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Ride of Silence

An event dedicated to bringing awareness for everyone sharing the road, as well as honoring fellow cyclists killed, or injured in cycling accidents will take place May 17 at Matzaluna Italian Restuarant on Sanibel Island.

The Ride of Silence, which initially took place in 2003, in Dallas, Texas, was brought to the island in 2008 by the Sanibel Bike Club. The first event in Dallas attracted 1,000 cyclists. Now the event is held on the third Wednesday of May every year at 7 p.m. across the country.

Salli Kirkland, of Billy’s Bike Shops, said being in the cycling industry it was important for them to get involved in Ride of Silence. They joined the efforts five years ago.

“It is very important for us to participate in this event to give people the opportunity to take a second look at cycling and the safety issues for cyclists and pedestrians. It’s a dangerous situation when faced with motor vehicles,” Kirkland said.

Mark Blust, Prawnbroker vice president of marketing and operations, said after attending a Ride of Silence event four years ago in Downtown Fort Myers he wanted to bring it to the island because he has been a road cyclist for eight years. After learning it had already begun on the island, Blust quickly got Matzaluna involved three years ago.

“The first year we had in excess of 60 riders,” he said. “My goal this year is to get 100 riders.”

The Ride of Silence will be held Wednesday, May 17. The waiver signing and equipment check will begin at 6:45 p.m. at Matzaluna, followed by the ride at 7 p.m. Blust said there is no preregistration required, but a helmet is mandatory for the event.

The history of the event will be shared, the rules of the road and then a Ride of Silence poem will be read before the ride.

The 8-mile ride will take participants from Matzaluna across the road to the bike path and then down to Billy’s Bike Shop. Cyclists will circle the parking lot and then head towards Lindgren Boulevard where they will cross the road again to take the bike path underneath the Causeway. The ride will continue over the first two bridges before circling under the big bridge to head back to Matzaluna.

Discounts for food and beverage will be offered for the riders after the completion of the ride at Matzaluna. Blust said they usually have about 30 riders who stay and enjoy some refreshments.

“Feel free to join us,” he said. “If you’re not a cyclist, it’s okay to come and join us anyway. It’s a great way to join the sport. Riding is very therapeutic. With all of the beautiful paths we have on Sanibel, it’s great to ride bikes out here.”

Ride of Silence, Kirkland said, offers the opportunity to think of those who have died, or been seriously injured in the process of enjoying their activity of cycling.

Kirkland said the ride takes about 30 to 40 minutes due to traveling about 10 or 12 miles per hour.

“Ride of Silence is a slow, quiet ride with a group of people,” she said. “Cyclists get to reflect. Hopefully a motorist gets to think about what we are doing.”

The annual event, Kirkland said is about creating some kind of connection between the motor vehicle driver and the pedestrian and cyclists. She said that connection is “saying we can all exist here in the same place if we give each other a little bit of respect.

“It’s an opportunity to make that connection,” Kirkland said. “Sanibel is a relaxed community. Hopefully this is part of our environment to share what we have with not only the animals, but the people of the island too.”

Last year as the cyclists were riding the Causeway, Kirkland said a truck slowed down and stayed behind them the entire way.

“The causeway is one of the most beautiful rides,” she said. “It’s sad that people miss that beautiful ride because of fear. We just have to share the road.”

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