“It’s not just motorists that need to be careful,” Matt Wheeler said.
To make the Ride of Silence message even more meaningful, the group was led from Trinity United Methodist Church by a hearse from Burkholder Funeral Chapel and a Seymour firetruck, making motorists stop to allow the procession to pass.
Bob Nicholson said he was impressed that even people who were out walking or mowing their yards stopped and paid respect to the group.
“When we rode past the park, there were even some men at the ball diamond who stood up, took off their hats and put their hand over their heart,” he said. “I thought that was a really nice thing for them to do.”
For the first time, three bicycles painted white were placed along the route as a reminder of those who have died after being hit by a vehicle while riding a bike.
Matt Nicholson, owner of B2 Bikes and Boards and a city councilman, said the event isn’t about who can ride the fastest or longest. It’s about reminding people that both cyclists and motorists need to be aware of each other and share the road responsibly and safely.
“That’s all we’re trying to do,” he said.