These silent cyclists have much to say

WARREN – The message on a small white flier given to people Wednesday summed up what a group of closed-mouthed cyclists wanted to convey to the public – ”Let the Silence Roar.”

The first local Ride of Silence took place Wednesday, with 45 bicyclists pedaling for nearly seven silent miles around Warren, starting and ending at the Harding High School parking lot.

As part of the ride, participants were to say nothing but could hand out the flier, which explained, ”We are riding today to honor fallen cyclists, to promote road safety and to make a difference.”

They pedalled along Atlantic Street, Perkinswood Avenue, East Market Street, Park Avenue, Washington Street and through Perkins Park.

Jay and Shelley Wonders of Warren, event organizers, lost their son, Garrett, to a biking accident in 2004 while he was training for the Olympic cycling team tryouts in Charleston, S.C. He was a Naval military officer with a master’s degree in engineering at the time of his death.

”The message is cyclists belong on the road and drivers need to watch for them. This is in international event held all over the world on the third Wednesday in May,” Shelley Wonders said.

The national Ride of Silence was begun 10 years ago in Texas by a man who lost a friend in a bicycle accident and who wanted to create a way to pay tribute to those who have died.

Jay Wonders said this was the first time locally to host the event to remind the bicyclists of the rules of the road while also remembering those who have been killed. Plans are to hold the ride annually, he said.

”Awareness is the key. We want to educate drivers today and also pay respect to those we have lost on the highways,” he said.

A bike ride in memory of Garrett Wonders is held each fall by the family, Jay Wonders said.

Others area cyclists honored Wednesday included Gregg Snyder, Larry Furniss, Chris Carano and Emil Manus, plus more than 700 cyclists killed each year on the roads across the nation.

The family of Larry Furniss, who was hit by a vehicle July 24, 2010, while on the Greenway Bike Trail crossing a road in Bristol, said they wanted to be there for their father and brother. Furniss, 58, died a few weeks after the accident from his injuries.

Joanne Gilbert, Furniss’ sister, said she wants to make people more aware of bicyclists.

”There needs to be more awareness. My brother was on a bike trail just crossing a road when he was hit,” Gilbert said.

Bryant Furniss, son of Larry Furniss, said the family remembers his father by having a annual memorial bike ride on the Greenway Trail each year.

”The person in a vehicle should understand they need to share the road with bicycles and cyclists,” Furniss said.

The money raised from the ride goes back to the bike trail for such items as signage since Furniss said signs were not visible for both parties when the accident occurred.

”It is extremely important to raise awareness for the safety of everyone on the road,” he said.

Mary Pasternak, sister of Larry Furniss, said family told of the event and she checked about online learning there were hundreds of bike riding events taking place throughout the country on Wednesday to mark the special day.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com