Family and friends of the late Sylvia Bingham ’09 organized four memorial bike rides Saturday to promote bicycle safety in Bingham’s honor.
Almost 100 family, friends and classmates participated in simultaneous bike rides in Cleveland, San Francisco, East Bay, Calif., and Marin County, Calif., in memory of Bingham, who died Sept. 15 after getting hit by a truck while biking in Cleveland.
Bingham became passionate about cycling while at Yale. Shortly after graduation, she moved to Cleveland to work at Hard Hatted Women, an organization that seeks to inspire women to achieve economic independence. A week after Bingham was killed, 150 community members gathered in Cleveland to participate in the first memorial bike ride, which served as the inspiration for the rides that took place this weekend.
“We did it as a way to be visible as cyclists in the city,” said Alex Nosse, who was Bingham’s boyfriend and organized the original ride and the one this past weekend in Cleveland. “We wanted to raise awareness of issues around cycling.”
Saturday’s East Bay ride consisted of a four-mile route through Oakland, said Steve Weiss, a co-worker of Bingham’s father and the director of the East Bay ride. The ride ended at a beach on the San Francisco Bay, where participants held a moment of silence and several people spoke about Sylvia Bingham’s death, Weiss added.
“I think it was a therapeutic and cathartic experience for those involved,” Weiss said.
Staci Martin, another of Steve Bingham’s colleagues and the organizer of the San Francisco ride, said all 15 participants in the three-mile ride would be happy to do the ride in Bingham’s honor on an annual basis.
“We don’t want to end with this ride,” Martin said. “It’s to honor an incredible life lived as well as creating a focus to continue to honor Sylvia’s life.”
In Marin County, the approximately 20 participants ranged from family and friends to high school classmates and a member of the Marin County Bike Coalition, which aims to improve the county’s road and path facilities for walkers and bikers, Steve Bingham, who organized the Marin County ride, said. Participants passed around Sylvia’s high school bicycle, the “Ghost Bike,” which was painted white and placed in what her father calls one of the “more dangerous streets” in San Rafael, Calif., where Sylvia grew up.
He added that he hopes the Sylvia Bingham Foundation — which he and his wife, Francoise Blusseau, founded to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians — and the Marin County Bike Coalition will become allies in an effort to make something positive of the “horrible experience” of his daughter’s death.
Friends of Sylvia Bingham agreed that the memorial rides were an appropriate tribute.
“It seemed that biking was for her a simple choice as she seemed to both love it and know that it was a small contribution she could make to the world around her,” Bingham’s Yale classmate Rebecca Levenson ’09 said.
Friends all underscored Bingham’s dedication to social justice and actively improving her community.
David Narotsky ’09, a member of Bingham’s senior society at Yale, said that because of this sense of activism, Bingham would have enjoyed the idea of memorial bike rides in her honor.
“She would have insisted that we band together and unite in her tragedy to celebrate her life rather than mourn her death, and would have been disappointed by anything other than memorializing her through an active campaign to change the world and fix it one step at a time,” he said.
Bingham’s parents are currently in the process of applying for non-profit status for the Sylvia Bingham Foundation.