There were maybe 50 or 60 of us gathered in the Pybus Public Market parking lot, a light drizzle amid the gray, early-evening skies. We were there for a quick bike ride through town, escorted by a police car with flashing lights.
From his hand-peddled recumbent bike, Dr. Ed Farrar addressed the crowd. I knew him only by sight. It seems I bump into Dr. Farrar and his bicycling entourage at least once a day, as I walk along the Apple Blossom Trail on my way to work and back. In fact, I crossed his path a week ago on my own bike ride with another group of riders near Cashmere.
The doctor is always leading the pack and I'd marvel at the strength it must take to pedal that bike with just his arms.
The evening event was an annual international protest called the Ride of Silence. It's intended to honor those bicyclists who have been injured or killed on public roadways. It began in Dallas 17 years ago after an endurance cyclist was hit by the side mirror of a passing school bus and killed.
Dr. Farrar almost lost his own life when he was struck head-on while riding his bicycle to work on October day in 2008. At the time, he was - ironically - a spinal surgeon.
I found a 2009 column from an ESPN Magazine writer named Jim Caple detailing the accident. It was written during the Tour de France and Dr, Farrar's son Tyler was in the middle of it. In fact, he had already ridden 1,600 miles, finishing second in two stages despite crashing into a guard rail.
But the focus of the ESPN column was Dr. Farrar and how he was facing his own uphill battle just months after the horrific accident.
And...according to the details outlined in Caple's column...the accident met every criteria for "horrific."
"On the morning of Oct. 22 last year, Ed was cycling up Wenatchee's Skyline Drive on his way to perform surgery at the local hospital," read the column. "It was the same route he rode whenever he worked at the hospital. He knew every rise, every turn of that ride. On that morning, however, a car veered out of its lane and directly into his.
The car hit Ed head-on, crushing into his chest. He collapsed to the ground, and the car, still moving, ran over him. His neck was broken in several places, all his ribs were fractured, his lung collapsed. The accident caused so much damage to Ed's body that, he says, 'It must have almost ripped the top half off the bottom half.'"
Dr. Farrar will never walk again, but he will probably never stop riding, or advocating for bicyclists.
I stopped riding motorcycles when I got tired of being invisible to other vehicles. I lost count of the number of times I had to brake, or veer to avoid someone who just cut me off, or pulled out of a driveway in front of me.
Even when I wore bright colors (I had a yellow t-shirt that read: CAN YOU SEE ME NOW? in black letters on the back) and that didn't really help.
A few years later I started riding a bicycle. I met a woman who was a serious bicyclist and she asked if I wanted to take a ride. She showed up in all her bike gear and $5,000 road bike. I arrived in shorts and tennis shoes and a Schwinn 10-speed.
When we were done with the 10-mile ride I asked her how she thought I did.
"If you were going any slower you would have tipped over," she said.
I was determined to improve and today I'm a little faster and can ride much longer. I only tip over when I forget to unclip, but that's only because I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
I love bicycling and this valley offers some of the best opportunities to do that as you will find anywhere in the world. One of the more popular places to bike is the Apple Capital Loop Trail, which I try to do several days a week because I basically live on it.
To that end, here are a few bike safety observations:
1. Just because a dog is on a leash, don't assume it won't dash in front of you. Some of those leashes are long and dogs don't understand much English.
2. Just because you say, "On your left," don't assume every pedestrian knows his left from his right. Slow down and expect the unexpected.
3. The Loop isn't the Tour de France. If you want to go fast, go out on the road or highway. The speed limit is 10 miles an hour on the Loop. Respect that.
4. There are bicycles coming the other way, so stay to the right. You don't own the path and you aren't Lance Armstrong.
5. Leave your cell phone alone. You probably can't call and ride at the same time and your conversation can probably wait until you pull over.
Here are a few tips for motorists and pedestrians on and off the Loop:
1. You don't own the road. If you are walking on the Loop, take your earplugs out so you can hear us coming up behind you. That's the whole point of us saying, "On your left," or ringing our bell.
2. If you are pulling out from a curb, turn your head and look first. You may not see us in your rearview or side mirror.
3. Same goes for opening your car door. We don't want to slam into it because it will hurt and probably ruin your side stereo speaker.
4. Stay off your cell phones. Driving is difficult enough and requires focus.
5. When you pass us make sure your side mirror misses us as well. Some of you drive trucks with side mirrors wide enough to cross a sidewalk.
6. Share the road. Be respectful. We're all in this together.
Jeff Ackerman can be reached at 665-1160 or at email@example.com.