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Last Night Around White Rock Lake, the Ride of Silence Still Said Plenty

At last night's annual Ride of Silence, thousands of bicyclists rode silently around White Rock Lake to commemorate cyclists who have died. It's become an annual event attended by all kinds -- couples on tandems, parents with children in tow, men reclined in their recumbents, even one guy with a fluffy white dog tucked in his messenger bag. They're representative of cyclists around the world who now gather each year to ride together, in silence, in honor of lost loved ones and riders. (We have a slide show featuring some of last night's participants.)

The Dallas ride, though, is the "mother" event, the place where everything started. Before the ride, cyclists gathered on the western shore of White Rock Lake to listen to the stories of people who had lost friends and family in cycling accidents. After they had finished, executive director Chris Phelan took his place at the mike and told the story of the first ride, which stemmed in part from his anger over the death of his friend, Larry Schwartz, who was hit by a bus mirror and killed while cycling in 2003.

"I was pissed off!" Phelan shouted. "You either know somebody or you're afraid yourself you're going to end up on the front of a bumper -- and that's not right! After seven years, I'm still pissed off!"

Then Phelan got quiet.

"Study the faces around you," he said. "Really look at them. Look at what they're wearing. Someone here won't be here next year."

After Phelan spoke, a bagpiper played a mournful rendition of "Amazing Grace," and the cyclists clicked into their pedals and started along Lawther Road. The ride was slow: Bikers were urged to keep their speed below 12 miles per hour. And the weather, much to organizer Gail Spann's relief, was perfectly balmy and windless.

No one spoke; instead, hand signals were passed along through the long, snaking line of bikers like "the wave" at a football game: the lowered palm for "slow," the right arm out to signal a turn. Though it was a somber occasion, people smiled: In Dallas, it feels good not to be the only bicyclist on the road.

By the time the caravan returned to the parking lot at Lawther and Fisher Road, the day had faded into twilight. Almost in unison, the riders dismounted and lined up their bikes in rows on either side of the parking lot. Down the center, one man walked a "ghost bike," a bicycle painted  white to commemorate the death of a cyclist.

Then Phelan rode past, giving everyone a thumbs-up. The bagpiper played "Taps," and the horde of spandex-clad faithful slowly disappeared into the night.

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