PORTAGE, Mich. — No cyclist in West Michigan will forget what happened on June 7 last summer. Nine members of the Chain Gang were enjoying an evening ride on the open roads in Kalamazoo County when a pick-up truck speeding on Westnedge Avenue slammed into them from behind. Five died upon impact. The other four were severely injured. And the rest of the cycling community was scarred.
“A horrible thing happened and it frankly can happen to any of us,” said Tim Krone, who runs Pedal Bicycles in Portage. “So one of the things we’re going to do tonight is remember those nice people.”
The victims, along with others who’ve lost their lives or been injured while cycling, were remembered during the 5th annual Ride of Silence. Other members of the Chain Gang were among the almost 300 cyclists who partook in the 8-mile, police-escorted ride through Portage. It’s the large crowd organizers expected mainly because of that tragic crash.
“It’s pretty fresh,” said Krone about that crash. “It’s a pretty sore wound to be real honest. And so yeah I can’t believe it's a year.”
The ride typically takes place each year during the Bike Week, which is in its 17th year nationwide. Rides of Silence happened throughout the state, including in Lansing. Krone said it’s all about celebrating people’s love of riding whether it’s for transportation, exercise or fun.
“Mostly its about the joy of riding a bike,” said Krone. “It's a great time to think about how much fun you can have on a bike and frankly how good it is for you to get out [and] use your body a little bit.”
The week is also used to bring awareness to a cyclist right’s when they’re out on the road, Krone said. Since the crash there’s been more chatter about changing laws to ensure a rider’s safety so that what happened last June won’t happen again, not to cyclists nor drivers.
“I know you have places to be and I empathize with your situation,” said Krone. “But I’m also obeying the law. I’m riding as far to the right as I can. I’m doing my thing. If you would do your thing, just give me a little bit of room, I’d be really grateful.”