The 24 bicyclists who were injured or killed on public roads in Iowa over the past year will be remembered with a slow-paced bike ride through several Iowa cities next week. Scott Sumpter, founder of the website bikeiowa.com, says the events are called the Ride of Silence. They aim to raise awareness about sharing the road with bicycles while honoring the dozens of Iowa cyclists who’ve lost their lives in recent years.

“We get the list out to all the organizers so we can read off the names of those who have been hit and killed over the past year,” Sumpter says. “Then, we do a shout out of people in the group that show up for the ride and ask them why are you here and who are you riding for, and then we proceed with the Ride of Silence.” There are at least eight rides planned across Iowa and in the Omaha area for next Wednesday, May 18th, at 7 P.M. He says it’s a solemn event and like the name says, it is truly a ride of silence.

“It’s almost a funeral-like procession,” Sumpter says. “It’s really slow. Nobody talks. We do have a banner that goes along with us and we have a police escort. It really makes an impact. A lot of people do come out and watch along the businesses, wondering what’s going on.”

This marks the 7th year for the rides in Iowa. They began in Texas in 2003 after a cyclist’s death there and quickly spread. The rides are now held in all 50 states and in 11 countries, with 320 rides planned globally this year. Sumpter is expecting 1,000 to 1,200 bikers to participate in the various Ride of Silence events across Iowa next week.

“It’s a surreal event; it’s powerful,” Sumpter says. “You’ve got a lot of families there, a lot of crying, a lot of hugging. It’s a way they can, not re-live the experience, but be with that person and do something for that person. A lot of their friends and family show up so you’ve got groups of people there for those folks who can’t ride anymore.”

Rides are planned in several Iowa cities, including: Ames, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Iowa City, Mason City, Sioux City, Waterloo and Bellevue, Nebraska. Learn more at: www.rideofsilence.org

See the 2008 ride in Des Moines: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC-DL6TKFLY