But the Safe Streets Social was also about creating an opportunity for bicycle riders who have been shaken by news of recent bicycling deaths to come together and support each other, mourn those killed and take an active role in working for safer streets. The ride was organized by Adonia Lugo, Davey Oil and myself with invaluable help from Anne-Marije Rook (who made some fabulous spoke cards), Liz Nixon and many others who helped spread the word.
One of the most touching moments happened at the first stop on our group ride: Dexter and Thomas, the intersection where Mike Wang was killed in a hit and run in July. Wang’s wife, Claire, contacted me a few days before the ride and asked riders to shout “Wang” as we passed. But when we first arrived, seeing Clarie, Mike’s children and Mike’s father William waiting for us was overwhelming. In all the work of planning the ride, concentrating on small details like which route to take and what colors to wear, I think I had not prepared myself to meet Mike’s family.
William bowed to the riders as we passed, many of us yelling “Wang” as Claire had suggested. Some riders stopped to put flowers on the ghost bike installed at the corner. Claire had a strong, determined stance, her children at her side. Seeing her strength and shaking her hand, I felt just a small portion of what a traffic death really means to those who have lost someone they loved.
I rode off with tears in my eyes and a remarkable pain in my chest. With each stop — Brian Fairbrother’s memorial on Fairview Ave N and Robert Townsend’s at University Way and Campus Parkway — I felt that pain again.
Conversations with others during and after the ride revealed that many others were feeling the same way I was. And as we continued talking, we began discussing what we can do to make sure deaths like these never happen again. It doesn’t matter whether someone dies in the seat of a car, walking across the street or riding a bicycle, we must make safety our top transportation priority. We must make our roads safer.
We designed these roads, and we can redesign them. At least 448 people died on Washington roadways last year. That’s more than one person per day. We can do better, and we must do better.
Everyone who went on the ride sent a clear message to our elected officials: Stop traffic deaths now.
Several people who went on the ride have posted about it, and several news organizations were there reporting. Here’s a roundup of coverage. If I am missing anything, please leave links in the comments:
SLIDESHOW: Cyclists ride for a safer Seattle – Ballard New Tribune
Seattle Cyclists Hold Memorial Ride for the Fallen – The SunBreak
Eastlake news: Memorial bike ride – Eastlake Ave Blog
Moving Planet / Safe Streets Social – Family Ride