2019 International Ride of Silence, Austin, Texas

The Ride of Silence honors people on bicycles who were hurt or killed by cars. The nature of the ride being reflective and somber has left me with fewer words than usual (that’s probably a good thing). So here are some of my photos and impressions of the event.

Why We Ride: To Remember the Fallen

Check out my activity on Strava.

Biking is safer than walking or driving a car here. But it’s not safe enough. Two people have died this year, Anthony Diaz and Jessica Saathoff, about whom I’ve blogged several times including their respective rides of silence. Just enter their names in the Search bar if you’d like to learn more about them.

So 50 people, half from Social Cycling Austin, the rest of us from Bike Austin or independent riders, gathered to pay tribute. We met on the Pfluger Bridge over Town Lake with the Austin skyline in the background. I don’t know if it’s a good thing but an organ donor organization was there. Because I have a heart icon on my driver license, they gave me a free water bottle. It says “Life is a beautiful ride” Register to be an organ, eye and tissue donor, DonateLife.net. I guess it’s good to cover that base, just in case.

Jessica Saathoff

Withouth much ado, we set off, taking a whole lane of Lamar Boulevard. Slowly making our way north, we went to the Capitol building. Waiting there were a few riders from a regular Wednesday Queer Ride, who joined us. SCA has this stuff down, with a sweeper, rabbits and other ride leaders who know when to stop traffic at turns. No one got plowed into by traffic, thankfully. But as Ricardo said, let’s hope this is the last one this year.

Images and Impressions of the Ride

More photos from the ride below, left to righ: Ricardo the organizer giving instructions before we start; the organ donation table; and the ride passing the Texas state capitol.

The thing about these rides is that it’s pretty rare to be in a group and not talk, at least for me. And while it’s designed to encourage reflection, solidarity and seriousness, as Buddhism teaches us, the mind is like a monkey, hopping from tree branch to tree branch. Not only are you operating a moving vehicle, taking care to not touch wheels with your neighbors and not able to yell out if something important needs communicating. I used hand signals to show potholes and the like.

You’re also supposed to think about the victims, and that’s not so easy to do. I tried, with some success, until the monkey jumped for the next branch. When we passed the spots where they were killed, I thought we would stop. But we didn’t. Both of their ghost bikes had been removed, one by the unfeeling University, the other maybe by the family, we’re not sure.

Someone got a flat. I rushed to the front and whispered that to Ricardo, so we paused, as we had on a few occasions when the group was split up by traffic lights. They caught up quickly and we wound our way through east Austin, finally landing at a park in downtown. The day could not have been more perfect, perhaps a little warm in the high 80’s. So as dusk fell, we gathered to hear some words.

Words Cannot Bring Them Back, But They Can Spur Us to Save Others

Chris Riley speaking to the Ride about how cyclists must keep the heat on the City.

Chris Riley, former Austin City Councilmember and board president of Bike Austin, gave a speech. It was pretty fiery, saying that we need to hold to account our government because the plans are in place in both locations that could have saved both the lives lost this year. Three cool things about Chris: he doesn’t have to be involved, but he is; he’s a pretty level-headed voice of reason; and he walks the talk, in that he actually rides his bike alot.

When he was done, I thanked him for his speech, and said, “You ought to consider running for City Council.” He chuckled at my joke, because he was on the Council, and was involved in the Bicycle Master Plan. More surprising is that he admitted to reading my blog. Thanks, former Councilmember! I’m honored to volunteer along side you when I can. He encouraged me to show up for Bike to Work Day, even though I don’t have work to bike to. I will aim to do just that, at least for the after party.

More Photos and Conclusions

I saw a few other familiar faces on the ride, including Bike Austin peeps and Social Cycling folks. I also met some new ones. Blair is with the local PBS station and is filming a documentary about bicycle safety. Simon is a French computer scientist who commutes to work every day. Jason, Jack and a few others exchanged some quiet words. I stayed to chat with Chris and Patricia, a Bike Austin board member, pedicabber and member of the Bicycle Advisory Commission.

As people trickled off, heading off into the sunset to continue their evenings, I wondered if they too felt that we were part of something bigger than just us. It’s something that has been done around the world for 17 years now, and I can imagine and hope that the impact of our ride was multiplied hundreds of times. Last year’s Ride of Silence summary was:

  • 373 Locations World Wide
  • 47 U.S. States
  • 20 Countries
  • 7 Continents
  • 0 Words Spoken
  • A Million Powerful Memories
Anthony Diaz. Source: Change.org petition

I hope that it was more people were reached this year. We had a local TV station cover us and the cameraman said it would air in both English and Spanish. (I’ll insert the link here if and when it does.) Hopefully people seeing us ride will get the point that we cyclists are here, we have the legal right to bike safely, free from fear of being maimed or murdered, and that biking is fun, cool, safe and great for friends, community and the environment. But sometimes, bad things happen. And when they do, we need to remember.

I’ll close with these words from Social Cycling Austin super sweeper woman said these wise words:

Get out and ride. Grab some friends or join a group, because there is safety in numbers. The more people who ride their bikes, the more car drivers will see us, get used to sharing the road with us, and respect us.

The University of Texas stadium and your Dude riding by the Capitol in his “I Bike, I Walk, I Vote” Bike Austin shirt.

Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 15, 2019. In Austin, check this link for all the rides, fueling stations, and party information.


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11 thoughts on “2019 International Ride of Silence, Austin, Texas

  1. This means a lot to us families who have lost a loved one in this way. The Ride of Silence is such a thoughtful & meaningful expression, and we thank you for it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Susan for your comment. I did help to make sure it happened. And I had invited a friend of Jessica’s to speak but he couldn’t. Maybe next year you or someone from the family would be willing. As we passed by the scene of the crash my heart sank as it always does. We need to work together to get protected bike lanes installed ASAP, not years from now. I was told the ghost bike was removed by the family, is that true? Peace, ADAB


  2. Helena, Mt is starting to get more biker friendly with the addition of lanes and designated trails. However they have a long way to go. The laws on the books say that a bicycle must yield to pedestrians and vehicles. Unfortunately, my age and failing health no longer allow me to ride.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. …retrofitting an area not used to cyclists is challenging. Sorry about the health. I gripe about mine alot. I am beginning to wonder if biking is as good for it as everyone says. Do what you can, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sobering but important post, Dude.
    I was talking to a friend about your posts regarding the dangers cyclists encountered. It’s amazing to me how many people never stop to consider this. But I guess unless they’re riding, it doesn’t relate.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, driver education is lacking but very important. Spread.thebword, slow down, leave early, don’t do distracted driving! Still, cycling is safer than walking or driving. Is there a VisionZero plan in your area? Even a Bike Dept? I get the impression you’re rural.. Thanks, M!

      Liked by 1 person

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