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Cyclists take to Asheville streets to stress safety

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5/17/2012 - Cyclists take to Asheville streets to stress safety
by Romando Dixson - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Shannon Chisholm wanted to participate in the Ride of Silence.

Instead, she was one of the people honored here and worldwide Wednesday evening. The event honors bicyclists who have been injured or killed while riding on public roadways.

Chisholm was riding a bicycle on Hendersonville Road on July 17, 2011, when a vehicle struck her from behind.

"It's hard to think that your life can change that quickly but it can," said Chisholm, a 37-year-old mother of two. "It took just a split second for an older lady to not see me on the road."

About 30 bicyclists, flanked by six bike-riding police officers, pedaled around the city Wednesday evening for people like Chisholm.

The participants also hoped to raise local awareness for bicycle safety.

"I'm riding for everybody who rides and everybody who has lost their life," Brenda Canter said.

Chisholm could've easily lost her life when the vehicle, going 45 mph, struck her last summer and sent her through the air, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.

Doctors told her she would never walk again. But Wednesday she was showing off the range of motion in her legs from her wheelchair. And she sometimes gets around using crutches.

Chisholm thanked people for coming out.

"I can't begin to tell you how much this means to me for you guys to go out and do a ride like this," she said, before the cyclists departed for their 8.8-mile ride starting on Woodfin in downtown.

Claudia Nix, co-owner of Liberty Bicycles, and the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club organized the event. Nix said she wants people to feel comfortable riding around the city.

"It's much more friendly than it used to be," Nix said. "We've been working for over 30 years to make Asheville more bicycle friendly."

The hard work paid off when the League of American Bicyclists gave the city a bronze designation, joining a group of 214 cities in 47 states.

Nix said the city still has a long way to go and that bicycle safety is everyone's responsibility -- riders, drivers and pedestrians. It's important for people to learn to share road space and pay attention, she said.

"So many people are looking at their phone instead of paying attention to what they're doing," Nix said. "You're going to find bad apples from all sides. You got people who are riding who are not riding appropriately and you've got people driving who are not driving appropriately.

"I think people need to be more aware," she said.

Nix said she recalls three bicyclists who died while riding in the past eight years or so. She said they all had something in common. "All three of those deaths were people riding at night, and they were not prepared."

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