Cyclists to take to roads in "Ride of Silence" tonight

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Cyclists from around the Midlands will ride together in silence tonight to remember those killed and injured on local roadways.

Organizers say the sixth annual "Midlands Ride of Silence" will also aim to bring awareness to "Share the Road" laws in South Carolina for motorists and bicyclists.

Officials with Palmetto Cycling Coalition say that's hugely important because in a recent survey by the Alliance for Biking and Walking, South Carolina ranked 49 out of 50 states for bicycle safety and bicycle-related deaths.

Cait Costello says the low-ranking is a reminder that learning to share the road is more about realizing who's on the road. "We tend to forget that other people in cars are people and not just cars, and it's the same problem with people on bikes," said Costello. "You see them as a bike, and you see them as an obstacle, whereas really that's someone's son, brother, sister,'s an actual person. Take a minute, slow down and realize being a minute or so late isn't the end of the world, and really concentrate on everyone getting where we're going safely and together."

While South Carolina was the state with the second highest bike-related deaths in the survey, the state ranked higher (34th) in a separate survey about bicycle friendliness. Costello says state and local communities are making the effort to improve the community for cyclists, and she believes safety rankings will improve when there are more cyclists on the roads.

"The basic thing is we need more people on their bikes riding because there's a safety in numbers," said Costello. "That's been shown in study after study, that the more people on the roads riding, the safer it gets for everyone because people are seeing how bicyclists behave they're beginning to look for them on the right side of the road where drivers don't always look now."

According to recent statistics, the most bike-related injuries occur between 3 and 6pm, and the most fatalities happen between 6 and 9pm.

South Carolina law requires cyclists to have a white light on the front of their bike and a red reflector on the back. Costello says because the most fatalities occur at night, the Palmetto Cycling Coalition's Safe Streets Save Lives campaign encourages riders to put a red blinking light on the back of their bike to be even safer.

Costello encourages everyone to put the lights on their bikes and join the group that will ride tonight.

Tonight's ride is free and starts at 7pm at Summit Cycles in West Columbia. Organizers ask riders to be at Summit Cycles by 6:30pm. The ride is about seven miles long, and bicyclists travel no faster than 12mph. While this is the sixth year for the ride in the Midlands, the Ride of Silence is a national effort that began in some cities across the country 10 years ago.