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Ghost cycles for the rest of us
October 7, 2007 5:12 PM   Subscribe

"A Ghostbike is a junker bike that has been painted stark white and afixed to the site where a cyclist has been hit or killed by a car driver."

Not as cleverly done as Seattle's GhostCycle.org [noted], but it's intended to cover all of North America.
posted by ardgedee (74 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Last year, when two cyclists were hit by a driver (stoned and/or drunk, on a suspended license, and already having hit another car) going the opposite direction. The Cincinnati Cycle Club erected two ghost bikes.
posted by MrGuilt at 5:35 PM on October 7, 2007


What should we erect where pedestrians have been hit or killed?
posted by b1tr0t at 5:50 PM on October 7, 2007


It's a good idea that the pedestrian rights groups should consider.
posted by ardgedee at 5:58 PM on October 7, 2007


Ugh, bicycle activism has officially jumped the shark.
posted by wfrgms at 5:59 PM on October 7, 2007 [6 favorites]


On the highways here in Texas occasionally I'll see large bouquets of flowers affixed to the side of the road in creative ways, presumably to represent the anniversary of someone's death at that spot. Flowers is purty, but no one slows down to look at them.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:00 PM on October 7, 2007


Street Memorials
The Street Memorial Project began in early 2007 to honor and remember pedestrians that have been killed by cars and trucks in New York City. Every time a person dies in our streets we place a memorial plaque at the site.
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:07 PM on October 7, 2007


There's one near my house in Emeryville. I'll try to snap a pic and send it to the website. Didn't know it was a common thing. Thanks for the post.
posted by salvia at 6:19 PM on October 7, 2007


Bicycle activism? So does that mean descansos are car activism? It's about people, "wfrgms," and their disrespect and mistreatment of other people.

There's a ghost bike two blocks from my house, which is why I did an entry in my dictionary for the term a month ago. Coincidentally, that entry has been getting a lot of play on Craigslist today, ardgedee, which makes me wonder if that's where you came across it. In any case, it's neat when circles of influence on the web overlap.
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:37 PM on October 7, 2007


I was down in the Keys and Miami last week and saw all these round markers everywhere. I like them a lot more than the white crosses.

Do people leave teddy bears at the ghost bikes?
posted by Xurando at 6:49 PM on October 7, 2007


This reminds me of Fernando Traverso's work in Argentina on people who disappeared during the military junta. His Web site and the project itself (last two links in Spanish).
posted by donpedro at 7:03 PM on October 7, 2007


Actually this link gives a better idea of what I'm referring to.
posted by donpedro at 7:06 PM on October 7, 2007


On the highways here in Texas occasionally I'll see large bouquets of flowers affixed to the side of the road in creative ways,

Occasionally? I see the fucking things everywhere. I wish people would keep their memorials in the cemetery.
posted by puke & cry at 7:09 PM on October 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


There's a time and a place for memorials; they're called funerals. I feel sorry for the guy who owns the house on the corner. Someone on a motorcycle was killed in front of the house, and there has been a shrine up for two years. He tried to take it down after a year and got no end of abuse.
posted by Gungho at 7:10 PM on October 7, 2007


ONE OF THOSE WOULD SO LOOK GOOD MANGLED AND BENT AROUND THE FRONT OF MY JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE
posted by quonsar at 7:14 PM on October 7, 2007 [12 favorites]


A neighbor of mine was killed on his bike by a blind driver. No I'm not kidding. I wrote about it on my work site and put pictures of it on Flickr. I never knew what a ghost bike was until that happened.

I ride by it twice a day, every other day. It reminds me of him and the risk I take when I ride my bike. I'm glad it's there.

The legally bind driver got house arrest and wears a radio cuff as the result of a plea bargain.
posted by Toekneesan at 7:23 PM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


My adopted little brother (we adopted eachother in 1984) was deliberately hit by an SUV driver in the Mission District. Spent 10 days in ICU. Had his entire face reconstructed and lost many teeth. I spent a lot of time by his hospital bedside over Christmas 2006. The police never caught the person. Pretty sure they didn't even look.

People ask how he looks now. Compared to before, he pretty much looks like he was hit by an SUV.
posted by miss lynnster at 7:32 PM on October 7, 2007


That explains the white painted, pink stripped, plastic flower decorated junk bike I have seen chained to a post in Geary, 2 blocks from Van Ness. It is just outside a seedy sex shop, and I always assumed it was related to the trade.

I wish people would keep their memorials in the cemetery. I surely appreciate that they don't. In Mexico City and Guadalajara, memorials start accumulating in certain spots around their respective Perifericos. Best signange ever for "Do not attempt to cross the road here"
posted by Dr. Curare at 7:40 PM on October 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


I wish people would keep their memorials in the cemetery.

The idea is not just to be a memorial to the people who died. The idea (at least in the case of ghost bikes) is to also remind drivers that there are cyclists on the road, and they have a right to be there.
posted by MrGuilt at 7:56 PM on October 7, 2007


The idea is not just to be a memorial to the people who died. The idea (at least in the case of ghost bikes) is to also remind drivers that there are cyclists on the road, and they have a right to be there.

