The Ghost Bike Project: What It Is and Why It Matters

FSD Staff

 

Biking can be a lot of fun. Some kids learn to ride their bikes by age three or four, starting with training wheels and then graduating to the regular two-wheeled variety. They might learn the skill at an extremely young age, but then they use it for decades to come.

Biking can be entertainment, and it can also be exercise. Some people who live in major cities, though, rely on their bikes for transportation. If ever you don’t have yet your bike, you can use this link to find a perfect one.

This is useful because it helps the planet, and they can also save money that way they would otherwise have to spend on public transportation, like trains or buses. It also keeps them from buying a car, which can be very costly, especially when you take insurance, maintenance, and gas into account.

Many major cities have also gone out of their way to add more bike lanes on larger thoroughfares in recent years. Chicago and New York are two examples, but you also see many bike lanes in Los Angeles and throughout New England.

If you’ve visited a major city, you may have noticed a bike painted white, chained to a lamppost. You see them frequently, but you might not know what they are. These are part of the Ghost Bike project, which we will endeavor to explain right now.

What Exactly is the Ghost Bike Project?

Riding a bike in a major city can save you money, but it is also potentially dangerous. In Illinois, for instance, the Department of Transpiration says that about 3,500 bike wrecks happen every year. They cause more than 3,300 injuries, and 18 fatalities, at a minimum.

Many of those happen in Chicago. Since it’s one of the nation’s largest cities, it makes sense lots of bike wrecks should happen there. Chicago is one of the places where you can spot these white-painted bikes on street corners, chained to telephone poles or other immobile objects.

As you may have guessed already, these are “ghost bikes,” and they mark places where a car ran a cyclist down. You might have also noticed wreaths or single flowers that people lay by these bikes.

Often, the grieving family members lay them at the spot where their loved one died, just like you would lay flowers on a grave.

What Does This Accomplish?

In a practical way, you could say that placing these bikes at spots where cars have run cyclists down is a way to help the family and friends grieve. After all, having a gravestone is for the grieving family and not for the deceased, who, presumably, knows nothing about it.

Everyone grieves in their own way, and putting a ghost bike at the spot where a cyclist died is a method that some people regard as artistic. There is something very captivating, though also very sad, about seeing one of these white bikes and knowing that someone breathed their last breath on this spot.

Why Else Do People Put Ghost Bikes at Cyclist Accident Sites?

There is another reason why individuals or families put these ghost bikes at the spots where their loved ones died, though. It is to remind drivers that they need to watch out for cyclists, either on the sidewalk or when they are in the legal bike lanes that are now so commonplace in major cities and some small ones as well.

The fact is that biking can be both fun and practical for city dwellers, but it will always be potentially hazardous as long as cars and bikes share the same streets. Cars, not to mention trucks and buses, are so much bigger and heavier than bikes. If a car goes up against a bike, the cyclist is bound to get the worst end of it, and frankly, they can count themselves lucky if they escape with only minor injuries.

Ghost Bikes Serve as a Grim Reminder

Whenever a driver sees a white ghost bike on a street corner, it should remind them to keep their eyes on the road. They should not allow their passengers either in the backseat or right next to them distract them.

They should not ingest alcohol or illegal drugs before they drive. They should try not to text on their smartphones or talk on them while they’re in heavy traffic. In short, they should not allow anything to distract them or speed unnecessarily to try to get to their destination just a minute or two faster than they would otherwise.

Some people don’t think about driving very much, because they do it constantly. They might put in several hours behind the wheel every week.

They should try to remember, though, that cars can be weapons. A cyclist is nearly defenseless when they share the road with something so much larger than themselves.

The Ghost Bike initiative might have started in St. Louis, though no one seems to be sure about that. Still, it serves a very fine purpose, and it’s well worth continuing.

When you’re driving and you see one of these bikes, it should serve to remind you that getting behind the wheel of a multiple-ton automobile is not something you should ever take lightly. Cyclists form a kind of fraternity, and if you run one of them down, you hurt the collective, as well as the individual.

As for cyclists, when they pass by one of these bikes, they might remember a friend they lost if they knew that biker personally. Even if they didn’t, it should remind them to be as careful as possible and watch out for the traffic around them. Some drivers might continue with their careless behavior, no matter how many white bikes line the streets.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with biking in a major city, but if you decide to do it, understand the risks. One wrong move and your bike might end up painted white, chained to a lamppost for all to see as the seasons change and the years pass.

  • Show Comments (1)

  • drake burroughs

    Ghost bikes, alas, exist in most large cities, although efforts at erecting them when a cyclist has died often don’t reach this level of organization.

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