Last night I participated in the Doylestown Ride of Silence. The ride was part of a global ride to honor those who have been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways. While the ride itself started in 2003 to honor one fallen riding friend in Dallas, it has since spread across the globe with rides in cities worldwide. The local Doylestown, PA ride was organized by my bike club, the Central Bucks Bicycle Club (CBBC) with the support of the local authorities who provided support and a police escort for the ride.
Besides being a ride to honor those who have died or been injured the ride is also an opportunity to bring awareness to the public and lawmakers about the real need for a safe way to share the road. The ride is a short, slow-paced ride made in silence. I would hazard a guess at several hundred people at my local event and there are thousands that participate worldwide. Before the event started some personal stories were shared from those who have been involved in car/bike collisions and those who have lost loved ones in similar accidents. The statistics that were shared are a bit jaw dropping and unfortunately I can’t remember any of them! Other than to reiterate what I have learned in bike safety courses I have taken in the past and that is – a bicycle is a vehicle and has the same rights and responsibilities on the road as a motor vehicle and most accidents occur not because of blatant reckless driving but because of the little moments of inattention and lack of visibility.
As I rode in silence with some of my friends it truly was like all the other meditative practices I have engaged in. A heightened awareness of the moment and of what IS. A moment to feel deeply. I thought a great deal about a dear friend of mine from years ago, the one who got me inspired to take up cycling in the first place and her tragic accident with a vehicle that ended her competitive career and almost ended her life. I thought about the incalculable number of times I’ve been on the road whether on two wheels or four when there was a close call. Of course like all things this ride was a mirror of the bigger picture. Even with hundreds of cyclists riding in silence with a police escort we still had an incident in front of me where a car made a wide turn directly into the group almost hitting someone. There were still moments of unsafe cycling with someone swerving into someone else because of inexperience riding in a group or inattentiveness. Motorists were still honking and screaming because they couldn’t wait an extra moment at an intersection.
It was fascinating to be able to just observe this in silence as it unfolded without any judgment or reaction. Being an observer is a very powerful place from which to notice what is unfolding around you and inside your body and mind.
We all have moments of inattentiveness and accidents of course do happen. Yet one thing that was driven home by the ride is that so often we are all in a hurry. In a hurry to get to the next place and do the next thing. While I am all about efficiency I am reminded time and time again that there really is no rush. An extra moment here or there to be present and stay safe is far more valuable to everyone than an action made in haste. Whether that is pausing an extra minute at an intersection to double-check before proceeding, simply chilling out while backed up at a light, or taking steps to minimize distractions while driving, it really does make a difference and may even save a life.