Right, my comment was less about this particular practice which I actually find quite touching and more about memorials for every single person that dies on the road, which I find garish.
posted by puke & cry at 8:04 PM on October 7, 2007


This is great.
I am not much of a rider, but I have seen this last summer more people than ever braving the busy streets of Montreal on their bike, far form any bike lane.
They generally have a helmet and look like they own the place, surrounded by SUV that could swallow them all in a blink (meaning: make tomato puree with your bits and pieces)
I salute you.
You are trying to bring civility to the automotive herd.

Some of you are crazy and will die. Some of you are very careful and will die too. Who would think that it is worthy to die for civility in our own city streets at a time when people die in Irak, Burma, Congo and Darfur? But let's hope that introducing civilization here will trickle down to our tentacles over there.

In one of those exquisite paradox of our time, a city that honor Ghostbikes shows that it cares for Livebikes.
posted by bru at 8:26 PM on October 7, 2007


Can you believe someone actually tried to patent road-side crosses?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:38 PM on October 7, 2007


Have any of you ever seen these signs in South Dakota? They mark the scene of some sort of fatal accident. When visiting a friend in Sioux Falls I saw them all over. These two were located at a crosswalk near a school.
posted by c0nsumer at 8:46 PM on October 7, 2007


Funny you should mention it, two cyclists were nailed by a dumptruck in Seattle just and one of them was killed just a month ago. There's a ghostbike at the site now.

MrGuilt nails the idea -- Ghostbikes help raise awareness of cyclists on the road, and of the consequences of car-bicycle accidents.
posted by daver at 9:13 PM on October 7, 2007


I ride everyday in Chicago. My commute is shorter now but it was ten miles (round trip) through the Loop for a long time. I've been involved in accidents and near misses. I've been hit by one car (not bad), and clipped by another cyclist who was running a red light (I did an end-o, split my helmet in two on the pavement.) I've seen two other cyclists hit by cars and the aftermath of one who was hit by a taxi. A neighbor's boyfriend was just killed when he ran a stop sign on his fixed gear a few weeks ago.

I can't find the stat now, but I think I read that on average one cyclists is killed in Chicago per week. That seems a little low considering that the Chicago Bicycle Federation says that, "Motor vehicles kill nearly 200 people each year in Chicagoland while they are either cycling or walking. In 2003, 7,300 cyclists and pedestrians were reported injured on the streets of Chicagoland. In fact, bicycle and pedestrian fatalities make up almost 25 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the region."

Chicago (like SF and NYC) has a huge bicycle culture and we even have our own Ghost Bike web page.

So given the stats and my own experience, why am I against the Ghost Bikes? Several reasons actually:

First, I think its tacky to appropriate a human death for what is ultimately a political campaign perpetrated by holier-than-thou activists.

Second, while the people who paint these bikes white, and place them at these intersections probably feel some sense of self-satisfaction, the method isn't really effective is it? I mean, assuming the point isn't to simply memorialize the dead, then what is the point? Is it to increase awareness among drivers? It seems unlikely that someone in their car will stop to ponder the implications of a white-painted bike. Is it to frighten cyclists into either being more careful or to stop ridding all together? As a symbol it is so ambiguous as to be counter productive.

Third, why are slain cyclists suddenly sacrosanct in the eyes of some over zealous bicycle activists? Let me guess - is it because cars are EVIL there for all cyclists are as pure as the driven snow??!?

I'm all for increasing awareness among drivers and cyclists of the very real safety concerns involved in using a bicycle every day in places where you're forced to share the space with automobiles. But like Critical Mass (hey, here is a great idea: lets increase awareness of the benefits of bicycling in the city by aggressively aggravating the whole fucking city! We are the traffic!!! LOL!!) the activists just get it wrong once again.

If every one of these grubby hipsters and fashion victims would just get involved politically instead of trying to make some artsy fartsy STATEMENT by littering white bikes everywhere in some half-ass art project we might actually make some headway in this issue instead of just coming across as a bunch of drama queens spouting, "Oh won't someone please think of the bicyclists!"
posted by wfrgms at 10:32 PM on October 7, 2007 [4 favorites]


I have absolutely nothing against the ghost bikes, but I just tried to click on the site and had to end my firefox session just to say that I couldn't get on the site. This could be my computer, but right now I'm blaming it on ghost bikes.

Anyway, there are quite a few of these in Portland, which is fucking disturbing enough, but the one on the upper part of Hawthorne that always makes me stare at it while driving because it's not inhibited by trees, shrubs, road signs, or anyting else makes me wonder who in the hell did such a thing. Were they on their cell phone? Did they stop? These are, too say the least, haunting. I'm not religious by any means, but every time I see one, I have to pray to (for?) those fucking morons who are driving cars to at least pay attention while driving.

And it's not that I'm ignorant of how these things may happen. When I was an undergrad years ago I used to drive the van that would take students who qualified for disabled status to their classes. One day as I came to a stop sign at the end of a street on campus obscured by hedges (geniously placed by the university), some kid was riding on the sidewalk and hit the side of the van because we essentially were at the same point at the same time. He was able to ride off, but what if he was there a second before I was? He wouldn't have hit the side of the van, he would have been underneath it. At the same intersection I had a friend who was riding his bike across the street, in the crosswalk, when some idiot was driving and put him in a half-body cast for months. The driver didn't even stop.

