Wednesday, May 20, 2015

SW Fla. Rides of Silence draw more than 400

Thanks to everyone who participated in the SWFL Rides of Silence and to all the organizers who made it possible.

News-Press article 5/21/15: SWFL Rides of Silence draw more than 400

Janice Johnsen looped a black ribbon around the wrist of a bicyclist. She tightened it in a careful bow.
She gazed out at the more than 200 bicyclists at Centennial Park in Fort Myers before Wednesday night's Ride of Silence, an international event to honor bicyclists who have been injured or killed.
Her husband, Scott Johnsen, should have been there too.

He participated in last year's Ride of Silence. To remember a friend killed while bicycling, Scott wore a black arm band, like the ones his wife was now attaching to strangers. This year, the crowd was there to honor her husband. As was she. They were married 27 years.

"This was such a big part of my husband's life," said Johnsen, 65. "I wanted to be a part of this."
She doesn't ride, but her husband, who was 60, rode daily.

Last September, Johnsen was killed by the driver of a speeding Corvette in Cape Coral. Police concluded Jason Stewart's Corvette was going a "minimum" of 102 mph, 4 feet prior to the crash. Stewart was arrested for vehicular homicide and reckless driving.
Karen and Dennis Baber of Cape Coral read the program before they took part in the ride.

Being without her husband was not easy for Janice, but nothing is, without her husband.
"It's all hard," said Johnsen. "At home without him. With my family without him. At Christmastime without him. It's all hard, but it's just something you have to get through."

She listened as Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson pledged to the group to do more to make the city safer for bicyclists. Fort Myers is among the more than 200 cities committed to the U.S. Department of Transportation's mayor's challenge to improve walking and bicycling conditions. As part of that, Henderson is working with the city's bicycle-pedestrian advisory committee on solutions and a resolution to promote complete streets, a policy to promote access for all users, not just cars.

"We hope to do better and make it less dangerous," he vowed.

Last year was somber for Lee County bicyclists. Lee tied with two Florida counties twice its size for the third-highest number of bicyclists killed statewide. This ranking comes in a state with the worst record for bicyclist fatalities.

With 133 deaths, Florida, again, had the highest lethality rate in the nation for bicyclists with nearly 7 deaths per million residents, according to 2013 federal data released this month. The national rate is about 2.
(Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press)

In 2015, there has been one bicyclist killed in Lee and two killed in Collier.

Johnsen joined with the crowd to read a poem in unison.
"The road is there for all to share
To those not with us or by our side,
May God be your partner on your final ride." 

Mike Resnick, co-chairman of the ride organized by the Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club, looked to Janice Johnsen.
"Janice, this ride is to honor your husband."
Scott was a club member.
 (Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press)

She nodded as the bicyclists silently pedaled past her. Brick streets vibrated under their seats as the bicyclists wound through downtown. Hot air feels cooler from the seat of a bicycle. A peach sunset inspires more awe. Frankly, Fort Myers is prettier from two wheels. The memories of the absent bicyclists lingered, but the ride reinforced a dedication to biking.

It seemed fitting with the goals Scott Johnsen listed before his death: "Have fun. Ride every day."

Rides of Silence in Naples, Sanibel
Rides were also held Wednesday evening in Naples and Sanibel Island. The Sanibel ride drew more than 60 people. Naples Pathways Coalition hosted a Naples ride that attracted about 150 people.

Connect with this reporter:@Janinezeitlin(Twitter).

Share and learn about ideas to make the roads safer on The News-Press Facebook page,Share the Road Florida.

(Photo: Andrea Melendez/The News-Press)
Video story by Andrea Melendez of News-Press:

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