Labonte's memorial bike ride reminds drivers to share the road
For racing legend Bobby Labonte, next weekend’s Share the Ride Memorial Bike Ride sponsored by his foundation is more than merely an event he lends his famous name to.
For Labonte, it’s personal.
The one-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is an avid cyclist, and he’s seen firsthand just how dangerous the roads can be.
“Awareness of cyclers on the road is improving, but unfortunately we’re still hearing stories on the news of people being hurt or killed while riding their bikes,” said Labonte, whose Bobby Labonte Foundation sponsors the annual ride.
“Getting people together every year for this event not only provides a striking visual reminder to be mindful of bikers on the road, but it also helps raise funds for Bikes Belong, which will work to raise awareness across the country long after the memorial ride is over.”
The Bikes Belong Foundation, one of two organizations benefiting from Labonte’s ride, is a nonprofit — established by a national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers — that focuses on bicycle safety projects and children’s bicycle programs.
The other nonprofit benefiting from the ride is the Backpack Pals program sponsored by Communities In Schools of Randolph County, which provides nutritional meals for disadvantaged schoolchildren on weekends.
Labonte, who lives in Trinity, founded the memorial ride in 2011, following a couple of widely reported incidents in which cyclists were killed on North Carolina roads.
“We had been talking about doing a ride for a while, and finally I said, ‘If we’re gonna do a bike ride, let’s do a memorial bike ride in honor of people injured or killed in accidents involving a bicycle,’” Labonte recalls. “One thing led to another, and that’s what got the ball rolling.”
Labonte had trained with 55-year-old Greensboro cyclist David Sherman, who was killed on his bike when he was hit by a car in October 2009. He also knew Adam Little, a 34-year-old Mount Pleasant cyclist who was struck and killed by a distracted driver in March 2010.
“And I know plenty of other people who know somebody that was killed,” he adds.
Labonte, who rides mostly on rural roads, and usually alone, says he’s never had any really close calls while cycling, but he’s definitely seen examples of drivers not showing awareness of — or respect for — the rules of the road pertaining to cyclists.
“Maybe I’m lucky that I haven’t had any really dangerous things happen to me,” Labonte says. “But there’ve been times when a driver might pass me going through town, and then he gets 10 feet past me and decides to turn right — no signal or nothing — and I end up in the gravel.”
While drivers’ awareness of cyclists is slowly improving, there’s still a long way to go, Labonte says.
“I still hear stories, so I know it’s still a problem,” he says. “People need to be more aware. Maybe they should get a bike and go for a ride one time, and that’ll make them realize they need to be more careful.”
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The Bobby Labonte Foundation’s third annual Share the Road Memorial Bike Ride will take place May 19, beginning and ending at Wheatmore High School, 3678 Finch Farm Road, Trinity.
Registration will begin at 11 a.m., with the ride beginning at 1 p.m.
The event will consist of three different routes of various distances — 50, 70 and 100 kilometers — through the rolling hills of Randolph County. (Labonte, an avid cyclist, will ride on the 100-kilometer course.)
The pre-registration cost is $25 for a member of a team of eight, $30 for an individual rider. Pre-registration ends Friday. Registration the day of the event will be $35.
Proceeds will benefit the Bikes Belong Foundation and the Backpack Pals program sponsored by Communities In Schools of Randolph County. Riders and spectators are encouraged to bring food items such as canned meat, juice boxes, cereal bars, fruit cups, crackers and pudding cups to donate to the program.
For more information or to register online, visit the foundation’s website at www.bobbylabontefoundation.org.