For everyone who wonders what we should do for pedestrians or claims that bicycle activism is now equivalent to the Fonz during a stint of bad writing, tell me, what would you do? Seriously, besides sitting around saying really "funny" things on a website, what do you do to allow bicycles the right of way in the city where you live? Or maybe it's a town? Or maybe you live in a cloud? What do you do if a bunch of people who decide to ride their bike on the two-lane highway that leads out of town because they don't have anywhere else to ride to allow them miles and miles of space are hit by a car? Post a hilarious comment to a bunch of 1s and 0s? When did metafilter become a bunch of cock-knocking douches who were more interested in posting retorts to horror movies they've never seen rather than people who have actually lived? Oh yeah, it's always been like that. Right?

By the way, ZachsMind and puke & cry, those roadside memorials are everywhere, not just in Texas. As a matter of fact, the place where a guy fell asleep while on a two-lane highway and ran head on into the car my girlfriend was driving and I was the passenger has a white cross and flowers by the side of the road. I know this because even though I rode with his wife in an ambulace to the hospital and then listened to him die in the next room when I got there, I've had to travel the same highway to get to where I wanted to go. I would slow down to look at it every time I went by (and it's still there, with new flowers). And yeah, it was purty every time I saw it. Have you ever asked yourself why they don't keep them in a cemetery? Maybe it's because people need to be reminded on a two-lane highway what driving like an asshole can do.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:59 PM on October 7, 2007 [6 favorites]


Or, you know, fuck it. Just be like wfrgms. Fucking fuck those fucking hipster activists and their fucking white bikes. Change things from the inside... or something.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:09 PM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Occasionally? I see the fucking things everywhere.

Here in the UK, I see them as a mark of chav culture run wild. Originally, they began to mark the place where a child was killed and were a genuine outpouring of grief. However, for the last two or three years, there's a tree around the corner from my house that has been perpetually covered in flowers, cards, Everton football shirts, etc.

If you didn't know the story, you might think it moving. However, it marks the spot were a teenage car thief ploughed a stolen car into a tree while driving at great speed on a busy main road to try and avoid the police, almost killing his passengers in the process. It isn't a roadside memorial this family needs, it's a freaking Darwin Award.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:18 PM on October 7, 2007


Thanks, PeterMcDermott, for your insightful comment on ghostbikes.

Also, on further review, here's a previous post from #1, although two years is apparently too long to wait for another.
posted by sleepy pete at 12:00 AM on October 8, 2007


“Have you ever asked yourself why they don't keep them in a cemetery? Maybe it's because people need to be reminded on a two-lane highway what driving like an asshole can do.”

You said it better than I would have. I think they should put up some sort of standardized marker, every time someone is killed on a public road.

Maybe when they start piling up, people will realize how unbelievably fucking dangerous just driving around in a car really is. For most people (probably all but those involved in the drug trade, and including those in the military except for a few specialty roles), driving in a car is both the most risky (to themselves) and dangerous (to others) thing they'll ever do. And most people don't even think about it.

I'm not an anti-car nut by any means. I'm a typical suburbanite. But I think it's ridiculous that we just stick our fingers in our ears and cover our eyes and try to avoid thinking about the risks associated with things we do every day, and instead concentrate on ridiculous things we have virtually no control over.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:18 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Maybe when they start piling up, people will realize how unbelievably fucking dangerous just driving around in a car really is.

Or, just perhaps, it'll distract a driver just long enough to contribute to that ever-growing pile.

Food for thought.
posted by vanadium at 12:50 AM on October 8, 2007


Well said, sleepy pete. I just got hit by a car (not too badly, fortunately) a month ago, and it's frightening to realize how dangerously most drivers drive.

It's also alarming to see MeFi so full of so many assholes with knee-jerk anti-hipster anti-activist attitudes.
posted by suedehead at 1:09 AM on October 8, 2007


Maybe when they start piling up, people will realize how unbelievably fucking dangerous just driving around in a car really is.

Veering slightly off-topic, I feel that motoring technology has advanced beyond the reasonable abilities of many drivers.

Normally, I get around on a bicycle. Failing that, I'll opt for public transport, and only if necessary, I'll use my '66 Beetle. I've ridden motorbikes, too, in the past. The thing about these forms of transport (public transport aside) is that you are directly connected to your vehicle & to the environment. You hear the engine (not on the bike, obviously), you feel the bumps in the road, and you're exposed to the world around you - the sounds, smells & so on. These constitute part of the sensory feedback loop that reminds you where you are & what you are doing.

Today, I was getting around in a work car - one of those biggish, modern family sedans - and it's terrifying to think how cocooned drivers of such things are. The suspension is smooth, the engine is nearly silent, you can turn on the aircon & radio & travel in your own private bubble. Fast acceleration, smooth braking. Put your foot down a bit & you hit the speed limit off the lights in seconds flat. It's all just too easy, and too tempting to just fly around in one of these things without giving a second's thought to the physics involved or just how dangerous it really is, because the entire experience is like floating on a crazy pillow.

