Ride of Silence

by William Smith. 0 Comments

A unique event will take place this coming Wednesday, May 15, at 6:45 pm at Thomas Johnson Middle School in Frederick. It is a slow-paced ten-mile bicycle ride which is termed “The Ride of Silence”. It is held in order to bring awareness to the general public of the cyclists who have been killed and injured on the world's roads by motorized vehicles and to illustrate that cyclists and motorists can share the roads safely together.

On the tenth day of January in 1998 J. D. Baggett was bicycling on the shoulder of Maryland route 75 in the vicinity of Linganore High School when a driver ran into him at high speed. This motorist had been observed speeding, driving aggressively and using the road shoulder to pass other vehicles. Mr. Baggett was thrown a large distance from his bicycle. The motorist who hit him stopped for a moment, and then fled the scene. Baggett died on the scene in the arms of a Good Samaritan who had stopped to help him. The motorist left some evidence at the crash site that led law enforcement to him, resulting in a conviction. There was also evidence that he had been consuming alcohol, though I do not know if he was charged. He was sentenced to ten years in prison with all but eighteen months suspended. While eighteen months is not a short time to serve, it does show the little regard that is shown toward victims of hit-and-run killings.

Forty-eight year old Stan Miller was bicycling home from work on the early evening of June 25, 2010. He was on his normal route northbound on Maryland route 27 near Damascus. He was struck from behind by a motorist and killed. The driver, according to Baltimore Spokes, had a blood alcohol content of 0.20. Like Baggett, Miller was riding legally on the shoulder of the roadway. His killer, who did stop and remain at the scene, had two drunk driving events already on his record. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

I had been on bicycle rides with both of these men. They were good people and quite capable of cycling safely in traffic. They were both killed by careless motorists. I have seen many, many accounts of bicyclists (and pedestrians) who have been plowed over by motorists, many of whom flee the crash scene. You will note that I do not use the term “accident” when I refer to these events. These are not accidents, they are crashes. Collisions. They are avoidable. Almost every crash is avoidable. There are rules that govern the roadways for all of us, and when we (bicyclists and motorists) ignore them, people get hurt and people die.

Against a fence, on the side of the road where Stan Miller was killed, is a “ghost bicycle.” There used to be a memorial marker on route 75 where J. D. Baggett was killed.

This coming Wednesday evening, something on the order of twenty-five to fifty bicyclists will ride through the city of Frederick, and in cities worldwide, to commemorate and remember those who have been killed and injured riding their bicycles. No words will be spoken by those on their bikes. Only hand signals will be permitted. The riders will remain together, ride safely, obey every law and make no sound excepting those made by the bikes.

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