Richard’s Ride: Honoring the memory of Richard Tom

Riders for the Richard Tom Foundation participated in the 2015 July 4th parade.
Riders for the Richard Tom Foundation participated in the 2015 July 4th parade.

Last April, cyclist Richard Tom’s life was tragically cut short when his bicycle was struck by a speeding car. Determined that the work the Hinesburg resident had done to promote bicycling would not end with his death, friends and colleagues created the non-profit Richard Tom Foundation (RTF). The Foundation’s mission is to “enhance the health and wellbeing of cyclists of all ages including making resources available so that all may discover adventure and joy on roads and trails.” Additionally, the Foundation supports educational and advocacy programs to advance the cause of safe roads.

Last year, the RTF sponsored a short criterium race for kids which took place during the Burlington Criterium portion of the Green Mountain Stage Race. This spring, they are sponsoring a new event. Richard’s Ride will take place on May 21 starting at Cochran’s Ski Area in Richmond. Distance options range from a 4.4 mile out-and-back on scenic Cochran Road for kids to a metric century (62 miles) through Cambridge and Fairfax. In addition to the road bike options, Richard’s Ride will include mountain bike routes ranging from beginner to advanced. There are varying costs for different parts of the event but the kid’s ride on Cochran Road is free of charge and the street will be closed to vehicular traffic for two hours for the young cyclists.

Tom spent over two decades in Vermont as a professional bike mechanic and bicycle tour leader and touched the lives of many with his knowledge and eagerness to help others. “Richard loved introducing kids to their first bike,” said RTF’s Executive Director John Williams. “This ride isn’t a memorial but a way for us to share his love of cycling and help people get out and share that love.” Williams stresses that aside from the cost of the ride there is no fundraising component. “We really just want to honor Richard by having an event that’s very inclusive,” he said.

The target audience for the ride is families with children and the foundation is hoping to attract upwards of 300 riders. The money raised will go to Catamount Outdoor Family Center for youngsters who cannot afford their fees, as well as to Little Bellas, a mountain bike program for girls. “Richard loved both these programs,” Williams said “and we’re hoping to build on our ability to hand out additional funds.” In addition to supporting children’s programs, the Foundation has moved into the advocacy field including discussions with Local Motion on the best ways to provide safe roads for vulnerable cyclists. They are also hoping to work with driver’s education programs to ensure that new drivers learn how to respect their two-wheeled colleagues.

“While the Foundation cannot match the love, joy, and knowledge that Richard radiated through cycling,” said Williams, “we will try to project his spirit of fun and adventure at each of our events. Children and their families will be a big part of this. We are already supporting children through Little Bellas and Catamount Outdoor Family Center. We want to have a successful Richard’s Ride so we can expand our contributions.”

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