One of the local rail trails has an occasional visitor that seems to come and go. I was doing an extended Midnight burner ride when I saw it was back, and got a photo of it which you can see above. It's the Ghost Bike of the New Berlin Trail.
For people unfamiliar, a "Ghost Bike" is a memorial of a fallen rider. It's usually placed by friends or family of the deceased on the place where a rider died. In this case, her name was Brittany Barnstable. She was 15. According to the news reports she had entered the crossing without stopping, and was struck by a vehicle. That was in 2013.
The ghost bike appears and disappears through the season. I used to think it was the city taking it down but I found older pics of it and it's the same bike. So without knowing the real case, I'm guessing it's family that puts it in place as a memorial. But most people who drive past it never really see it.
So sometimes, we have to do something a little more visible.
Every year the "Ride of Silence" is that something. For the last 14 years riders assemble on the same day to ride, silently, in memory of fallen cyclists, and to show drivers we're on the roads too.
Wheel and Sprocket hosted several events, and I went to my closest store in Brookfield, WI. There were about 20 of us there, give or take. After signing in, we had a reading of "the poem" and we went. I hung nearer to the back, mostly because I've done hte most to make myself as visible as possible with reflectors, lights and a DOT orange / day-glo reflective yellow triangle on the back of my bike.
Our route wasn't that long, about 6 miles. I think it was cut short of the original because of tornado watches and the "sheets of rain" we had suddenly drop on us. The last half mile wasn't a slow procession as much as a "quick, get back to the store before we get hit by lightning". The group hung out at the shop for a while before we all packed up and went for home.
For me, the ride was a little more personal. In this upcoming summer I'll be doing a lot of highway miles out of necessity. Someone asked me what I'm most afraid of on my summer trip, and it's Montana. For a long time they had no speed limit, but now I see it's down to 80 MPH on some highways. That's assuming they're doing the legal limit.
Even at 55 on a rural road, I'm a very tiny thing to see when a driver has the horse blinders on. And I can do everything right, and still get hit by a distracted driver as they grab their phone, coffee, or even just look down for the thing on the floor. Hell, most drivers don't even think a cyclist should be on the road with them in the first place. Even if, according to the DOT, a bicycle is a vehicle and belongs on the roadway.
And that's a problem, because cyclists need to be on the roads as much as anyone else does. Not everything is connected by trails and sidewalks. (And, fun fact, many cities have laws on the books making riding a bike on the sidewalk illegal.) Cyclists really don't ask much, just that drivers give us a little more space, and let us go about our business.
Wow, this got really soap-boxy really fast, didn't it?
I don't know the final numbers, but the Ride of Silence went off all around the world. And I think we'll keep doing them until we no longer see ghost bikes on the side of the road.