Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ride of Silence

I began cycling as a seven year old when my father bought me a second-hand CCM from another boy in the village. Between that time and the time I turned fourteen, I probably had another four bikes. Some I outgrew, while others I didn’t take care of properly, resulting in their early demise.

When I became a musician in the early ‘70s, cycling was left behind as the behaviour of a child. However, it was only for a year or two since ten-speed bicycles were becoming the rage among young adults for a number of reasons.

First, they were inexpensive to operate, using no gas and requiring no expensive insurance, registration, and parts.

Secondly, they were environmentally non-threatening, and the environmental movement was beginning to gather momentum. I had to do with a three-speed that I bought second-hand since I couldn’t afford a true ten-speed at that time.

When I moved to the city after high school, I was able to buy a ten-speed, and became a “cyclemuter,” choosing to ride as much as possible instead of driving the car. In this way, I was able to explore the city at a slower pace, and get to places the car was unable to go.

I continued to ride until the early ‘80s when that old ten-speed was stolen, and I was financially unable to replace it.

In 1993, I bought a mountain bike; ill-fitting and heavy, but I rode it until I lost it in a fire in 1997. Again I stopped riding until I bought a second ten-speed at Value Village in 2001. I managed to get a summer out of it and inherited another mountain bike the following spring.

Finally, in 2008, I purchased a Norco Mountain bike from Framework Cycles and Fitness in Sydney NS. I rode that bike as much in the following year as I’d ridden altogether since 1997. Finally in the spring of 2010, I bought a Devinci road bike.

Built with the dropped handlebars and sleek design of my earlier ten-speeds, but with a lighter frame and better gearing system, this machine was ... IS, the one I’ve waited my whole life to ride.

One of the most important issues for me is bicycle safety. I’m not sure why, but motorists seem to have a grievance against cyclists over fifteen years of age. As long as you’re a child on a bike, you are not discriminated against, but as soon as you’re old enough to drive a car, you’re expected to not ride a bike. That to me seems ludicrous, and Velo Cape Breton as well as many other clubs, both formal and informal are proof of this.

While doing an internet search one evening looking for safety tips, I came across the Ride of Silence, and was immediately drawn to it. “This is something that makes a very clear statement, without saying a word,” I thought. I brought it to the attention of Velo Cape Breton’s Jacques Coté, and asked if it was something he thought should be looked at for this area.

Fast forward to early May 2010, and Jacques had taken it upon himself to have a Ride of Silence organized and advertised. As soon as I was aware that it was proceeding, I e-mailed all my friends and talked it up as much as I could. The ride drew over sixty riders of all age groups and from every walk of life and riding style, from casual infrequent riders to hardcore racing/triathlon riders.

This year’s ride will take place on May 18th beginning at 6:30 PM at the Sydney River Superstore, 1225 King’s Road Sydney River NS. Riders will proceed along King’s Road, to Townsend Street, turning right and proceeding to the intersection at George Street. At George, the procession will turn left and follow George St to its Northernmost end. The procession will then turn left onto Ortona, left again onto Esplanade and proceed to the Civic Centre, 320 Esplanade, where there will be a public assembly.

After the assembly, additional riders who are not inclined to travel the entire distance will join the main ride for another loop around the downtown area, from Townsend to Ortona and back to the civic centre where the main group will continue on the return to the Superstore.

The Ride of Silence occurs on the third Wednesday of May annually. Riders ride single file, at a slow speed, (maximum 20 km/hr) in complete silence. International Ride of Silence organizer, Chris Phelan in Dallas Texas asks us to treat it as a funeral procession in order to keep everything in perspective.

I encourage everyone to show your support for this cause by either riding with us, or by attending the assembly at the Civic Centre. It won't take much time out of your day, and it will be a great step in bringing attention to cycling and increasing safety for us all.

~Still Wandering (this time on two wheels)...

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