Two New Ghost Bikes Go Up to Honor Fallen Cyclists in South L.A.

Members of the East Side Riders and Los Ryderz bike clubs put a ghost bike up at the site where a cyclist was hit by the Blue Line train last month (photo courtesy of John Jones III)

Two new ghost bikes went up in South L.A. and Compton yesterday. One was to commemorate the death last month of Sylvester Henderson, 26, who was hit by the train while crossing the Blue Line tracks at the intersection of Grandee and Century Blvd.

Not much is known about Henderson’s death, unfortunately. Much to the consternation of Ted Rogers of bikinginla, the only official news of it seemed to be that of an L.A. Times photo in the print edition showing a bike with a taco-ed wheel said to belong to the as-yet unidentified victim laying on the tracks.

Metro couldn’t give me much information, either. A representative was unable to explain how or why Henderson ignored the flashing lights and lowered arms of the railroad signals.

Judging by the location of the bike in the photo (below) and the fact that Henderson was traveling eastbound against traffic, it is likely he either didn’t notice or didn’t pay attention to the gate arms and flashing lights because they weren’t directly in front of him. The Blue Line has few of the pedestrian safety gates that the Expo Line has, despite the fact that you are actually crossing four sets of tracks (two for the Blue Line and two for freight rail) in most locations. So, while gate arms may effectively block vehicular traffic, pedestrians and cyclists can (and often do) move uninhibited through that and the crossing at 103rd, thinking they can beat the train. Or, they are unaware of whether or not they should be crossing. When you get off the train at 103rd and are looking to cross Grandee, for example, the pedestrian walk signal is conveniently blocked by a telephone pole.

Photo of Sylvester Henderson's bicycle by Bethany Mollenkof for the LA Times (photo taken from their print edition)

The other ghost bike was for Ovidio Morales, a father of five from Guatemala who was, presumably, on his way to work when he was run down by a driver on a cellphone that ran a red light. Worse still, the driver realized he hit Morales, got out of the car to look at him, got back into the car, and sped off.

There had been a ghost bike put up for Morales in 2010, when he was killed. It was even mentioned in an L.A. Times story later that year on the history of the ghost bikes movement. But apparently someone stole it, according to John Jones III of the East Side Riders. So, Jones, along with members of his club and Los Ryderz, decided to replace it yesterday. Both groups — recently working together as the United Riders of South L.A. — have been active in keeping alive the memory of another hit-and-run victim, Benjamin Torres, of late and appear to be inspired by how much it means to the families that fallen cyclists are not forgotten, even if their killers are never apprehended.

Click here for more information on the East Side Riders and Los Ryderz. Both will be celebrating the 5th anniversary of the East Side Riders with a Tour de Watts this Saturday. For more information, please click here.