Ride pays tribute to teenager killed in bicycle collision

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Cyclists participating in the Silent Ride for Jake Schertz get close to the location where the ghost bike was placed on Sunday. Chelsea Eline, front of photo, has the all-white ghost bike in tow. Close behind her in the white T-shirt is Jake’s father, Steve Schertz. (Vanessa Junkin Photo)

Amid the sounds of passing cars, cyclists stood quietly in a grassy area next to their bicycles at the intersection of Sixty Foot and Mount Hermon roads as they watched an all-white bike be attached to a tree and set up as a memorial for Jake Schertz. Some had cellphones out to capture the moment.

Schertz, 18, of Salisbury, was killed as he rode his bike westbound on Mount Hermon Road the evening of June 30. The memorial, called a “ghost bike,” was set up not far from where the crash happened.

Schertz, according to a Maryland State Police report, was struck from behind by a driver that still hasn’t been identified. No charges have yet to be filed; an investigation is continuing. He was riding in the evening, on a 9-mile exercise and training trek after a day’s work at Frontier Town.

On Sunday morning in the Silent Ride for Jake Schertz, put on by Bike-SBY, the group cycled 2 miles down Sixty Foot Road to that intersection, starting at the Wicomico Demonstration Forest service yard.

Jake’s father, Steve Schertz, wore a white T-shirt with a photo of his son on the back and described Jake as a “kind, caring and humble” person who was even able to help five others after his death by donating his organs.  

Jake Shertz

Jake Shertz

“He’d be embarrassed,” Steve Schertz said, about all the people who came out to honor Jake’s life.

In addition to biking and exercise, Jake Schertz enjoyed his job as a lifeguard at Frontier Town and wrestling, Steve Schertz said. Jake was also part of a winning youth team at Punkin Chunkin with the “Snot Rocket” cannon, he said.

Jake Schertz had just graduated from Wicomico High School this year, and a group of cyclists left from his former school with the ghost bike shortly before 8 a.m. on their way to the start of the 9 a.m. ride.

Although Chelsea Eline didn’t know Jake Schertz, knowing how young he was had an impact on her.

“That was really the hardest part,” she said.

During the silent ride, Eline cycled with the ghost bike in tow on Sixty Foot Road as the group made its way to the intersection of Mount Hermon and Sixty Foot roads. She and her fiancé Jeff Dean, a bike mechanic at Pedal Works Cyclery in Delmar, made the ghost bike, which included cleaning the frame, taking some parts off and spray-painting it white.

A sign attached to the bike, reading “Jacob Andrew Schertz 9/11/97-6/30/16,” was donated by Tower Signs in Seaford, she said.

The Schertz family adopted Jake from Donetsk, Ukraine, when he was 3.

Matt Drew, founder of Bike-SBY, didn’t know Jake Schertz, but Drew had participated in a silent ride for Tom Palermo, a cyclist killed while riding in Baltimore, about a year-and-a-half ago. Drew didn’t know Palermo, either, but he identified with him, he said.

“It was a very, very moving experience,” he said of that ride, and he called Schertz’s parents with the idea of a ride for their son.

Drew said he hopes drivers will pay attention, and he’d like there to be a greater awareness regarding cyclists.

“He died needlessly,” Drew said of Jake Schertz.

After the memorial bike was placed, Steve Schertz told the group they can wave to it as they pass by.

“I’m sure he’ll be waving back,” Steve Schertz said.

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