I really wouldn't mind seeing some kind of deliberate engineering put in place to wake drivers up a bit - give them the good brakes & steering & safety of the modern cars, sure, but artificially recreate a nice loud dak-dak engine noise & harden up the suspension a bit, to jolt drivers out of their solipsistic complacency.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:27 AM on October 8, 2007 [4 favorites]


I don't get it. Why do they need memorials to get people to slow down? Won't that just enrage some people? Why don't they lobby the powers that be to reduce the speed limit or put in traffic calming stuff?
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:49 AM on October 8, 2007


We are .. the Cyclists ... mere rules do not apply to us...
posted by Pinback at 3:08 AM on October 8, 2007 [2 favorites]


A small cross or plastic flower memorial are one thing, but a whole bike chained to pole in a busy urban area can be a danger in itself. One near me slightly overhangs the road, threatening to clip a (living) cyclist's handlebars if they get too close. Another blocks a paved strip between the sidewalk and the road, forcing kids who use it to veer either onto the sidewalk or the road. Both have been there over a year.

One month might make a good memorial, but if all ghost bikes remain perpetually chained in place, they not only start to psychologically blend into the visual background, but become a danger themselves.
posted by fairmettle at 3:09 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not only that. Where will all the still-living cyclists chain up their bikes?
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:07 AM on October 8, 2007


My brother died when he was hit by a car while bicycling, and the last thing I'd want to see is a some gaudy ghost bike at the site of his death.

Publicly displaying white bikes is a sick and perverted practice that makes a mockery of what should be private and personal by turning the life and death of a human being into something akin to a trashy billboard advertisement. It's a tacky, classless, and completely inappropriate use of someone's tragic manner of death.
posted by LadyBonita at 5:01 AM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


I imagine that this idea would eventually hit critical mass - more than one ghost bike per death at a busy intersection, leading to a peleton of ghost bikes, standing firm, awaiting their deceased rider's return.

I find it all a little distasteful. Yes, it's a tragic way to die, but so is Cancer. Sadly, there is often little reason in either way of dying but life must go on regardless.
posted by triv at 5:58 AM on October 8, 2007


Seems like LadyBonita is better placed than most (including myself) to comment.
posted by triv at 5:59 AM on October 8, 2007


Normally, when people set up flower-shrines or crosses where others have died on the road, I assume that the people behind it are friends & family. If these ghost bikes are set up by strangers - or worse, against the wishes of the family - then that would be exploitative & tacky, as LadyBonita says. However, she can only really speak for herself, even if her feelings might be held in common with others.

Personally, I'd like it put on the record that I'd appreciate something like this to serve as some kind of reminder, if & when I get killed while cycling. By "like this", I mean some kind of stencil art on the road, perhaps, mainly because I think these white bikes are kinda ugly.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:33 AM on October 8, 2007


Won't all the rubbernecking to look at these things cause more accidents?
posted by macadamiaranch at 6:48 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


Look, it's not about who is putting up these bikes. It isn't about hipster wannabees, fashion victims and crazy messengers who ignore traffic rules.

What this is about is EVERY SINGLE CYCLIST who puts their bicycle on a road. And I don't mean for an extended period of time. This could be your five-year old kid who gets off her bike to walk it across a street from one section of a multi-use path (MUP) to another and gets creamed by a car.

We are not memorializing idiots and law-breakers. We are not warning drunks (they don't notice anything anyway), new drivers (how many reckless driving teenagers can you count in one sitting?), and aggressive drivers.

Road-side memorials, the ghost bikes included, are a warning to EVERYONE and a reminder to EVERYONE to take some sodding time, think, be careful and realize that you're not driving around (or biking around) in your own little bubble of reality. Other people do exist.

So stop making assumptions about who puts up memorials, or who is driving a car that causes an accident, or the victim of an accident.



It could be you.



Side-note, yes I agree that painting an actual bike and putting it up can be a hazard and is often tacky, I like what people have done in my home town; we have someone who has access to a professional printer and they put up little road-signs on heavy paper that have a bike made of bones printed on them in white. There are better solutions.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 7:29 AM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


wfrgms: ...here is a great idea: lets increase awareness of the benefits of bicycling in the city by aggressively aggravating the whole fucking city!
"Aggressively aggravating the whole fucking city" is what automobile traffic does every day. Do the drivers "just get it wrong once again" too?

How is it possible for a bike rider to be aggressive toward automobile traffic, anyway? What threat of bodily harm does a driver face from a bicyclist?
posted by Western Infidels at 7:35 AM on October 8, 2007


How is it possible for a bike rider to be aggressive toward automobile traffic, anyway? What threat of bodily harm does a driver face from a bicyclist?

I'll remember that the next time I have to brake so I don't hit the bicyclist who just ran the light, and I get rear-ended as a result.
posted by me & my monkey at 7:56 AM on October 8, 2007


me & my monkey: I'll remember that the next time I have to brake so I don't hit the bicyclist who just ran the light, and I get rear-ended as a result.
Presumably you mean you'll remember that the threat of physical harm is posed by the driver behind you, who apparently simply isn't capable of not smashing whatever is placed in front of him with his 3,000-lb hammer of steel and glass.

