About two dozen Calhoun County bicyclists marked Independence Day by riding on open roads.
The group started out from the Golden Springs Baptist Church parking lot about an hour after sunrise and some traveled as far as Mount Cheaha before returning. Cycling is not a customary way to celebrate the Fourth of July, but for some in the pack of people who rode from Golden Springs Friday, it's become a tradition.
"This will be a good group ride," cyclist Chris Conner said from atop his sleek street bike. "It'll be fun."
Two years ago the annual ride was dedicated to the memory of Derek Jensen, an avid cyclist from Oxford who died after being struck by a car on Golden Springs Road the month before. The Independence Day ride on Friday was not held specifically to honor Jensen, but some of the cyclists there were remembering him and the risks they each face when riding on the road.
"If God wants me to die from being hit by a car, it won't matter where it happens," said Conner. "I've resolved that in my mind."
Many in and outside the cycling community recently took note of a case of road rage directed against cyclists when a local man posted on the Internet a video of his behind-the-wheel outburst. After he pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment, the man was ordered to undergo anger management.
The episode sparked some discussion about the cyclists and their responsibility on area roads. That's something cyclists like Mark Keller, who rode Friday, has considered.
Keller described cycling as an essential part of his routine, noting that it's tough, but that he sticks to it because of its health benefits.
"It's dangerous. The cars hate you. It hurts," Keller said.
He said cyclists and motorists who don't ride will have to work together to make roads safer for everyone, but he put the onus on the bike riders.
"I hold the cyclists responsible," said Keller, who is tall and wore spandex riding gear and a helmet while sitting atop a narrow-tired bike.
Keller said cyclists have to do a better job of communicating with motorists on the road, adding that the bike riders should signal to the cars more often and let drivers know it's OK to pass. He said motorists can work to improve the relationship, too, noting that it is best that they stay calm and avoid stopping when they encounter a rider.
Scot and Athena O'Dell were among the cyclists who rode from Golden Springs Friday on the holiday trek. They, like Keller, said when it comes to biking on streets the risk is worth the reward — even on the Fourth of July when they might otherwise be resting. They also said it’s an activity better done as a group.
"There is safety in numbers," Scot O'Dell said. "Accidents usually happen to people who are riding alone."