Bicycle Advocate Explains Ride of Silence, Seeks Volunteers

Monday, February 27, 2017, 7:23 am
Alice Dreger

Above and below: photos from the 2009 Ride of Silence, courtesy Tim Potter.

Michael Unsworth, Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the Tri-County Bicycle Association (which includes East Lansing), is gearing up for the local 2017 Ride of Silence. I asked him to answer some questions for ELi’s readers about the Ride. Unsworth’s responses appear after the boldface questions.

What is the Ride of Silence?

The Ride is a worldwide annual event that takes place on the third Wednesday in May. Its goals are to honor those who have been injured or killed, to raise awareness that the bicyclists belong on streets and roads, and to ask that everyone shares the road.

2003 saw the inaugural of the first Ride of Silence in Dallas, Texas. It drew one thousand cyclists through word of mouth and email communication over a period of only ten days. Since then, the tradition has spread to 440 locations worldwide, in 50 U.S. states, 48 countries, on all seven continents.

Why is there a Ride of Silence held here each year?

Mid-Michigan has had way too many crashes where bicyclists are killed or injured. Two people decided that staging a Ride of Silence would be a good event to raise awareness in Mid-Michigan. In 2005, Leonard Provencher organized the first Ride in Meridian Township. It had about 25 riders. Tim Potter put together the current MSU-East Lansing-Lansing Ride in 2007. By 2016, it attracted over 200 riders. In 2012, the Tri-County Bicycle Association (TCBA) took over the organizing.

TCBA also holds memorial rides for local cyclists who have been killed. We had one in October 2014 for Dewitt resident Jill Byelich, and we commemorated Randy Richardson from St. John’s in July 2016.

Who participates in the local Ride of Silence?

It’s open to everyone. Last year we had over 200 riders participate. The bulk of the riders come from Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham Counties with others coming from other Michigan locations. Last year we had people from several colleges who were at MSU for a Big Ten bicycling conference. Of course, international students attending MSU and LCC come. Finally, local police agencies provide bicycle officers who have done a fantastic job in escorting us.

What are the details for this year’s ride?

This year it will be on May 17, 2017. The exact route varies from year to year due to road construction. Generally, we leave MSU’s Wells Hall plaza at 6:30 p.m. (One year I started the ride a few minutes early; that won’t happen again.) We generally travel around campus and then through downtown East Lansing and then down to Grand River Avenue to Michigan Avenue. The cyclists end up on the west side of the State Capitol Building where we have a brief ceremony.

Who will be remembered this year?

Each rider can wear armbands memorializing friends or loved ones who have been killed (red) or injured (black). At the State Capitol ceremony, we read the names of Mid-Michigan cyclists who have been killed or injured in the past several years. We will likely include the Kalamazoo cyclists who were killed last summer. (Read more.)

You’re looking for volunteers, especially a coordinator for the Ride. What skills and resources should people considering volunteering have?

The Ride of Silence involves advance work. The coordinator should have be strong in these skills: working with people, time management, the ability to delegate, and promotional talents. The coordinator will work with a planning group (also volunteers). Finally, we need people who can put up posters, act as ride marshals, shake the donation can (to defray our expenses and give to local bike charities), and more.

How can people contact you to volunteer and learn more about the Tri-County Bicycle Association?

They can contact me by email at and find out more about the association by going to



This article was corrected on March 1, 2017, to reflect that Unsworth is the Chair of the Advocacy Committee of the TCBA.