San Diego Activists Incensed Over Removal of Ghost Bike

"Atip’s" Friends and Family Gather Around His Ghost Bike Last July

Last July, the San Diego bicycle community suffered a serious blow when one of it’s better known and well liked leaders was killed in a collision with a motorist.  Friends and family erected a memorial at the site of the crash, a white painted "ghost bike" surrounded by flowers and signs marked the site for five months until it was removed by San Diego’s city services last Friday, a day earlier than was promised.

The raw emotion of the last post on the blog chronicling the efforts to save the ghost bike, stands in stark contrast to the rest of the blog.  While most of the blog shows a mix of hopefulness and sadness, the bike’s removal one day before a final memorial seems callous at worst and hopelessly clueless at best.

Of course, ghost bikes are about more than just creating a memorial for a fallen friend, they’re also a form of activism.  A way of crying out for greater road equity and safer streets for everyone.  Save Atip’s Memorial isn’t just a blog about saying goodbye, it’s about calling for change.

The blog’s author tries to give greater meaning to his friend’s death by trying to get the city to re-engineer the dangerous intersection of Park Boulevard and University Avenie, where Atip was struck while making a left-turn.  The exact details of the crash, i.e. whether Atip had the right of way are not 100% clear.

After discussing the crash with city officials, a local activist wrote a proposal for a Public Improvement Project, worked with the local bike coalition to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and submitted it to the city.  After a couple of days they called him back and told him that his plan was rejected.

Days later, the representative at Engineering I had been in contact
with, ran it by his Senior Planners, and told me that they wouldn’t
approve of the proposed Public Improvement Project. They’re logic was
that the Memorial Bike would cause people to slow down below normal
automobile traffic speed and that if people slowed down then
“accidents” would happen.

Ugh, sound familiar?

Never the less, the community’s efforts to improve that intersection move forward, and for those of you interested in reading the rest of the story, it can all be found at Save Atip’s Memorial.

Photo: Save Atip’s Memorial

  • I saw my first ghost bike a couple of years ago, and while I had no idea who it was for or what had happened, I found it absolutely devastating. On the other hand, my non-cycling wife didn’t notice it until I pointed it out to her — despite passing that intersection on a regular basis — and had no idea what it was once I did.

    And that’s the problem. While we cyclists are painfully aware of them, most drivers have no idea what a ghost bike represents or why it’s there — and they’re even less likely to notice one than they are the cyclist they’re about to run over.

    We need to find a way to educate people outside the cycling community about ghost bikes, so we’re not just preaching to the choir.