Only the sound of cyclists changing gears, tires rolling on concrete and the ticking of a bicycle chain could be heard in a 7-mile stretch throughout Seymour Wednesday evening.
More than 20 local cyclists participated in the eighth annual Ride of Silence to raise awareness of bicycle safety and laws and remember those who have died as a result of bicycle crashes.
Riders do not speak throughout the ride.
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“It’s a worldwide event that has actually been going on for 15 years,” said Matt Nicholson, a cycling enthusiast and owner of B2 Bikes and Boards in downtown Seymour.
Nicholson has organized the event since 2010 following the deaths of local riders Zack Grubb and Todd Schurman.
“A lot of the ride, I end up reflecting on good memories of them,” he said.
The two were killed in March 21, 2010, when they were riding on U.S. 31 and struck by a vehicle. The two had a passion for the construction of a skate park in Seymour, which has been named the Schurman-Grubb Memorial Skate Park at Shields Park after the two.
“I just always think about them on this ride,” Nicholson said, adding the silence allows him to collect his thoughts. “I actually enjoy the silence. The first mile, you’re just there and knowing that you’re remembering the cyclists, but a couple miles in, it just really gives you 45 minutes to reflect.”
Trinity United Methodist Church Pastor Mike Seaney led the group in prayer before they embarked on the ride, which was led by a hearse from Burkholder Funeral Chapel for an effect. Nicholson said the hearse gives the ride a different tone.
“It creates a somber feel, and it gives it a realness to it,” he said.
Steve Plasse of Crothersville has participated in the ride a number of times over the years and brought his son, Elijah.
He said he uses the time to think about the two times he has been hit on his bicycle.
He said he was lucky his injuries weren’t worse. The first time was when a woman was turning into a gas station parking lot and didn’t see him. The second was more serious.
“The driver ran over my back tire and threw me off my bike,” he said while putting gear on for the ride. “That was pretty intense.”
Plasse rides his bicycle every day to work at Austin High School.
“Both times, I made it to work on time,” he said with a grin.
Plasse described the Ride of Silence as “powerful” and is a good way to make their point.
“It’s very moving, and I think it’s a great form of activism,” he said.
Nicholson said cyclists face a lot of danger as they ride throughout streets, roads and sidewalks.
“There’s been aggression from drivers before,” he said. “A pet peeve of mine is when people will try to share a lane with you at an intersection, which is dangerous.”
Nicholson said he always tells people to picture “bicycles like they’re a car.”
“If you wouldn’t do it with a car there, don’t do it with a bike there,” he said of motorists who pass or ride close to cyclists. “Don’t try to squeeze in between them and somebody else just because you think there is enough space there.”
A lot of close calls and incidents occur, Nicholson said, and much of it is caused by people simply not paying attention.
“Not paying attention seems to be getting worse and worse each year,” he said.
Plasse said he has noticed it, too, and the cause could be distracted driving.
“I see people with their head down all the time, and that’s scary,” he said. “That’s not a comfortable feeling.”
Plasse said he wants motorists to simply know cyclists are allowed to be in the roadway and for them to make an effort to be aware riders may be out.
“I just want them to share the road and that we’re legally allowed to share the road and we need room,” he said. “Just be more aware.”
Plasse said cyclists have a stake in the effort, too, by wearing more reflective gear to be well-seen.
“It’s a two-part deal,” he said.
Nicholson said he was satisfied with the turnout of the event and that it’s great to see riders raise awareness for issues that affect them.
“We all do charity rides for other things that we love, but this is the one where we do one to think about cyclists,” he said.