I'm not a militant bicyclist. Heck, I barely rode my bike this year. But it irritates me how nonsensical the foolish debate over bicycles always becomes. One could replace "bicyclists" in many of these screeds with with "Jews" or "Blacks" and the argument would make exactly the same amount of sense.

The law says one must share the road with bikes. One knows this when one signs up for a driver's license. If it turns out that one doesn't enjoy sharing the road with bikes in practice, well, tough shit. Driving isn't about doing whatever you want, whenever you want. Quit whining about it. Be a man. Suck it up. Stick to your promises.
posted by Western Infidels at 8:25 AM on October 8, 2007


I find most of these displays, ghost-bike or not, to be more of a distraction than anything else.

I think that a lot of the anti-automobile sentiment expressed in this thread and in others like it in that past is missing the mark. While it’s obvious that there are assholes on the road who are menaces to those around them (not just bikers, but other drivers as well), I think the biggest problem is not those who intentionally drive in such a manner, but those who don’t know any better.

After nearly twenty years of being a non-driver, I finally got a license almost exactly a year ago. One of the things that struck me during the process is that neither the official information supplied by the state nor the private driving course I took had a whole lot to say about the meeting of bikes (either motorcycles or regular bikes) and four-wheeled vehicles on the road. The driving course didn’t so much as mention it; the booklet that I had to be familiar with to get a permit had this in it:

Use extra care when sharing the road with pedestrians,
bicycles, motorcycles, and mopeds. They are small and
hard to see.


That’s it. Nothing about what rights and responsibilities each type of operator has, nothing about what to do when faced with a slow-moving bicycle on a busy road, nada. So my guess is that most people behind the wheel of a motor vehicle don’t have it in for bikers, they aren’t trying to run them off the road, the definitely don’t want to cause them injury. They just aren’t aware of proper behavior. The best way to confront this is not on the road, it’s by getting your state government to start educating those who get motor vehicle licenses about the rules of the road, and aggressively ticketing those who don’t get it.

But on the flipside, bikers need to do their part as well. Grand Rapids is not a bike-friendly city, so there aren’t a whole lot of them riding around, but in the last year I have been alarmingly close to being involved in an accident with a biker twice (both on the same corner, weirdly). In both cases I had the green light, but had to stomp on the brakes to avoid a biker coming down the hill on the cross-street who apparently didn’t feel the need to stop at the red. I don’t care if you have a car, a Peterbilt truck, a bike, a motor skateboard, or an alien spaceship, stop at the damn red light. If everyone on the road respects all the rules they’re supposed to, everyone would be a lot safer, and there wouldn’t be much of a need for these displays.
posted by deadcowdan at 9:25 AM on October 8, 2007


If every one of these grubby hipsters and fashion victims would just get involved politically instead of trying to make some artsy fartsy STATEMENT by littering white bikes everywhere in some half-ass art project we might actually make some headway in this issue instead of just coming across as a bunch of drama queens spouting, "Oh won't someone please think of the bicyclists!"

It's really comical to me that you use the word "we" to describe those actually making headway in this issue, when it's clear from everything you say how distant you are from the concepts that inform how progress is made on any issue that people feel passionately.

Your reference to fashion-victims is queerly judgmental and insubstantial, and almost more cynical than anything I'm used to hearing from "hipsters". Where does fashion come into this? Do you know who volunteers at transportation nonprofits? It's pretty much the most miscellaneous and diverse crowd you can imagine, and they're all there for different reasons.

This is how people become involved politically. Political movements need everyone. They need artists, they need leaders, they need people who are willing to drudge through figures and paperwork, they need entertainers and they need writers and philosophers and drama queens and they also need any willing hands that are offered, no matter how grubby or unfashionable they may be.

In my neighborhood, you might not notice a ghost bike as you drive by. But you definitely would as you walked by. And if you happen to be walking to where your car is parked, then there you go. In New York, accidents occur and are cleaned up in a matter of hours, and are certainly under-reported. Unless you see one occur, you could easily labor under the delusion that they rarely or never happen. Houston Street is one of the deadliest streets in the whole city for cyclists, claiming at least 6 last year, but you might not ever find that out (whether you're a cyclist or a driver) unless someone finds a way to tell you. This is just one way.

And they are strangely lovely. They blend in to cityscapes so well, as we're used to seeing bikes everywhere, but when one catches your eye, it's like decoding a hidden message right under your nose.

This isn't "Oh won't someone please think of the bicyclists!" This is to let you know that people out there already are.
posted by hermitosis at 10:14 AM on October 8, 2007 [3 favorites]


I drive by Salvia's ghostbike almost every day. It's a low visibility merge on a high use road that gets a lot of pedestrian traffic. Because of that bike I drive that intersection slower and pay more attention to my blind spots. Isn't that the purpose? Isn't that a good thing?

