About 70 bikers rode around Bloomington on Friday night in honor of Michael Brooks, a bicyclist who was killed May 13 in a hit-and-run.
The Bloomington Community Bike Project, a local cooperative that helps recycle bikes within the community, had already scheduled the night bike ride before Brooks’ death. Members of the Bike Project decided to use the night ride to honor his memory.
“We’re all here for Mikey,” said Mallory Rickbeil, Bloomington’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.
Vincent Beyer, a volunteer at the Bike Project, planned the approximately 8-mile route with Ian Yarbrough. He would take the group east, then south, using shortcuts and taking advantage of places with low traffic. He wanted to make it peaceful.
But first the group stopped at Upland Brewing Co., where Brooks worked.
Rickbeil shared a statement and led the group in a moment of silence. She helped distribute candles for the cyclists as they stood with their bikes on Upland’s patio.
“Mikey’s life was sacred,” she said. “His contribution to our community did not end with his death. We will not be disenfranchised in this act of violence.”
Brooks was probably often reminded of the dangers of biking on State Road 45, Rickbeil said. Yet he continued because it brought him great joy.
When situations like these happen, she said, people often blame cyclists and pedestrians.
“How many people here have heard cyclists and pedestrians are out there just asking to be hit?” Rickbeil asked.
People raised their hands.
She asked the group to continue fighting to protect cyclists and pedestrians and to band together as a community.
Even cyclists who didn’t personally know Brooks have been affected by his death.
Morning Wilder, a cyclist who moved this month from Chicago to Bloomington, said she wanted to support the community she will be part of. She has already noticed similarities between biking infrastructure in Chicago and Bloomington.
Both cities claim to be bike-friendly, but Wilder said it’s more complex.
Many issues go unaddressed, and she said she is frustrated by what she sees as a misdirection of public funds that could be used toward improving biking infrastructure.
Pat Martin, Senior Transportation Planner for Bloomington’s Planning and Transportation Department, said cyclists and pedestrians simply can’t compete with motor vehicles.
“I think the only thing we can do is education,” he said.
Members of the group held onto their bikes as they commemorated victims of traffic violence. They gave each other hugs.
Then they climbed onto their bikes and rode off toward the scheduled route, into the dusk.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to reflect that Vincent Beyer planned the bike route with Ian Yarbrough.
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