Local cyclists are invited to ride with the Sanibel Bicycle Club on May 21 for the annual "Ride of Silence."
Every year, on the third Wednesday of May, bicyclists across the world participate in the ride to honor fellow cyclists who have been killed or injured and to advocate for safe cycling practices. The Sanibel Bicycle Club, which has been participating in the event on and off for six years, will meet at the park next door to the Community House at 7 p.m.
The route takes cyclists approximately eight miles along Periwinkle Way and over the causeway islands, before turning around at the underpass of the high span bridge.
"The purpose is to participate in a worldwide event to promote and let people know about sharing the road," said Bicycle Club Member and Event Coordinator Patti Sousa. "It's all about respect and sharing the road."
She said the event is open to anyone in the public, as long as they are wearing a helmet during the ride.
Cyclists will honor victims with black signs, arm bands, and riding in complete silence. Many members of the local club have had relatives or friends injured or killed in cycling accidents and safety continues to be an issue across Southwest Florida. On May 4, a 61-year-old Fort Myers man died from injuries sustained in a bicycle accident and local meteorologist Jim Reif died April 7 after crashing his bicycle without wearing a helmet.
What: "Ride of Silence" with the Sanibel Bicycle Club
When: Wednesday, May 21 at 7 p.m. Arrive by 6:45 p.m.
Where: From the park next to the Sanibel Community House to the causeway and back
Details: Call Event Coordinator Patti Sousa at 395-1695 or visit rideofsilence.org.
Event organizers are expecting as many as 30 cyclists, including club members and islanders. Some riders may not feel comfortable crossing the bridges onto the island and may turn around earlier than the rest of the group, said Sousa.
The first "Ride of Silence" was held in Dallas, Texas in 1993 to honor cyclist Larry Schwartz who was killed by the side view mirror of a passing school bus. Chris Phelan, a friend of Schwartz's, organized the event which later spread to 324 cities, 50 states, and 24 countries in seven continents.
Sousa said Florida is one of a group of states with a "three-foot rule," requiring motor vehicles to give three feet to any cyclist on the road yet it's unclear how many motorists are familiar with the law.
May is National Bike Safety Month and national organizations like AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration promote safety for bicyclists and drivers. Florida continues to lead the nation in bicyclist fatalities, according to the NHTSA.
Overall in 2012, there were 726 bicyclists killed nationwide, which was a 6.5 percent increase from the previous year, and an additional 49,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes, according to AAA and the NHTSA.
"Aside from wearing a helmet, one the most important bike safety tips AAA highly recommends is to cross at designated intersections, complimented by following traffic signal laws," said John Pecchio, a traffic safety consultant from AAAThe Auto Club Group. "Bicycle riders greatly increase their chance of being injured or killed if they dart in front of vehicles or do not obey all traffic signs and signals."
AAA and NHTSA recommend four easy steps to keep bike riders safe:
Wear a Properly-Fitted Bicycle Helmet
* Helmets should be positioned on the head and low on the forehead, no more than two finger widths above the eyebrow
* A helmet is the single most effective way to prevent head injury resulting from a bicycle crash
* Develop a family rule for helmet use and enforce it for every ride
* Always Follow Traffic Laws
Bicycles are considered vehicles and must abide by the same traffic laws as motorists
* Obey all traffic signs and lane markings
* Signal your intentions when turning or passing
* When cycling in the street, always ride in the same direction as traffic
* Make Yourself Visible
Wear bright colors during daylight hours
* Wear reflective materials on clothing and/or equipment in low-light conditions.
* To be noticed when riding at night, use a front light and a red reflector or flashing rear light
* Use retro-reflective tape or markings on equipment or clothing
* Tips for Motorists
Drivers of motor vehicles need to share the road with bicyclists
* Focus exclusively on the road while driving. Distracted drivers can be deadly for bicyclists
* Be patient and pass bicyclists only when safe to do so, leaving a 3- to 5-foot clearance between your vehicle and the bicyclist
* Look before opening a car door or pulling out from a parking space; yield to bicyclists at intersections and be especially watchful for cyclists when making turns-- either left or right
For information on bicycle safety, please visit AAA.com/SafetyMatters or sanibelbicycleclub.org.