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The first ever Ride of Silence in downtown Oklahoma City Wednesday evening joined with other Ride of Silence events worldwide.

“The Ride of Silence is to honor and memorialize those pedestrians and cyclists who have been killed or even just suffered injuries on our streets,” organizer Tony Carfang told Free Press. He is on the board of Bike Oklahoma, one of the several bicycling organizations in the state.

To build awareness

Around 30 riders gathered near the Myriad Gardens to honor and memorialize those 79 who have died over the last three years in Oklahoma City by being struck by an auto while walking or bicycling.

bicycling Bike of Silence
April Burges of Edmond signs up for the Ride of Silence in OKC. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

One of the participants, April Burgess, talked with us about her reasons for being on the ride.

“This effort is not only to honor people that have passed, particularly in the effort of bicycling, but it’s to promote safety and sharing the road,” said Burgess.

She said that the more people who band together to bring about changes in infrastructure and laws, the more likely it is to happen.

The eight-mile route took the riders through significant locations around downtown including a part of Chris Epley’s usual route that he would take home on his bike.

Bicycling Tony and Bonnie
Organizer Tony Carfang (L) watches as another organizer, Bonnie Winslow pins a black armband on him. Riders attached flowers to their bikes and wore black armbands to honor those who have died. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

Epley was killed in collision with an auto at NW 16th and Classen Boulevard earlier in the year.

The ride also was designed to take the group past Oklahoma City Hall and the Congressional 5th District offices of U.S. Representative Kendra Horn nearby.

“So, to really have safe streets for everybody, it takes a very strong effort, not just at the federal level, not just at the state level, not just at the municipal level, but, with the public grassroots effort too,” said Carfang.

“This event is more to make [elected leaders] aware that they’re constituents who vote for them or for policies have these desires.”

bicycling taps
Eagle Scout William McGovern-Fagg plays taps with a bugle as riders pause before the Ride of Silence in OKC. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

The group stood silent in honor of those killed by autos as William McGovern-Fagg, a 14-year old Eagle Scout, played Taps, a standard component of U.S. Military funerals.

Worldwide event

What has now grown into a worldwide event started with a memorial ride May 21, 2003, at White Rock Lake in Dallas, Texas.

The idea rose among friends of bicyclist Larry Schwartz after his funeral earlier in the month.

Schwartz was killed when he was struck by a school bus mirror while cycling May 4 of that year.

The event has grown exponentially over the years.

To compare, around 1,000 riders participated in that first ride in Dallas in 2003. The event has grown each year until in 2018, the Ride of Silence organization reported that over 15,000 riders had taken part in simultaneous events in 375 locations around the globe that year including places like Taiwan, Romania, and Germany.

Second bike event

OKC’s Ride of Silence was the second event in a matter of weeks emphasizing the need for infrastructure to make walking and riding safer.

On the “Ride for Chad Epley” May 7, cyclists rode up Classen Blvd to the site of Epley’s death and then on to the Tower Theater on NW 23rd St.

There, they heard speeches meant to rally OKC residents to push for more intentional bike and pedestrian infrastructure that would encourage more means of transportation other than driving a car.