Cyclists leave City Park in Appleton Thursday evening on a Ride of Silence, which was organized to honor Robert Joosten, who was killed Saturday in a hit-and-run crash Saturday in Appleton. / Sharon Cekada/Post-Crescent Media
APPLETON — As dusk fell, a twinkling trail of hushed bicyclists wound its way through the city, silently honoring one of their own.
About 30 riders met at City Park Thursday for a Ride of Silence in memory of 61-year-old Robert F. Joosten of Little Chute, who was killed Saturday in a hit-and-run crash.
“We’re somewhat at a loss as to how to respond to it,” said Rob Gusky, president of the Fox Cities Cycling Association. “But we wanted to do something, and we checked with the family, and they said that it would actually be wonderful.”
Gusky told the assembled cyclists that Joosten rode his bike 5 miles every day from his job at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel in downtown Appleton to his home in Little Chute. To honor him, the silent procession traveled 5 miles to the O’Connell Funeral Home in Little Chute, where a visitation was hosted Thursday evening.
“Just think about Robert Joosten,” Gusky advised the cyclists. “Think about his family and what they’re going through right now, and think about what we can do as a community to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
Joosten was riding home before officers found him lying near the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Ballard Road around 1:15 a.m. He died shortly after at Appleton Medical Center.
This week, the Appleton Police Department released video surveillance footage of a red truck and its driver and asked the public to help identify the individual. As of Thursday evening, police said they haven’t been able to identify the driver.
Gusky said the FCCA sprung into action soon after the incident, helping police spread the word about the person of interest. It was also important for the organization to pay tribute to a fallen cyclist.
He told Post-Crescent Media the bicycle lanes in Appleton have been a big help in improving bicycle safety, but added that he hopes more will be done in the future. In May, the League of American Bicyclists named the city a bronze-level bicycle friendly community — the first of five levels. Appleton is one of 259 bicycle-friendly designated communities.
“Hopefully we can continue to improve and make things better for anybody who wants to get around Appleton on a bike,” Gusky said. “The lanes are really a big help; in other places, they have protected bike lanes, which are even better.”
One rider who had chatted regularly with Joosten at a cycling store spoke up a few moments before the start of the silent ride.
“It’s really upsetting to have this happen to a fellow cyclist,” said 33-year-old Jason Hillestad. “I don’t want it to happen again, so any kind of awareness we can put out in the community, I think it’s really good for people and cyclists in general.”
For more information about the Fox Cities Cycling Association, visit www.foxcitiescycline.org.
— Ariel Cheung: 920-993-1000, ext. 430, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @arielfab