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Memorial ride honors people killed by cars in San Francisco: ‘There is so much power in that silence’

A child adds flowers to a memorial bike on the corner of Third Street and Mission Bay Boulevard South during the 2022 Ride of Silence on May 19, 2022 throughout the streets of San Francisco, California. | Christopher Victorio

Three people died walking in San Francisco this week—just days before the annual Ride of Silence, a bicycle procession that honors those killed on the city’s streets. 

This year, around 75 people participated in the solemn ride, which happens worldwide every May. 

“We really focus on the lives that were lost and act as a healing agent for families and friends left behind,” ride organizer Paul Valdez said. “Everyone has a different experience.”

San Francisco has participated in the Ride of Silence—now in its 20th year—since 2010. 

Participants gather around a bicycle memorial placed in front of City Hall during the Ride of Silence on May 19, 2022 throughout the streets of San Francisco, Calif. | Christopher Victorio

As part of the ride, the local group puts up white-painted “ghost bikes” in remembrance of those lost and as a warning to pedestrians, bikers and motorists. This year, City Hall shone white in honor of the event for the second year running. 

The event drew dozens of cyclists, many still grieving losses. Jeff Jones, a long-time San Francisco resident, attended his eighth Ride of Silence in remembrance of a dear friend lost to a cycling accident. Tim O’Brien held a sign honoring his friend Amelie Le Moullac, who was killed by a truck on Folsom St. in 2013.

This week’s deaths mark the ninth, 10th and 11th people killed in traffic just this year in the city following a nationwide increase in traffic fatalities. A new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found nearly 43,000 people died in traffic crashes throughout the U.S. last year, up 10.5% from 2020. 

A participant of Ride of Silence is seen through the wheel of a memorial bike carried by Anthony Ryan at South Park on May 19, 2022 throughout the streets of San Francisco, California. | Christopher Victorio

San Francisco sees a deadly crash about every two weeks—around the same rate as the number of people jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge to their deaths. The majority of people killed in city traffic are pedestrians. 

“These numbers are an increasing, pressing reality,” San Francisco Bicycle Coalition Nesrine Majzoub spokesperson said. 

Despite the city adopting a Vision Zero policy as part of a global movement to eliminate traffic deaths, the number of cyclists and pedestrians dying on San Francisco’s streets hasn’t gone down dramatically.

“That shows we need to take bolder leadership,” Mazjoub said.

All told, Thursday’s cyclists rode 8.5 miles and made nine stops across San Francisco, finishing at City Hall.

“There is so much power in that silence,” Valdez said.