On May 19, 2021, seventeen riders commemorated the annual Ride of Silence to honor those injured or killed while riding their bicycles. Following the international standard of the third Wednesday in May, riders toured the four ghost bike sites within the city of Albany. The list of four riders we honored appears below in the order visited.
The Ride – The Albany Bicycle Coalition has planned and hosted this ride since 2008 – with the exception of 2020. After consultation with the Albany County Department of Health and other sources, we redesigned the ride to conform to COVID-19 safety standards and to ensure that riders enjoyed safe routes. This year’s changes included the following:
- To facilitate COVID-19 safety, we required pre-ride registration and set out specific procedural steps (e.g., masks, social distance).
- We developed a new route so that, with the cohort monitors, even traffic-adverse riders could join without hesitation.
- Non-riding ABC staff displayed 2X3 foot posters at each ghost bike site showing the first name, date of death, and a bicycle symbol.
- We posted a small weather-resistant sign at each site as in past years.
- The ride was split into cohorts with a maximum of 10 riders each accompanied by a skilled ride leader and a “sweep” to assist any riders who fell out of the ride.
- Rather than stopping at each of the four sites as in past years, we merely rode slowly by.
- The ride was 13.9 miles long with 650 feet elevation gain.
- We offered two starting locations so riders who chose to do so could avoid climbing the hill from the Hudson River level.
- As in years past, each rider received a flyer listing all the local ghost bike cases with a factual summary.
Ghost Bike Summary – About one-half those listed on our handout were the fault of people in cars (54% -Cummings, Agne, Ratalle, Merges, Melnikoff, Zayhowski, and Ryan) vs. rider or both driver/rider (15% – De Loyaza, Richichi), and unknown (31%). In 10 out of the 31 bicycle fatalities listed by the Albany Bicycle Coalition, drugs, and alcohol use by the motor vehicle operator was a contributing cause.
Ghost bikes in the City of Albany remained undisturbed until early 4/2014 when the Department of General Services removed them.
Jose Perez – August 3, 2006 (age 60) Bicyclist killed by SUV, Broadway at Quay St., Albany. Perez, who was dealing with liver problems, did not own a car, and used is bicycle to get around, often taking rides at the Corning Preserve bike path along the Hudson River. Dusk was falling at about 8:30 PM when Jose crossed into traffic near Quay St. and Broadway. A sport utility vehicle heading north could not stop and struck the cyclist head-on. Perez was pronounced dead at the scene. Some few days after the installation of Jose’s ghost bike, his sister left this note attached to it: “Attention: I greatly appreciate those who made this memorial in remembrance of my brother José Perez (Ray) I would very much like for you to contact me via cell phone _____ My name is Nivia. Thank you” Jose’s ghost bike was the first of many installed in the City of Albany. The city removed all the ghost bikes in 2016.
Diva De Loayza – June 6, 2007 (age 40) Bicyclist killed by car, Western Ave. at Homestead Ave., Albany. A motor vehicle operator made a left turn into University Place from east-bound Western Ave. and struck and killed Diva who was riding her bicycle west in the University Place crosswalk. Diva operated the “Some Girls” boutiques in Troy and Utica. For many years, store employees came to the ghost bike site during the ride. They also decorated her bicycle for Christmas, etc.
Paul J. Merges, Jr. – November 24, 2012 (age 45) Bicyclist killed by drunk driver, Manning Blvd. & Roosevelt St., Albany. Paul was returning home after visiting his daughters. The driver, Pablo Cruz, a drunken driver, ran Merges down on 11/24/12 in a gruesome 51-mph collision. A sheriff’s deputy was pursuing Cruz at high speeds through city residential streets at the time. Cruz, 39, had been released from prison on a drug charge less than four weeks before the crash. Cruz was accused of then driving 12 miles with Merges’s body pinned to the roof rack of his truck. He was caught in Rotterdam after his truck engine failed. Cruz received 25 Years to Life for second-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter, and felony leaving the scene of an accident, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving. He said at sentencing, “Nah, I’ve got nothing to say.”
Edston J. Kirnon – July 22, 2017 (age 42) Bicyclist collided with side of CDTA bus, N. Pearl St., Albany The fatality at Pearl and Wilson was not the fault of the bus driver. All the available data, plus an assessment of the location, indicate that the cyclist did not have control of his bicycle going down a steep hill, and ran the stop sign. The bus driver was so distraught she could not continue driving.