I don't understand that venom being spewed about a simple, low key, memorial/warning sign. I suspect most of it comes from people who really want to live in antiseptic suburban landscape where everything is planned by commitee and offensively inoffensive. Normally I try to avoid hating on people for living in areas like that but Jesus H. Christ people get a grip and save the hate for something that deserves it.
posted by aspo at 11:02 AM on October 8, 2007


Yes, it's a tragic way to die, but so is Cancer. Sadly, there is often little reason in either way of dying but life must go on regardless.

Right, because car traffic is inevitable, like the weather. And there couldn't possibly be any societal cause for widespread cancer. Cancer's just really angry.
posted by poweredbybeard at 11:37 AM on October 8, 2007


And there couldn't possibly be any societal cause for widespread cancer. Cancer's just really angry.

Nice use of sarcasm - misplaced - but nice.
posted by fairmettle at 12:09 PM on October 8, 2007


Reading through a lot of these responses by the anti-ghost bike crowd gives one a pretty shocking insight into the attitude of a lot of the drivers likely responsible for making the roads and intersections such a hazard for pedestrians and bicyclists in the first place.
posted by stagewhisper at 1:44 PM on October 8, 2007


I think that a lot of the anti-automobile sentiment....

What anti-automobile sentiment are you talking about exactly?

There are a few people out there who use a bicycle exclusivly but I'm betting that most of us who consider ourselves cyclists put a lot more miles on our cars than we do on our bikes. When you get out on a bike for a while and try to actually share the road (or whatever the hell the slogan de jour is) you start to realize that the mean stupidity level is lower than you would have ever guessed, you're just more detached when you're in your car and only really notice the specially motivated morons.

It's anti-moron sentiment you're detecting, it's just that morons can do a lot more damage with a car (or truck or SUV).
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:01 PM on October 8, 2007


Yes, it's a tragic way to die, but so is Cancer. Sadly, there is often little reason in either way of dying but life must go on regardless.

Hmmmm, retain some level of self-respect or liken this debate to the whole pink ribbon / breast cancer thing by pretending to be part of the anti-breast backlash.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:09 PM on October 8, 2007


Presumably you mean you'll remember that the threat of physical harm is posed by the driver behind you, who apparently simply isn't capable of not smashing whatever is placed in front of him with his 3,000-lb hammer of steel and glass.

No, I meant what I wrote, thank you very much. I meant that bicyclists who are irresponsible - riding aggressively - can endanger responsible people regardless of their respective weight ratios. I can't imagine you're actually too dense to realize this, so I can only assume you're being a disingenuous prick.

If it turns out that one doesn't enjoy sharing the road with bikes in practice, well, tough shit.

I don't mind sharing the road with bikes. More often, I find myself sharing the sidewalk with them. What I don't like, is sharing the road with irresponsible assholes, whether I'm walking, biking or driving.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:11 PM on October 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder why we persist in describing certain kinds of threads as 'trainwrecks', when 'bikewreck' seems so much more appropriate...
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:35 PM on October 8, 2007


What I don't like, is sharing the road with irresponsible assholes, whether I'm walking, biking or driving.

No more do I, but my car, and most likely yours, comes with air bags and can handle a collision much better than some poor guy riding his bike and properly wearing a helmet, which is why I am all for sending out a message like, "Hey, at least one bicyclist died on this road. Drive cautiously."

I've never seen a ghost bike down South where I live, but I have seen lots of asshats talking on their cell phones and driving like complete morons. I've also seen these same asshats yell at safe drivers like me for their mistakes because they don't know the rules of the road, don't want to actually stop at stop signs or crosswalks, don't give pedestrians or bike riders the right of way and can't be bothered about anyone else's rights. If these ghost bikes get them to actually pause in their asshattery long enough to make a difference to even one bike rider, I'm all for them.
posted by misha at 3:54 PM on October 8, 2007


Flagstaff's Matt Kelly, was killed by a drunk driver while riding his bike. Last week a phantom bike appeared at the site of the incident bearing this black sharpie lettering on the crossbar:

I didn't know you but I think of you often.
I think of my family and no longer want to ride.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 4:16 PM on October 8, 2007


In the US, biking is the most dangerous mode of transportation per mile, not counting motor racing or downhill skiing. In countries where cycling is more common, the rate goes down to a level below motorcycle rates.

While it is tempting to blame motor vehicle drivers, it is more a matter of perceptual training by the environment. Most driving activities are automatic, not conscious, especially the quick processing of peripheral information and anticipatory visual and audio attention. The more often there is a bike coming along the more likely one will look for queues that one is coming. Of course, the first interest is in large trucks or in vehicles of similar size to the one being driven, so smaller vehicles are always at a perceptual disadvantage.

I would like to see more cycling in the US, because it would make it safer, and so I could justify biking to work and ditching my hybrid. But, not yet.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:22 PM on October 8, 2007


You know, sometimes people put up memorials because someone they loved and cared about was snuffed out, and they miss them terribly. There are a couple in particular in Austin that have been maintained for years by family members who lost kids.

If it eases the pain, I'm okay with that.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:08 PM on October 8, 2007


What I don't like, is sharing the road with irresponsible assholes, whether I'm walking, biking or driving.

