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Bici Marcha: A Ride to Remember

League President Andy Clarke was in Puerto Rico this weekend for Bici Marcha, a ride to remember fallen bicyclists and to bring the issue to the attention of lawmakers. Below are Andy’s remarks at the ride, of which 4,500 riders took part. 

Josue Torres lost his life enjoying the simple pleasure and joy of a bike ride. He was doing nothing wrong and had a bright, productive, long and healthy life ahead of him.

His loss brings great sadness to family and friends and intense frustration – even anger – to the cycling community in Puerto Rico. We all ask ourselves how something like this can happen, and more importantly how can we stop it from happening again. 

Because here’s the real tragedy: Josue’s death is an utterly senseless waste of talent and human spirit. And exactly the same thing happens 700 times a year in communities all across the United States.

We know these aren’t “accidents.” We know exactly why these tragedies happen and we know how to prevent them.

We know drivers don’t set out with the intention of killing anyone -– but they do things we know will result in tragedy.  OK, we also know cyclists aren’t always the best behaved group of people on the road –- we can talk about that at a different time –- but our actions rarely result in the death or injury of others.

Seven hundred cyclists will be killed by cars this year in the United States — 4,500 pedestrians will be killed just trying to cross the street.  And 30,000 people are killed in cars and trucks. Every year this needless toll of death and destruction is repeated. Year after year it happens because we as a society won’t do what it takes to stop it.

Well maybe this time, on this day, because of the death of Josue, that starts to change.

We enjoy many freedoms in this country –- but with freedom comes responsibility. We can own fast cars but we have a responsibility not to drive them so fast that we kill people. We can drive wherever and whenever we like, but we must accept the responsibility to drive without distraction, without drinking, without drugs. Automobiles are remarkable tools for travel and carrying things -– but that doesn’t mean we must let them overwhelm the public realm and deny others the time and space and basic feeling of safety to walk or ride a bike.

We as society suffer –- we all lose –- if people can’t ride or walk. Bicycling is a simple solution to so many complex problems, if only we would choose to let bicycling flourish. If the people of Puerto Rico are too afraid or cannot realistically ride we all lose. Even if you never ride yourself.

Which is why today, because of Josue’s death, things are going to change. His tragic loss can be the moment, the catalyst for a different future in San Juan, in Puerto Rico and the United States. It must be.

Your presence here today is so important -– to Josue’s father, family and friends and to the entire cycling community -– it is a show of support and caring that is powerful and moving.

Your presence here today is also a powerful sign to the Mayor and leaders in San Juan, to the Governor and leadership of Puerto Rico that things must change. We must make it safe for people to cross the road and to ride a bike.  As a priority, not just an afterthought.

I work for the League of American Bicyclists, a national membership group with 134 years of history and experience working for cyclists. We know what San Juan must do to be more bike friendly. It’s not rocket science,  nor is it always easy. We know what Puerto Rico must do to truly embrace cycling. Your presence here today will make that possible.

Support PR En Bici.

Call or write the Mayor and Governor.

Ask your legislator to support bike safety bills introduced into the legislature on Friday.

Don’t leave here today and remain silent. Speak up. Capture this moment.

This rally today is the launching pad and the inspiration for two national initiatives. First, there is a bike safety bill in the U.S. Congress right now that demands a dramatic cut in bike fatalities that cyclists all over the country are writing to their Congressional members about. Second, today, the League is calling for a new national bicycling strategy or national bike plan to dramatically increase bike use and cut fatal crashes by at least 50 percent by 2020.

We meet the Mayor of San Juan tomorrow with your voices behind us.  I meet the U.S. Secretary of Transportation on Wednesday to demand that National Plan with your voices behind me and with the story of Josue in our hearts.

We will make bicycling safe and attractive for everyone in San Juan, in Puerto Rico and in the United States. Because of, and in memory of Josue. In the words of the late, great Nelson Mandela who we remember this weekend, “it always seems impossible, until it is done.” Let’s get it done.

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