- A version of this story first appeared in the Contra Costa Times.
David Meza was the victim of a hit-and-run incident in March. A white sedan struck him as he rode his bicycle near Pennsylvania Avenue and Harbour Way, then sped away.
The incident left him with abrasions on his face, palms and knees, and a heightened sense of purpose. “So often, pedestrians and bicyclists get hit by cars and they don’t speak up, they don’t think anybody cares,” said Meza, a 20-year-old Richmond resident. “But we can’t be silent, we have to raise awareness that we have a right to be safe on our streets, too.”
Meza was joined by about 40 other bicyclists, including Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and four Richmond police officers, during the 2nd annual “Ride of Silence” on Wednesday. The riders rode from City Hall to Point Richmond in honor of fellow riders who have been seriously hurt or killed while bicycling in Richmond.
As part of the ride, participants placed a “ghost bike” and bouquets of flowers at the corner of 33rd Street and Barrett Avenue, where 24-year-old Juan Godinez-Garcia was killed in a hit-and-run accident in April.
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, 69 bicyclists were injured or killed in Richmond between the years 2008 and 2010.
Wednesday’s ride was organized by the Richmond Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee (RBPAC) and Richmond Spokes, local bicycle advocacy groups formed in the city since 2008.
“The city has made significant strides toward becoming more bicycle and pedestrian friendly in recent years,” said RBPAC Chair Nancy Baer. Baer added that the Richmond has adopted a Bicycle Master Plan, which calls for more bike lanes, paths and “traffic calming” road enhancements to be built in the coming years.
At City Hall, press crews and spectators gathered around the pack of bicyclists. McLaughlin addressed the participants with Meza at her side. McLaughlin noted that several riders have been killed or seriously injured this year.
“We have to improve. We think Richmond can become a leader in becoming a bicycle-friendly community,” McLaughlin said.
Richmond’s event was held during National Bike Month, said Chris Murray, a member of BPAC. Murray said bicycle-related civic events are being held in 319 locations in all 50 states.
Richmond’s population swelled during World War II, when thousands flocked to the city to work in war-related industry. Wide, multilane boulevards span the city and have come under increased scrutiny in recent years, as bicycle advocates have lobbied for more paths and dedicated bike lanes.
Richmond police officer Anthony Diaz, who rides with the department’s bicycle patrol unit, rode with the group that placed the “ghost bike” at the site where Godinez-Garcia died.
“The memorial is a powerful statement to bring awareness that we all need to share the road respect safety,” Diaz said.