An asshole in a car is more likely to kill innocent people; an asshole on a bike is more likely to get killed by innocent people. Doesn't really seem to work out very evenly, does it?
posted by hermitosis at 5:21 PM on October 8, 2007


Mental Wimp; it's true that it's due to perceptual training. In the Netherlands car drivers will have to be at attention since bikes can be whizzing by all around them in town. But then there's also legislation that makes the car driver accountable for any collisions. And then there's drivers lessons that are quite a bit harder and people fail for exams quite a lot. And finally there's a lot of special bike lanes.

I'm curious what it's like in France and Italy. Apparently car drivers are very observant there of cyclists...
posted by jouke at 5:52 PM on October 8, 2007


I'm curious. Are there any statistics about the number of pedestrians injured by cyclists? I've been Googling without any luck. I'm sure it's much lower than the number of injuries suffered by cyclists as the result of car collisions, but I'd like to know.

I live in New York City, and it seems like everyday I'm dodging a cyclist who runs a red light while I'm in the crosswalk. I've known 2 elderly people who've been seriously injured when hit by bikes.

I'm betting this is more of a "big city" problem. The reckless cyclists in Manhattan appear to be messengers.

Let me again stress the word "curious". I'm not trying to be snarky. I'm certainly not anti-bike or pro-car. I don't own a bike or a car. I don't like cars and much to my shame, I never learned how to ride a bike (I'm kind of... "balance challenged" - a little embarrassing considering I'm a Spin instructor.)
posted by Evangeline at 6:46 PM on October 8, 2007


I can't find any links (probably because I don't know the french words) but in France, along the freeways, they have huge black silhouettes of people (they come in adult and child sizes). I was driving across the country with a relative, and after seeing maybe five or six sets of them in a short period of time I asked her what they were for - she said each one marks a car crash victim, but people are so used to them that she didn't even know what I was talking about at first. When they first came out they were apparently very shocking.
posted by jacalata at 6:58 PM on October 8, 2007


me & my monkey: No, I meant what I wrote, thank you very much. I meant that bicyclists who are irresponsible - riding aggressively - can endanger responsible people regardless of their respective weight ratios. I can't imagine you're actually too dense to realize this, so I can only assume you're being a disingenuous prick.
Any number of emergencies can force you to make a panic stop. Which unfortunately sometimes results in a rear-ending. But that rear-ending is the doing of the inattentive driver behind you, legally, morally, common-sensibly, and physically. It's a matter of definition. It's not really up for debate.

Yes, bicyclists sometimes break the rules. Yes, sometimes they do stupid things. That doesn't make them a physical danger to drivers. When you're talking about physical danger, the physics matter, the weight ratios matter. You can't just disregard them and place the blame on whoever irritates you the most.

So sorry I bruised your tender feelings. If it's your habit to answer serious questions with snide cracks you might consider being better emotionally prepared for an answer in kind.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:13 PM on October 8, 2007


There are two of these I pass on my way to school. Turns out I pass 2 of the 4 here in Pittsburgh, and I definitely noticed them. Thanks for the link explaining them.
posted by ALongDecember at 9:36 PM on October 8, 2007


As far as rear-endings are concerned, the police & courts agree: they are *always* the fault of the driver behind. It is their responsibility to drive at an appropriate speed & distance so as to be able to stop in time. That's a totally open & shut case. No argument possible.

If you're thinking more generally & getting annoyed that there's too much focus here on a single example, of sudden braking & rear-end collisions, the same principle applies all over. I remember a friend-of-a-friend who was being praised at the reckless age of 17 as being a "great driver" because he'd weave through suburban streets at 100mph - "He'll never have an accident because his reactions are so good; if he does crash, it will be only because somebody else does something unexpected & wrong..." - the point being that accidents are not so much 'moral' issues where you point the finger at who did something silly & unexpected.

Everybody on the road should travel in an appropriate manner, so they can react safely in time, if & when something happens. If you cannot react safely in time, you've positioned yourself wrongly, travelled too fast, or not been aware of the other traffic. You learn this very quickly if you ride a bike or a motorbike, because you cannot afford to make a mistake, and always need to be prepared for random carelessness on the part of others.

(obviously, this doesn't apply to completely off-the-scale events, like crims travelling at 150 on the wrong side of the road, trying to avoid police & running reds, for example).
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:45 PM on October 8, 2007


Western Infidels -- Any number of emergencies can force you to make a panic stop. Which unfortunately sometimes results in a rear-ending. But that rear-ending is the doing of the inattentive driver behind you, legally, morally, common-sensibly, and physically. It's a matter of definition. It's not really up for debate.

Of course you also apply this principle to car doors flinging open in front of cyclists on crowded streets, right?
posted by NortonDC at 9:59 PM on October 8, 2007


Of course you also apply this principle to car doors flinging open in front of cyclists on crowded streets, right?

Speaking for myself, yes, absolutely. Of course, it would be nice if drivers always checked their mirrors & blind spots, but that's never going to happen, so when cycling I'll always ride far enough across so as to avoid suddenly-opened doors, or else slow the fuck right down if it's too tight to ride wide, scanning the driver's seat of every parked car for signs of a driver. I'll also always take note as far ahead as possible of any car that's just pulled into a parking spot as a potential hazard.

