June 10th, 2016 by Marie Dershem
Tragedy. Senseless. Horrific. Heartbreaking… there are so many words that help us describe what happened in Kalamazoo a few short days ago. Five cyclists lost their lives and four were severely injured because of one person’s decision to drive recklessly. And we feel devastated, angry, distressed, anxious, deeply saddened, vulnerable and helpless.
So many words… but words can only take us so far. We want a course of action. We need to have something to do. We want to support those who have lost loved ones, demand justice for the actions of the man who caused this tragedy, and remember all who have been hit and injured or killed while cycling.
The ride of silence just 24 hours after this tragic event was a moving display of care, support, love and remembrance. The fund for the victims’ families has been established and is growing. These are immediate opportunities to give and support and raise awareness. We must grieve the loss, feel the feelings of anger and sadness.
But, what about a month from now? A year from now? How does this impact us? What course of action, long term, can we take in response to such tragedy? I believe we can allow this to change us for the better. We can be bitter, or we can make things better. As I ofen tell my children, we can’t prevent bad things from happening to us or those we love. The only thing we can control is our response to it. We can grow bitter hearts and resentment, or we can grow character and resilience
So, as we move from our deep sense of grief into a time of response, let’s consider how this can better us and better our community.
On the practical side:
When you drive, show patience to cyclists. Give cyclist ample room (5’) when you pass them. Remember that they are more than just cyclists. They are someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s father or mother. However rushed you feel, remember that carelessness is not worth the risk or the 5 seconds you might save.
When you drive, vow to never, ever receive or send a text or email while driving. Ever. I hope it goes without saying that it is never acceptable in any way, shape or form to drive under the influence.
If you are a cyclist, follow the rules of the road, always.
Help to educate your community about cyclist’s right to be on the road and how to keep cyclists safe.
Volunteer at a cycling event to help keep participants safe.
Be as visible as you can when you ride.
Follow that instinct to do something – you’ll find what that thing is for you.
On the emotional side: Events like this remind us how fragile life is. I know it is cliché, but speak your love to your loved ones. Hold close those friends who make your world a better place.
Remember that life, good health, and physical activity is a gift. We are blessed to be able to ride. Ride with joy. Ride as a celebration of life and health. Ride with friends and embrace the community cycling has given you provides to us.
Let’s vow to keep our priorities straight . . . Live with joy. Ride with gratitude. Love with your whole heart.
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