Local bicyclists ride in silence

They may not have had large numbers, but their stories carried weight.

Wednesday's Ride of Silence gathered about 20 cyclists to memorialize people who have been injured or killed while riding bicycles on public roadways.

Of those participating, many wore the distinctive red and black armbands representing someone who has been either hurt or killed in a car-on-bike accident.

Some brought their own stories of survival.

"I'm just glad to be here. I am fortunate to be able to walk, and to ride on two wheels again," said Ernie Franz.

Franz, once an emergency room doctor at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, was riding his bike on High School Road in 2004 when he was hit by a driver traveling about 50 mph.

Franz suffered multiple fractures and a spinal cord injury, as well as internal injuries.

Though his accident was career ending, he has been able to take up the bike again, albeit slowly.

"I am really fortunate to be alive after being hit at 50 mph," Franz said. "This is the first time I have been able to do (the Ride of Silence); others have been encouraging me to come along."

Another island survivor is Chris Stanley, who was hit around the same time that Franz suffered his injury in 2004. Stanley doesn't remember the accident after being struck from behind on SR-305 and being thrown some 80 feet.

"I spent a lot of time before I could ride again. I missed the riding and the ability to get around," he said.

Now Stanley wants to remind motorists and bicyclists to watch out for others and themselves.

"Pay attention while you are driving, whether you are on a bike or a car," he said. "A car can be a deadly weapon. You need to take care of people around you and yourself."

The silent group set off from the Marge Williams Center on Winslow Way and proceeded on a gentle, eight-mile course through the downtown area.

The event was part of the world-wide Ride of Silence. This is the second year cyclists have gathered on Bainbridge to mark the occasion.

"This is not a protest. This is a solemn procession to remember the people who have been hurt or killed while riding," said Kim Bottles, an organizer for Squeaky Wheels.

According to Bottles, Bainbridge has a decent record for bicycle safety, but there are always unfortunate accidents each year.

"Cycling is a really viable way to get around... generally speaking most island motorists are courteous to cyclists," Bottles said. "But the biggest single impediment to riding is fear of cars."

When Bottles was racing in the '60s and '70s, his coach was high-profile British cyclist John Hood Sr.

Hood was killed in 2001 after being hit by a car in Houston.

Bottles, who often commutes by bike to Bellevue, said the ride serves as a reminder to motorist of their duty to protect bicycles on the road, and remember those who have died needlessly.

"If you ride for awhile you see many instances where cars are just not paying attention or don't recognize the risk they are putting cyclists in," he said. "We want to raise awareness to people when they are driving to take it easy, give three feet of room and slow down. If they do that we could get more people riding."

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