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Ride of Silence honors cyclist victims of roadway accidents

Cyclists head out on the Ride of Silence.
Cyclists head out on the Ride of Silence.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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Stephanie Garrison finds that bikers are apprehensive about riding on the roads.

“They'll say, I would love to ride my bike again, but I’m afraid. Can you teach me how to ride on the road?” she said of the customers who come to the store she owns, Playtri Sarasota Bike Shop & Triathlon Store, in University Town Center. 

Garrison has a simple answer for them: Join the Village Idiots Cycling Club or the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club — the two clubs that host the annual Ride of Silence. 

Held on May 15, the annual event honored those injured or killed while biking on public roads. It's held in tandem with other rides in locations around the world, but it's a cause that holds a high degree of significance in Sarasota. 

Sarasota ranks as the nation’s second-deadliest county for cyclists, with Florida counties dominating the list, according to a 2024 analysis of highway data by the Georgia-based firm Bader Scott Injury Lawyers.

Starting in the parking lot of Robarts Arena, the event began with speeches by club leaders and a reading of the Ride of Silence poem by Dawn Zielinski, president of the Village Idiots. 

Riders then headed out for a 7-mile loop around downtown Sarasota, escorted by the Sarasota Police Department. 

Dawn Zielinski, Eugene Rider and Mary McElvogue stand with members of the Sarasota Police Department.
Photo by Ian Swaby

“Many here tonight and in our club are advocating for zero tolerance on life-ending and life-altering crashes,” McElvogue told attendees. “Your support of new initiatives will be critical for the ongoing efforts that these people are doing.”

Eugene Rider, vice president of Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club, called the experience a “good ride,” with drivers pulling over for the group and waving as they traveled by. 

Working toward safer roads 

Members of the club have experience with the dangers that cyclists can face on the roads. 

Eugene Rider spoke to attendees about the death of his neighbor, Michael Schalberg, who died at 33 years old in 2023, in a crash on the Manatee County drawbridge. 

“He had just gotten a new job as a golf pro at a private golf club, and was living his best life ... and so there's been a whole family and a whole community that's been impacted by his death, and even though I'm very involved in bike safety, my neighbor was killed. And it still hurts.”

The Village Idiots saw the death of one of its members in November of 2023, in a Sarasota roundabout.

Irresponsible behavior by drivers is a major factor in the dangers the cyclists of the two clubs say they face on the roads. 

They say motorists can come very close to cyclists, often intentionally, among other issues. 

“Motor vehicle drivers are so distracted," McElvogue said. "They’re so angry sometimes and impatient, and when you’re out there all on your own, it feels like you’re kind of a moving target, sometimes."

Sara Reibman, Brian Dailey and Mary Dailey prepare for the Ride of Silence.
Photo by Ian Swaby

The two clubs are active in the community, providing educational opportunities related to cycling and working with local governing bodies that oversee roadways. 

“We are establishing a line of communication in order to be able to express our concerns, or our feedback, in order to be safe for us, and safe for the drivers as well,” said Hector Cora, a member of Village Idiots. 

Nonetheless, Zielinski said the county has yet to join in the Ride of Silence, now in its 22nd year. 

“It would be great if the county engineers would come out and ride their bikes with us,” she said. 

Garrison said when people have the chance to become aware of a cyclists' experiences on the roadways, safer drivers is the result. 

“It takes one to know one in the sense of, when you're on a bike, you become hyper-aware of cars not yielding, cars not having visibility, and riding your bike more defensively, and when you're in a car next, you drive differently when you see a cyclist; you give them space, you don't come up near them,” Garrison said. 

“What we would like to call this is a wellness, healthy sport,” Cora said. “At the end of the day, we would like a healthy environment for everyone here.”



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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