KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Cyclists from throughout West Michigan gathered in Kalamazoo Wednesday night for Ride of Silence to memorialize the victims of a Tuesday crash.
More than 500 bicyclists passed in silent tribute to victims in one of the deadliest bike-related crashes in the nation’s history.
“I’ve never ridden in a group this large. It is just a powerful moment that I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Mark Hagar, coordinator Ride of Silence Michigan, who came from Holland for the ride.
The ride took a five-mile route through Kalamazoo in honor of the cyclists who were hit by a pickup truck in Cooper Township a mere 24 hours earlier. Five people — Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel — were killed. Four other cyclists were hurt and remained hospitalized Wednesday.
“It is amazing how many responses and emails and posts I saw coming in globally,” Hagar said.
The estimate of riders who came out ranges from 500 to more than 750, many of whom were members of the “Chain Gang” bike club — the same club to which the victims of the crash belonged.
“Everybody knew somebody in that group,” said Tim VerDries, a veteran Kalamazoo bike club member. “There’s a big riding community here pretty much everybody contacts everybody, VerDries said.” I mean, the accident happened about 6:36 last night and by time I got home at about quarter to seven, I’d had four or five inquiries about where I was, what I was doing.”
The ride was not formally organized but arose via internet and word of mouth among the vast but tightly knit Kalamazoo cycling community.
The crash has had a major impact Kalamazoo riders.
“We ride bikes, so I want to be able to do it safely. I’d like to be able to enjoy something I love and not fear for my life,” said Andrew Aardema, a member of Chain Gang bike group
Asked if the tragedy made him rethink whether he will continue to ride on Kalamazoo streets, Aardema said, “Honestly, I don’t think it’s set in yet. I’m not sure.”>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete coverage of the Kalamazoo cycling tragedy
Many say that with so little information about what caused the driver of the pickup to crash into the bikes, it is hard to say if anything can be changed to prevent another similar tragedy.
“This is a big enough event, I’m thinking this is national and hopefully it will wake some people up and make some changes,” VerDries said.
Bikers In Kalamazoo Wednesday said they want to make sure these victims are remembered and they hope this tragedy will at least remind drivers to safely share the road.