Thursday, May 17, 2012

Astoria to The Ride of Silence - 5-16-2012 (30 miles)

Last year 21 cyclists were killed on the streets of New York City, and only 2 drivers had charges against them as a result. More often than not, the cyclist is blamed, and society lessens the culpability of a motorist under the guise of protecting people from being too harshly punished for what is perceived as a minor traffic infraction. These sentiments sometimes carry over to the road where malicious motorists, unwilling to share the road, bully cyclists from the relative safety of their cars. While most inner city motorists understand the "dance" between car and bike (I give you 6 inches here, you give me 3 inches there), that keeps everybody flowing smoothly through the streets; a fair amount of animosity still exists on both sides of the shoulder. One small ray of hope in all of this for those of us who prefer to pedal, is the expanding network of bike lanes, our new bike share program, and the greater publicity of cycling concerns in our media; all hopefully serve to keep bikes on the minds of motorists.

With ridership doubling in the last 4 years it's more important than ever to teach riders and drivers how we can all cruise together safely. Bikes are most dangerous to the person riding one. Cars are down right deadly to everyone on the road. Some people have taken this to mean that cars would then be at the top of some food chain, to be feared. When the reverse should be the prevailing logic; because you are deadly, you carry the greater responsibility.

The Ride of Silence attempts to bring this point home to motorists, where they live and drive. From their website,"WHY DOES THIS ORGANIZATION EXIST? To HONOR those who have been injured or killed - To RAISE AWARENESS that we are here - To ask that we all SHARE THE ROAD". This ride is performed all around the world on this day; I would describe it as part organized non-violent civil obedience and cooperation, and part memorial for the injured and killed cyclists around the world. This ride was specially dedicated to a cyclist killed in March of this year, David Ortiz, (another surreal example of how in early reports the authorities jumped to shift blame away from the driver, and onto the cyclist), killed when struck by 3 vehicles while on his morning bike commute to work.

The ride is at sundown, so I made sure all of my lights were in working order, and set out with plenty of time to try to arrive a little early, even if rush hour held me up. After crossing into Manhattan I took 2nd Avenue South following a young guy on a fixie (proclaiming his discomfort with Manhattan riding), who nearly runs into an elderly woman who stepped into the bike lane. I used 9th Street (which becomes Christopher Street) to cut across to the West side bike path where I could find the starting point for the Ride of Silence at Pier 40.

Descending the 59th Street Bridge to Manhattan.

Following a fixie rider South on 2nd Avenue.

Fixie rider almost runs over grandma.

Traveling South on 2nd Avenue, I stop for a light, and the fixie rider catches up.

Traveling in a pack of riders on Christopher Street in the East Village.

Traveling in a pack of riders on Christopher Street in the East Village, cont.

Arriving at Pier 40 for the Ride of Silence.

Once you sign in for the ride, you receive a black arm band and are given a flyer with a cue sheet and information regarding the rules of the ride, this also included a small paragraph written by Michael Ortiz, the brother of the cyclist this ride was dedicated to.

There was a photo-op with the ride organizers, and Marshalls. Then a brief speech from the ride leader, and president of the 5 Borough Bike Club Ed Ravin to the ride Marshalls and to the riders. Michael Ortiz spoke of his brother and offered his appreciation to the riders. Soon after, we started the quiet ride South, led by Ed Ravin and Ed DeFreitas (whom I recently rode with along the Old Put and Croton Aqueduct trails). The ride began on a stretch of the West side bike path, and I stop in the path to film the riders silently passing. Riding around 10 mph, using a combination of Warren and Church Street to emerge on 6th Avenue, we commanded the 2 left lanes at our stately pace all the way through the heart of midtown, during a high traffic time of day. Most riders were quiet, and though Ed and I spoke once or twice, I mostly tried to observe the solemn purpose of the ride. A few pedestrians and motorists inquired about the ride and were silently given flyers by the ride Marshalls.

At Radio City I took the opportunity to stop and film the pack of riders I was in, before following them further uptown. Turning on 57th Street we began to head West, back to the West side bike path for the last few remaining miles of the ride. By now, it was almost full dark and the ghostly silent procession appeared as will-o-wisp's following in the breeze, gliding past the West side waterfront landmarks. I paused near a center dividing post in the path, and filmed as the 2 packs of cyclists in the ride pass me. Once the last ride Marshalls pass I sped back up to the front to finish with the leaders, and film the packs of riders as they finish.

Organizers and Marshalls pose with the sign for the Ride of Silence.

The ride begins. I pause to film the riders passing.

Approaching the Freedom Tower on the West Side bike path.

Riding East on Warren Street.

Waiting for riders to catch up, I film their approach on 6th Avenue.

Riders gather on 6th Avenue.

6th Avenue passing West 4th Street.

6th Avenue passing 8th Street.

6th Avenue past 10th Street.

Riding 6th past 17th Street.

6th Avenue through Chelsea, approaching the Empire State Building.

Approaching Radio City, allowing the first pack to pass to be filmed.

Turning on to 57th Street, now traveling West.

Arriving at the far West end of 57th Street to return to the West side bike path.

Starting out on the West Side bike path from 57th Street.

Filming the first pack of cyclists pass on the West side bike path.

Filming the second pack of cyclists as they pass, sprinting to catch back up to the front, reaching Chelsea Piers.

The final stretch of the Ride of Silence on the West side bike path, filming the first pack of cyclists as they finish.

The second pack of riders arrive at the finish.

After a few final words from Ed Ravin thanking us for our participation and suggesting a meeting place after the ride (for those interested), many riders slowly disbursed to their separate destinations. I took a chance to say my goodbyes to Ed, & Ed, and made my way back up to 10th Street and followed a few cyclists headed in the same direction. Upon arriving on 1st Avenue I encountered a fixie rider who set off from a light near the U.N. to bomb down the hill and up towards the 59th Street Bridge. Knowing the area well, and seeing only a few cars, I attempt to follow him but am wary of a sedan to my right, and think I've lost him. When I arrive at the second to last light with another rider (who rode mostly no-hands), I find I've caught up to the fixie rider who then runs the light with no-hands man.... Soon I am cresting the bridge, and found few other people were on the bridge at this time, and no other cyclists in my direction were seen. Home again, I settled in for the rest of the late evening, reflecting on the unique significance of the ride I had just partook in.

Following cyclists down 10th Street on my way home.

Chasing a fixie rider down First Avenue past the U.N., towards the 59th Street Bridge.

Descending the 59th Street Bridge back to Queens.


  1. This is excellent coverage of the event; thank you for documenting and posting!

    Michael Ortiz

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the piece, Michael. The more the message behind the Ride of Silence can be spread, the safer the roads will be for us all.

  2. Beautiful Footages that will be remembered always and forever in David's honor.