May 16 2013 12:00 AM

Annual bike ride remembering bicyclists killed or fatally injured by motor vehicles resonates locally after fatal accident this week

Andy Balaskovitz/City Pulse

Thursday, May 16 — A procession of nearly 200 bicyclists traveled from Michigan State University to the Capitol Wednesday night. As a police escort stopped traffic along Michigan Avenue throughout the ride, it felt as if the cyclists were making the statement to idle cars watching: “These are our roads, too.”

bike_ride2.jpgStarting at Wells Hall on MSU’s campus, the annual Ride of Silence was in remembrance of bicyclists who have been severely injured or killed by motor vehicles. The bicyclists stopped at the corner of Michigan and Pennsylvania avenues for a moment of silence and to place flowers in remembrance of 69-year-old James Thelen, who was killed in a hit-and-run accident early Tuesday morning. The driver is still being sought.

The accident underscored the purpose of the Ride of Silence.

“Turn to the person next to you — they may not be riding next year,” Mike Unsworth, of the Tri-County Bicycle Association, announced to participants before the ride started. “We need to share the roads — they’re not just for automobiles.”

The group left Wells Hall shortly after 6:30 p.m. and arrived at the Capitol by 7. It traveled west through MSU’s campus to Harrison Road then north to Michigan Avenue and west for the remaining three miles. All along, police officers from various area agencies stopped traffic so bicyclists could travel uninterrupted.

The annual Ride of Silence is a worldwide event; its website indicates 368 different rides happened this year. Unsworth said five bicyclists have died in the tri-county area in accidents with motor vehicles. In 2002, Unsworth was hit by an SUV, prompting his advocacy for bike riders.

Here’s video of riders approaching the Capitol, courtesy of MSU Bikes’ Tim Potter.