San Franciscans join international Ride of Silence to honor fallen cyclists

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First stop on the Ride of Silence as at 11th and Division streets, where 78-year-old Cheng Jin Lai was killed in November.
Steven T. Jones

Nearly 100 San Francisco bicyclists joined thousands of pedal-powered citizens from more than 300 cities around the world yesterday [Wed/21] evening for the Ride of Silence, honoring cyclists killed by motorists by riding to the collision spots to leave flowers and signs noting their deaths.

The event started in Dallas in 2003 and it has grown into a global phenomenon in an age when global warming, air pollution, and a mounting death toll have done little to change the dynamics on city streets, where bad design, impatient attitudes, and biased law enforcment continue to give a pass to dangerous, automobile-centered conditions.

San Francisco’s ride came at a particularly poignant moment following a year when a modern record-tying four cyclists were killed by drivers in San Francisco last year: Dylan Mitchell, Diana Sullivan, Cheng Jin Lai, and Amelie Le Moullac. None of their killers faced criminal charges, with the District Attorney’s Office deciding just last week not to charge the delivery truck driver who ran over 24-year-old Le Moullac, despite high-profile attention on the case and a recommendation of criminal charges by the San Francisco Police Department.

Local Ride of Silence organizers Devon Warner and Robin Wheelwright called for greater public awareness of cyclists on the roadways and for drivers to slow down and drive carefully — particularly the commercial vehicle drivers who are responsible for 66 percent of the 34 cyclist fatalities in San Francisco since 2007.

“These are precious humans who are no longer with us, and we want to advocate for change,” Wheelwright said during a pre-ride presentation in the basement at Sports Basement.  

Also speaking at the event was Karen Allen, the mother of Derek Allen, a 22-year-old San Franciscan who was run over and killed by a Muni bus on Oct. 7, 2010. “I’m so honored to be here tonight. I’m honored by the people who put this together,” Allen said.

Escorted by a phalanx of 15 SFPD motorcycle cops, who Wheelwright told us had been tasked for the occasion by an officer who supports cyclists and had heard about the event, the mass of cyclists rode through SoMa, the Mission District, and the mid-Market area to make more than a half-dozen stops honoring fallen cyclists, including some where memorial bicycles or other signage already marked what had happened there.