NYC’s Ghost Bikes challenge the public to confront a serious public safety issue and ensure that cyclists’ deaths do not go unremembered.
Visibility is an issue for cyclists and one of the primary causes of accidents with larger vehicles. NYC’s Street Memorial Project makes sure that the visibility cyclists lacked in life, they have in death. Since 2005, a fleet of spectral bikes has begun to pop up across the five boroughs. These bikes, the product of local artists’ collective, offer a visual representation of the human toll of ineffective safety measures, lack of space for cyclists, and insufficient education for both drivers and cyclists. Each bike has a plaque and some have flowers or other items that personalize the memorial. On a personal level, they offer family and friends a visual acknowledgement of their lost loved one – a place to grieve and remember. As I see them, I’m reminded of Sarajevo Roses, a similar project that connects space to those who died there.
As of 2015, 150 Ghost Bikes have been installed in NYC, and now it’s a movement that has been taken up by community activists all over the world. Ghost Bikes are now found in 28 countries and in 34 states. Chicago, the only city in Illinois with Ghost Bikes, now has 20 of these memorials.
We’ve written previously about lots of issues related to bike safety in CU. In our accident map, we talked about bike deaths in the US and looked at dangerous areas in Champaign-Urbana. Since 2009, at least three cyclists have died while riding in Champaign County and countless more have been injured. Perhaps it’s time for us in Champaign-Urbana to memorialize these people.
Ghost Bikes may be a grim reminder of something many people would prefer not to be confronted with and not to think about. Maybe that’s why they’re so important. Ghost bikes are both utilitarian and very human. Utilitarian because they offer a visually striking means to keep cyclists’ and road safety in the minds of the public. Human because each one marks a individual and beckons you to visit the space – ten feet from you, twenty – where they stopped living and to consider how it could have been avoided.