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Cyclists to ride in remembrance of fallen riders

30 p.m. and leave from the Ohio Statehouse.

In the past five years, there have been 3,607 cyclists killed nationally due to accidents with motorists. Nineteen fatalities occurred in Ohio in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Tomorrow, hundreds of riders will gather downtown to remember and mourn those who have been killed or injured while riding their bikes on the road.

The eighth annual Ride of Silence is a 12-mile group bicycle ride to remember cyclists who have been killed by motorists and bring awareness to safe riding. It will take place tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. and leave from the Ohio Statehouse.

Organized by Consider Biking, a local non-profit organization, the ride has drawn about 750 riders in recent years and exists to make a statement to drivers on the road, according to Consider Biking’s website.

“This is just a very respectful, professional way for us to make one highly visible statement per year that we’re out there, and we’re just asking for our place on the road, and we’re asking for respect,” said Jeff Stephens, executive director for Consider Biking.

The ride began in 2003 with the death of a man named Larry Schwartz in Plano, Texas. When cyclists gathered to ride in mourning of Schwartz, his fiancee asked several of his friends to start similar rides in their own communities, according to Consider Biking’s website.

Police will escort the group, which will ride in complete silence, down High Street and down to City Hall, similar to a funeral procession. Many riders wear armbands and decorate their bikes to signify their personal connection with the ride.

Jeremy Russell, a fourth-year in engineering, is an avid rider and will be participating. He said it’s important to recognize bikes as vehicles too and that the ride is a great movement for the biking community.

“I’m a road rider, I commute to OSU, and I race competitively, and you’re always hoping for the day you don’t wake up in a ditch,” Russell said.

The ride is an international event, which will simultaneously take place across several states and countries. The main ride in Dallas will draw about 1,000 people and the ride in Columbus has been the second largest in the country, Stephens said.

“It’s sort of a testament of how our community does come together and makes this statement,” Stephens said.

Ryan Bauer, who works in marketing management for Ryan Bauer Marketing in Columbus, is a rider who was once hit by a car in 2009. He walked away and is participating in the Ride of Silence for the second time.

“I think it’s a great way to bring attention to a very real issue,” Bauer said. “I ride on streets, and cars can get pretty close, and it can be dangerous.”

The event is not for any particular rider. Stephens said every segment of the biking world is represented and it is the one event all year where all cyclists gather to ride together.

Bauer said the event is important as it brings members of the biking community together for a good cause.

“It’s about being aware that drivers don’t always have biker’s best interest in mind,” Bauer said.

The first Ride of Silence helped get the attention of the mayor and other elected officials to create a comprehensive bike plan for the city.

Stephens said they have done a great job at implementing bike lanes, paths and other things in the community but “there is a great deal coming.”

There have been several recent high profile cycling accidents including Michelle Kazlausky, the rider who was killed during Pelotonia 2010.

Pelotonia is a grassroots bike tour that raises money for cancer research. Kazlausky will be one of the riders remembered tomorrow night.

Pelotonia did not respond to requests for comment.

Stephens said Consider Biking exists to educate and encourage riders throughout the year, no matter what or where they ride.

“Anything we can do to increase the bike-friendliness of the community is only going to make the world a little better,” Stephens said.

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