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Ride of Silence aims to raise awareness
May 14, 2019

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An annual event on Sanibel planned for this week will commemorate cyclists who have been injured or killed while riding a bike, as well as raise awareness about the importance of sharing the road.

Marking its 11th anniversary, the Ride of Silence will be held on May 15 from 7 to 9 p.m. and start out from Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen. Organized by the Sanibel Bicycle Club, Billy's Bikes and Matzaluna, the route will take cyclists to the bike shop and then back and forth over the Sanibel Causeway.

Hundreds of events are held worldwide on the same day in recognition of the movement.

"It's a way for us cyclists to honor those who have unfortunately been killed while cycling, enjoying their favorite sport," Salli Kirkland, bike club member and owner of Billy's Bikes, said. "For motorists, it's a visible reminder that we're all here to share the road - and we need to be kind to one another."

The first Ride of Silence was organized by Chris Phelan in 2003 in Dallas, Texas, after cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the mirror of a passing bus and killed. The island event was founded in 2008.

"It's designed for everybody to participate," she said of the Sanibel event. "We get everybody from casual riders to hardcore bike riders to people just visiting and renting bikes."

About four to five dozen people took part in last year's ride.

"The amount of people, I think, stays fairly consistent," Kirkland said.

Free and open to all, the route proceeds west from Matzaluna to Billy's Bikes, then circles back and crosses over the first two bridges of the causeway, turns around and returns back to Matzaluna.

"Usually we have a police escort," she said.

The eight-mile ride will be done in silence at about 12 mph.

"It probably takes 30 to 40 minutes," Kirkland said.

Matzaluna will provide discounted food and drinks for the riders.

Those interested in participating should arrive by 6:45 p.m.

"We'll give a little safely lesson," she said.

Cyclists will be required to wear a helmet and sign a wavier.

"A flashing taillight is a good idea and a headlight," Kirkland added, pointing out they are especially needed for those planning to stay for dinner. "You'll definitely need a light on your way home."

She noted that a fair amount of riders stay to socialize at Matzaluna afterward.

"It's a good way to meet other people if you're a visitor," Kirkland said. "Or if you're an islander, you might find a new bike riding partner."

In 2017, there were 216 bicycle crashes in Lee County, along with three fatalities and 200 injuries, according to statistics from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

"Sanibel is a very safe place to ride and has not had a bike fatality in quite some time," she said.

Still, Kirkland offered tips on ways cyclists and motorists can keep the roads safe for each another.

"We encourage lights at all hours of the day, to just make yourself more visible," she said for cyclists.

Wearing bright-colored clothing and leaving the headphones at home is also suggested.

"Put your phone down," Kirkland said for motorists. "So you're aware and see what's going on."

She also pointed out Florida's 3-foot law, which requires motorists passing a slower-moving cyclist to provide a clearance of at least 3 feet when doing so.

"Give the cyclists room when they're riding," Kirkland said.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to take part in the Ride of Silence.

"I think anyone who's a cyclist should be supporting the fact that this is done to remind everybody that we share the road together. That's always something of a concern for bicyclists, so keep promoting that," she said. "And to be thankful we can enjoy our sport."

"We have to work together to make cycling and driving safe," Kirkland added.

For more information, contact Mark Blust at 239-560-5305 or mblust@prawnbroker.com, Mike Miller at millerlawfl@earthlink.net or Salli Kirkland at salli@sanibelbike.com.

Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen is at 1200 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel.

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