Pedestrians jaywalking from behind parked cars are also a major hazard to look out for in shopping areas. Taxis are a similar kind of danger, because passengers will often fling doors open on both sides in the middle of a traffic lane (eg when stopped at the lights) in order to get out at a convenient spot.

There's no benefit in being 'innocent' in an accident if I'm dead.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:28 PM on October 8, 2007




Western Infidels: "It's not really up for debate."

UbuRoivas: "No argument possible."


Y'all do realize this is metafilter, right?
posted by aerotive at 11:33 PM on October 8, 2007


argue away. it won't change the way that the coppers & courts see this. the driver behind has the responsibility of not crashing into the one in front. this means keeping appropriate speed & distance so as to be able to stop suddenly, and not assume that the vehicle in front is going to keep driving or accelerating constantly.

part of the reason behind this is probably that only the forward driver can see what's actually going on in front of them. this is particularly true these days, when so many people drive SUVs that largely obscure what's up ahead.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:56 PM on October 8, 2007


Mental Whimp: "In the US, biking is the most dangerous mode of transportation per mile, not counting motor racing or downhill skiing. In countries where cycling is more common, the rate goes down to a level below motorcycle rates."

That statistic has been fired off before. Yes, biking is the most dangerous per mile ridden. However, this is because cyclists log fewer miles ridden over a period of time.

If you compare number of hours over accident rates then automobile (car, truck etc) accidents have a greater rate. The more hours you spend in a car the more likely you are to get into an accident. This is compared to the trend in cycling. Hours of operation on bikes produce fewer accidents.

As a bike commuter and road-rider I prefer the hours spent metric. You can go pretty damn far during an hour in a car.


Let me again stress the word "curious". I'm not trying to be snarky. I'm certainly not anti-bike or pro-car. I don't own a bike or a car. I don't like cars and much to my shame, I never learned how to ride a bike (I'm kind of... "balance challenged" - a little embarrassing considering I'm a Spin instructor.)
posted by Evangeline


That seems to happen alot. The spin instructor who isn't a hardcore cyclist that is....

On to your curiosity. Cyclist-Pedestrian accidents are theoretically statistically high based on a number of assumptions. But, it is a very under-reported accident statistic. You're not going to find good data, even in NYC.

Previous MeFi bike arguments

If you dig in the bicycle tag or the bike tag there are alot of arguments to be found on the subjects of bikes and bicycling and accidents.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 7:07 AM on October 9, 2007


As a bike commuter and road-rider I prefer the hours spent metric. You can go pretty damn far during an hour in a car.

Unfortunately, I don't have the choice of how many miles to ride. Thus, if I ride my bike 6 miles to work, my risk of death is nearly 5 times higher than if I drive 6 miles to work. Simple choice for me. Enjoy your ride.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:48 AM on October 9, 2007


Pedestrians injured as a result of bicycle couriers in Sydney, Australia:
The RTA estimates that at present there are approximately 200 bicycle couriers operating in the Sydney CBD.
RTA records indicate that within the City of Sydney local government area:
In 1995 there were a total of 7 pedestrian deaths and 215 injuries. Of these, one pedestrian was killed and 12 injured when hit by pedal cycles. In the case of the fatality the pedestrian was deemed responsible. In 5 of the cases of pedestrian injury the cyclist was deemed responsible and in only 1 of those 5 cases was the cyclist identified as a courier.
In 1996 there were a total of three pedestrians killed and 260 injured. Of these, there were 14 pedestrians injured when hit by pedal cycles. In 10 of these cases the cyclist was deemed responsible and in 8 of those 10 cases the cyclist was identified as a courier.
In 1997 there was one pedestrian killed and 257 injured. Of these, there were 8 pedestrians injured when hit by pedal cycles. In 4 of these cases the cyclist was deemed responsible and in only one of those 4 cases was the cyclist identified as a courier.
In 1998 there were a total of 2 pedestrians killed and 278 injured. Of these, there were 4 pedestrians injured when hit by pedal cycles. In 3 of these cases the cyclist was deemed responsible. In all 3 of these cases the cyclist was identified as being a courier.
In 1999 (provisional data) there were no pedestrians killed but 208 injured. Of these, there were 14 pedestrians injured when hit by pedal cycles. In 10 cases the cyclist was deemed responsible. In 5 of those 10 cases the cyclist was identified as a courier.
Information provided by the Infringement Processing Bureau for the period 1 September 1998 to 30 September 1999 shows 1,251 traffic infringements issued.
via
posted by misha at 2:00 PM on October 9, 2007


Unfortunately, I don't have the choice of how many miles to ride. Thus, if I ride my bike 6 miles to work, my risk of death is nearly 5 times higher than if I drive 6 miles to work. Simple choice for me. Enjoy your ride.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:48 AM on October 9



I have a commute that is 14 miles long in each direction... *shrugs* I could drive the car. But, it's not really all that simple a choice.

But, In the end it's really not all that much of a big deal. I've been commuting for more than 3 years. I haven't even come close to getting hit... yet. Knock on wood.
posted by Sam.Burdick at 2:36 PM on October 9, 2007


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