DOWNTOWN — About 100 bicyclists gathered Wednesday in front of the Thompson Center for this year’s Ride of Silence, which honors bicyclists who have been killed by drivers.
The event is meant to raise awareness of the changes that are needed to protect bicyclists and ensure it can be a safe, welcoming activity for people of all ages in the city. That point has come to the forefront in recent months, as 2022 has already seen at least three Chicago bicyclists killed.
The group rode in silence along a 7.2-mile route, stopping at the fatal crash sites of three cyclists to “pay respects,” said Elizabeth Adamczyk, the event’s organizer.
The ride is similar to “a funeral procession,” Adamczy saidk. “Everyone can relate to that silence — it’s reverent.”
The ride started outside the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, which was designed by architect Helmut Jahn; killed in a bike crash in May 2021 in suburban Campton Hills. They then rode to Madison Street, where a driver killed Paresh Chhatrala in and hit-and-run in April.
The bicyclists also visited the ghost bikes for Broderick Adé Hogue, who a driver killed on Grand Avenue near DuSable Lake Shore Drive in October, and Gerardo Marciales, who a driver killed in February at Balbo and DuSable Lake Shore drives.
The Ride of Silence is “really grounded in the people and the lives that were lost, and all of their friends and family who are affected by that loss,” said Kyle Whitehead, a spokesperson for the Active Transportation Alliance, one of the ride’s sponsors.
“The power of an event like this is it makes you think about each of these people as individuals.”
The Ride of Silence is held every May for National Bike Month.
The first ride was organized in 2003 in Dallas; now, hundreds of such rides are held every year around the world.
Before Chicago’s ride Wednesday, Adamczyk read the “Ride of Silence,” a poem by Mike Murgas that honors bicyclists who have been killed.
The ride is mainly a tribute to bicyclists who have been killed, but it also calls attention to how bicycle safety infrastructure changes are needed. Chicago’s bicycle advocates have long called for the city to implement those changes — and their concerns have only heightened during the pandemic, as the numbers of bicyclists killed and injured have gone up.
“Just over the last few years, during the pandemic, we’ve seen a spike in traffic crashes, we’ve seen increases in speeding and reckless driving,” Whitehead said. “That’s leading to more people getting hit and more people getting killed, and we’re not seeing the appropriate response from our elected officials and from our agency officials.”
Chicago SAFE ambassadors were present to ensure all participants could safely follow the route. Bicyclists were required to wear helmets and armbands. Participants who have been hit by a driver wore red bands, while other riders wore black bands.
“We’re really trying to stress and communicate a sense of urgency to solve this problem,” Whitehead said. “That’s another thing that comes out of an event like this: cyclists coming together and demanding change so that we don’t have to be here every year.
“Ultimately, this is about preventing crashes and saving lives. That means building safer streets and a network of concrete-protected bike lanes.”
At least 10 bicyclists in Chicago have been killed by drivers in the past year:
- Nick Paringayan, 22, on May 4 in Irving Park.
- Paresh Chhatrala, 42, on April 26 in the West Loop.
- Gerardo Marciales, 41, on Feb. 28 in the South Loop.
- Jose Velásquez, 16, on Dec. 10, 2021 in Back of the Yards.
- Robert Earl Moore, 59, on Nov. 15, 2021 in Back of the Yards.
- Broderick Adé Hogue, 32, on Oct. 27, 2021 in Streeterville.
- Jason Hardt, 48, on Sept. 12, 2021 in North Lawndale.
- George Sawicki, 70, on Aug. 17, 2021 in the South Loop.
- Thomas Travers, 59, on July 24 , 2021 in Jefferson Park.
- Kevin Clark, 32, on May 26, 2021, in Logan Square.
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