Tragedy: A Reason to Ride

Velocio at Les Baux.

After a long day on my bicycle, I feel refreshed, cleansed, purified. I feel that I have established contact with my environment and that I am at peace. On days like that I am permeated with a profound gratitude for my bicycle. Even if I did not enjoy riding, I would still do it for my peace of mind. What a wonderful tonic to be exposed to bright sunshine, drenching rain, choking dust, dripping fog, rigid air, punishing winds! — Velocio

These are the words of Paul de Vivie, known as Velocio and the father of randonneuring. He was hit by a streetcar while out with is bicycle and killed.

As a cloud hangs over the randonneuring season because of vehicular violence, most lately from the horrible death of Jim Swarzman during the San Diego Randonneurs 600K, it is a good time to ponder the purpose of bicycling and to guard against hesitancy.

It is not atypical for onlookers to blame the rider in an accident. Most of us have come to expect such spurious judgements. But, unfortunately, these ideas sometimes arrive from fellow riders – lamenting the course or the ride organizers, comments on equipment or the judgement of the cyclist. We sometimes slip into a search for causes to something out of our control. Sometimes its a freak accident, and sometimes it is a malicious attack. Any loss leaves us searching for both answers and questions.

Without getting too much into it, I think we honor the memories and lives of fallen riders by riding – by getting out there: across town and country; on shopping trips and randonees; on paths and in the streets. Plan more permanents. Participate in more theme rides. Become more passionate advocates about infrastructure, safety, and facilitative planning. Ride with the kids.

Randonneurs are not the only ones who ride at night through heavily-populated areas. Thousands of cooks, hotel workers, dishwashers, and farmworkers ride home at night after their shifts. So, let’s ride more to make it safer for them to get home. Critical mass is more than a monthly ride. Its what changes And when we can, enjoy the “drenching rain, choking dust, dripping fog, rigid air” that we know are more wonderful than one might initially imagine.

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