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On Ride of Silence, memories of cyclist deaths meet pressure for safer roads in Sacramento

Roadside memorials took on new depth during an eerie, quiet bike ride Wednesday through Sacramento that visited the sites of fatal crashes.

The all-white “ghost bike” locked to the post at 21st and X streets? The leaders of the Ride of Silence broke the silence to collectively recognize, with around thirty cyclists, that it was for Kate Johnston. The lawyer was fatally struck at that intersection in January. She loved taking her teenage son on fishing trips. She was 55 years old.

The ghost bike on 10th and H streets? That’s where Trevor Caine Micarelli was struck and killed on his bike in 2016. His mother called him “Mommy’s sunshine, her beautiful boy and the best of her.” He was 28 years old.

The significance of these cyclist deaths resonated uncomfortably for the riders themselves, all of whom knew how dangerous the Capital Region’s transportation system could be.

The city also recognizes this insufficiency. Research has shown that the vast majority of fatal collisions could be avoided. Seven years ago, city leaders made a commitment to eliminate all roadway deaths and serious injuries by 2027 among all types of road users.

Vision Zero is an international movement, an effort underway for more than a decade in American cities, that emphasizes cooperative efforts among government, advocacy groups, residents and others to make streets cleaner. safe for all users, including pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

Although Sacramento has taken steps to improve infrastructure in line with its Vision Zero promise, including installing numerous parking-protected bike lanes throughout downtown, this falls far short of reducing traffic deaths.

This year, The Sacramento Bee already reported that Johnston, Mattie Nicholson, Jeffrey Blain, Aaron Ward, Sam Dent, Terry Lane and David Rink all died while riding bikes or walking on city streets.

Sacramento County Coroner Rosa Vega confirmed Thursday that James C. Lind, another pedestrian, was killed on Fruitridge Road on April 9. He was 54 years old.

Nicholson and Johnston, the cyclists among the fatalities this year, were both using streets with unprotected bike lanes, making them vulnerable to passing vehicles. And, like all the other cyclist and pedestrian deaths, they were fatally struck on roads that city staff had already identified as dangerous.

Deb Banks, executive director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, reads a message from the family of Kate Johnston, who was killed while biking to work at 21st and X streets in downtown Sacramento, next of a ghost bike during a “Silence” Event Ride on Wednesday.Deb Banks, executive director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, reads a message from the family of Kate Johnston, who was killed while biking to work at 21st and X streets in downtown Sacramento, next of a ghost bike during a “Silence” Event Ride on Wednesday.

Deb Banks, executive director of Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates, reads a message from the family of Kate Johnston, who was killed while biking to work at 21st and X streets in downtown Sacramento, next of a ghost bike during a “Silence” Event Ride on Wednesday.

Despite the rising death toll, elected officials may not dedicate much funding to street safety amid a budget deficit.

The “high injury risk network” is still dangerous, and the Active Transportation Commission made nine recommendations in its 2022 report to city council to improve the safety of all road users, including drivers. Council members of the Budget and Audit Committee said last week that it would be difficult to allocate the $10 million the commission needed in the first year to fund all of its recommendations.

As cyclists continue to be struck and killed in the city, the Ride of Silence continues.

Don Gibson, a South Natomas resident who serves on the commission, recited a statistic to the crowd gathered at Capitol Park before the trip began.

Far too many people are injured in traffic accidents – and, he added, traffic deaths are more common than homicides.

He read the names of seven people who died in accidents this year.

“These people who die in traffic violence,” Gibson said, “barely get the attention they deserve.”

Jeff Parkin, a videographer who has led the Ride of Silence for five years, is trying to change that.

Jeff Parkin leads the Jeff Parkin leads the

Jeff Parkin leads the “Ride of Silence” on 21st Street in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday, remembering cyclists who have been killed on city streets.

A death in front of the town hall

Parkin began leading the memorial event a few years after he first participated.

“I was deeply moved by this ride,” he said of his feelings after participating in his first Hike of Silence. He had helped design routes for Bike Party Sacramento – a more cheerful affair – “and so I used what I learned there to plan this route.”

The ride looped from the State Capitol to X and 21st streets, back through the heart of downtown at 24th and J and to an improved intersection where Carlson and U of State meet J Street, at the gates of Sacramento State. He continued and headed back down J Street toward downtown, where Micarelli was killed, eventually returning to the Capitol Mall.

The Ride of Silence is a solemn commitment for Parkin. When cyclists stopped at 10th and H to remember Micarelli a little after 9 p.m., Parkin explained, “I promised his mother we would stop here every year where I would run the race.” »

In his son’s obituary, Bandie Avila wrote that Micarelli loved bike polo. For the last seven months of his life, he had lived in Sacramento with his sister, Breanna Marie Avila. He was finally getting his life back together after a few difficult years. He found a job in landscaping. He fall in love.

Then he was hit by a car and killed in front of City Hall. Six months later, in January 2017, Sacramento leaders promised to put an end to deaths like his. Since then, people continue to die every year.

Cole Unger, center, waits Wednesday at Capitol Park in Sacramento with other cyclists near white helmets signifying those killed while cycling before the Cole Unger, center, waits Wednesday at Capitol Park in Sacramento with other cyclists near white helmets signifying those killed while cycling before the

Cole Unger, center, waits Wednesday at Capitol Park in Sacramento with other cyclists near white helmets signifying those killed while cycling before the “Ride of Silence.”

Parkin had his own ghost bike that he was towing on a trailer Wednesday. The downtown resident walked the streets slowly and deliberately. Other shepherds often placed their bodies and bicycles directly in front of cars to avoid dangerous interactions between drivers and the group of cyclists. Several drivers shouted in frustration at the cyclists, although cyclists have the legal right to use public roads, as a sign on the back of Parkin’s trailer states.

“Get out of the road, man, you’re blocking the lane,” an SUV driver yelled at a cyclist on X Street, just yards from where a driver struck and killed Johnston. Another SUV driver leaned on the horn and passed the group at dangerous speed on J Street, about nine blocks west of a crash that seriously injured a pedestrian in 2017.

The memorials and road rage incidents weren’t the only reminders that Sacramento has struggled to achieve its Vision Zero goals.

Some cyclists on the ride wore red stripes on their black armbands. A red stripe every time they were hit by a car.

Bob Stanton bows his head during a moment of silence Wednesday, May 15, 2024, with other runners at 21st and work by bike, during a “Ride of Silence” tour of crashed cyclists.Bob Stanton bows his head during a moment of silence Wednesday, May 15, 2024, with other runners at 21st and work by bike, during a “Ride of Silence” tour of crashed cyclists.

Bob Stanton bows his head during a moment of silence Wednesday, May 15, 2024, with other runners at 21st and work by bike, during a “Ride of Silence” tour of crashed cyclists.