The Ride of Silence: Let the Silence Roar

Every year, on the third Wednesday of May, thousands of cyclists across the world take to the streets to honor fellow riders who have been injured or killed while cycling. This event is known as the Ride of Silence, and it is a powerful way to use cycling as a statement. We have defined utility cycling as any activity on a bicycle that accomplishes meaningful goals, and the Ride of Silence certainly falls into our conception of utility cycling, as it serves to raise awareness of cyclists’ rights on public roadways – something we can certainly all appreciate.

What is the Ride of Silence?

The Ride of Silence is a group ride that never exceeds 12 mph/ 20kph. At the beginning of the ride, most ride organizers have the riders gather before the Ride of Silence poem is recited and any speakers are given the opportunity to say a few words. In some cases, ride organizers have a priest deliver a prayer. Throughout the ride, people are asked to remain completely silent, and the ride proceeds along like a funeral procession. There is almost always a pre-planned route, sag vehicles and volunteers to assist riders, and law enforcement support, since the ride is viewed as and awarded the same rights as a motorized funeral procession. The Ride of Silence takes place on the 3rd Wednesday of May in conjunction with National Bike Month, Bike-to-Work Week, and national Bike-to-Work Day, which is the third Friday of May. In 2010, more than 300 events took place around the world.

IMG_2102A ghost bike carried by cargo bike in Tucson

History of the Ride of Silence

The Ride of Silence was started in 2003 in Dallas, TX, by one Chris Phelan after a friend of his – a local endurance cyclist – was killed while riding. The ride was meant to be a one-time event, but as word spread, many other people contacted Chris about hosting similar rides in other places. The first ride that Chris organized drew more than 1,000 cyclists. As is the case with all of the Ride of Silence rides, there was no registration, entry fee, or sponsorship. The ride was simply meant as a memorial and a statement that cyclists have rights on the road. You can read the full time line here and you can also check out Chris’s blog.

IMG_2112The Tucson Ride of Silence crowd.

Tucson Ride of Silence

I recently attended the Ride of Silence in Tucson, Arizona. I had never attended a Ride of Silence, and I was there mainly to honor a friend and teammate who is currently recovering from being hit by a truck while riding her bike but also generally to honor all of the cyclists and families who have suffered from such accidents. I was impressed with the turnout from the cycling community, the law enforcement support, and the courteous responses we received from motorists and other people throughout the procession. The ride was a very touching, but also rather difficult, experience, but I was very glad to have attended. If there is a Ride of Silence in your community next year, I definitely recommend checking it out, or you can even start one!


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