Erika D. Smith

She can’t visit the ghost bike, not yet

The annual Ride of Silence in Sacramento attracted more than 100 riders on Wednesday to honor bicyclists killed by motorists in 2014, and to promote share-the-road bicycling safety. Friends of relatives who lost a loved one placed flowers at the “ghost bike" that sits at J and Carlson near Sacramento State University.
The annual Ride of Silence in Sacramento attracted more than 100 riders on Wednesday to honor bicyclists killed by motorists in 2014, and to promote share-the-road bicycling safety. Friends of relatives who lost a loved one placed flowers at the “ghost bike" that sits at J and Carlson near Sacramento State University. aseng@sacbee.com

“You ever hear of the Ride of Silence?”

The words stopped me cold, only a few hundred yards from a tombstone-like “ghost bike” at the entrance to Sacramento State.

A woman whose name I would soon learn, LaToya Jones, was staring at me expectantly from the window of her battered minivan, her kids seated next to her. Her expression was anxious. Desperate even.

“Actually, yes. Do you know someone involved in the ride or something?” I asked.

Jones paused.

“Yeah, my husband was killed in March.”

Omari Jones was his name. He was riding his bike home one night when a driver hit him near Power Inn Road and Alpine Avenue. An investigation is underway.

Jones has tried, but cannot bring herself to drive by that intersection, though she knows another ghost bike is there, in honor of her husband. On Wednesday, she came to the Ride of Silence instead.

More than 100 cyclists rode quietly on the streets of Sacramento to honor Omari and seven other cyclists who’ve died in collisions with cars here in the past year. By the time riders got to the ghost bike on campus to say a few words, place a few flowers and shed a few tears, the ride resembled a funeral procession.

Bike safety in Sacramento is serious business.

Of the 70 largest cities in the country, Sacramento ranks ninth in bicycle ridership. More people are deciding to park their cars and climb on bikes, whether it’s to commute to work or to go for a weekend ride. And yet we don’t have the seamless infrastructure of a bikeway network to support this cycling.

Sharing the road is a tug-of-war, particularly in downtown and midtown where bike lanes are plentiful but disjointed and the roads are crowded and filled with obstacles.

As evidenced by recent debate at a City Council committee, cyclists, uneasy about sharing the road with drivers who don’t pay attention, ride on the sidewalks, which is a threat to pedestrians. Collisions are common – not just between cars and bicycles, but between bicycles and pedestrians.

Untangling this mess will be a challenge. But people who took the Ride of Silence had some good ideas. Drivers, they said, must be more aware of everyone on the road. That means giving cyclists enough room on the right and watching for them at stoplights.

Not all the responsibility should fall to motorists. Cyclists do dangerous things, too, like riding at night without lights. They need to follow traffic laws and common sense.

“I almost hit one coming over here, trying to find this place,” LaToya Jones said, shaking her head. “He jumped out in front of me, off a sidewalk or something.”

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