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Posts from the Ghost Bike Category


City Councilmembers Want Rules for Ghost Bikes and Roadside Memorials

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 in March of 2013. (photo courtesy of John Jones III)

(Note: An earlier version of this story mis-identified the Council Member who introduced the motion as Mitch O’Farrell. It was introduced by Mitch Englander. Streetsblog deeply regrets this error.)

Sometimes, a crash is so terrible that a permanent memorial is created. Other times, family and friends will erect a temporary memorial with flowers, pictures and religious symbols. When a bicyclist is slain in a crash, advocates such as Danny Gamboa, Aktive, the Eastside Riders, and Los Ryderz, the city’s bicycle co-ops or any number of people or groups may chain up a haunting white “ghost bike” at the crash site.

How a city should respond to roadside memorials for pedestrians, car passengers and cyclists killed in crashes has been a difficult question. How long is too long? At what point does a memorial become a nuisance? When should a city step in and clean it up?

While my personal answer to such a question is “never,” unless it poses a safety hazard of some sort, the lack of firm rules often leads to police, or sanitation officials, or just a local resident or business taking down a memorial without notice. This leaves the family of the victims feeling angry and violated again.

Sometimes a memorial goes back up. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Councilmembers Mitch Englander and Joe Buscaino have written a motion calling on the city to create rules regarding the maintenance and removal of memorials. Current law orders the Bureau of Sanitation to remove “all items blocking the public right-of-way.” In New York City, a 2010 law allowing the removal of “derelict” bicycles was amended to all “ghost bikes” to stay up, so there is precedent for major cities to enact memorial friendly legislation.

A common time frame for removal is “90 days” in other cities. Tempe, Arizona has such an ordinance, but the memorials often last much longer. But when San Diego removed the ghost bike dedicated to a popular activist nearly half-a-year after the memorial was created, the community reacted with outrage. Read more…


Opening Tonight: Ghost Bikes of L.A. Art Exhibit

An image from the studio installation. Image from Nona Varnado

Ghost Bikes L.A., a local art show honoring a decade of art, advocacy and community opens tonight 7 pm at Red #5 Yellow #7 in the Hel-Mel Bike District in East Hollywood.

“Through visually stunning art installations we aim to inspire viewers,” explains Nona Varnado, the curator of the exhibit. “We explore in depth the question of what ghost bikes are; their dual purpose of commemorating fallen cyclists while creating awareness of the need to demand change in our communities.”

Ghost Bikes are memorials honoring cyclists who are fatally – or sometimes critically – injured due to unnecessary collisions on streets not designed for shared traffic. They are a unique and positive response to a terrible event. By using art, communities around the globe have begun making individual memorials a powerful public awareness tool. Ghost Bikes are not put together by family or friends, but by local bike advocates to pay respect while making it publicly known that a death has occurred and making it obvious that a street or intersection is dangerous.

One artist featured in the exhibit is Sahra Sulaiman, one of the editors here at Streetsblog Los Angeles. Her featured work is a photo of cyclist Jose Vasquez lighting a candle for friend Luis “Andy” Garcia. Garcia was killed by a drunk driver as he, Vasquez, and several other cyclists rode home over the L.A. River on Cesar Chavez this past September.

“What is so important about ghost bikes is that these hit-and-runs leave families and friends utterly devastated. Not only are their loved ones mowed down, but most are denied any sort of closure because the perpetrators are rarely caught and/or punished appropriately,” Sulaiman writes. Read more…


Gardena PD Ticket, Harass United Riders of South Los Angeles for Taking Lane while the Case of the Hit-and-Run Victim They Were Honoring Remains Unsolved

22400 (a) vc Impeding Traffic from Danny and Kat ZKO on Vimeo.

The United Riders of South Los Angeles had just left the memorial site for Benjamin Torres, killed last October in Gardena in a hit-and-run, when they were pulled over by the Gardena Police Department.

They had stopped at the site to replace Torres’ original ghost bike, which had recently been removed by the city. They wanted the site to be ready to host this month’s memorial ride.

After securing the bike, they had headed toward city hall to inquire about its confiscation and about the possibility of working with the city so that the memorial could be allowed to stand. That’s when a female officer passed them, swung around and got behind them, and then finally pulled them over, claiming they were impeding traffic.

Actually, according to John Jones III, president of the East Side Riders, she didn’t tell them why she had pulled them over at first.

They asked, but were told to sit down and turn around.

The more they asked the more frustrated she got, putting her hand on her service weapon, blaming what she perceived as their noncompliance for delaying the process, and, finally, calling for back-up.

When the other officers arrived, they frisked the cyclists — including the petite Rese Chaidez, Torres’ step-daughter —  and ran their IDs.

Jones began protesting the fact that the female officer was running her hands up between the legs of the male cyclists, but thought better of it. He was used to this kind of thing and knew calling it out would only escalate the tension, he said.

Instead, he and the others continued to ask why they were being stopped.

The officers finally settled on the idea that the group must have been impeding traffic. They told the cyclists they needed to stay off the sidewalk and ride three feet from the curb. They were not interested in hearing  about concerns that staying so close to curbs and cars would put the cyclists in danger of being sideswiped by cars or in the door zone of the parked cars they were passing. Read more…


Long Beach: Bringing Ghost Bikes to Life

Danny Gamboa’s Ghost Bike installation for Susan Curtis, who was killed in Long Beach on January 15. Photo courtesy of ZKO Films.

2011 marked an extraordinarily hard year for Long Beacher Danny Gamboa: cyclists seemed to be getting killed far too often. In that year alone, Southern California saw a staggering 70% increase in deaths from 2010, with 70 cyclists losing their lives in the seven-county region of SoCal alone in 2011.

And in a rather morbid way, Gamboa saw this as the moment to meld his desire to begin making documentaries with his love for cycling—in this case, following the Southern Californian men and women who place memorial Ghost Bikes at the locations where a cyclist had lost his or her life.

Not to be confused with San Franciscan artist’s Jo Slota’s project of the same name1, Ghost Bikes were largely inspired by late 90s New York bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group Right of Way, who memorialized cyclists and walkers by stenciling police-like body chalk outlines where the victims had been struck, accompanied by their names and dates of death. The first stencils were created on December 13 of 1996 in Manhattan to memorialize 3-year-old Erica Morena2, who was ran over by a driver who jumped a curb to beat a red light in 1990; Jie Zhang3, a 29-year-old woman, nine months pregnant and struck outside New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center in 1994; and 33-year-old Rosemary Brodie4, a cyclist killed in October of 1996 by being doored.

Following these stencils, the first Ghost Bike appeared in London in 1993 at King’s Cross to commemorate Min Joo Lee, a 24-year-old student killed on October 3 of that year—and now over 500 Ghost Bikes are on display throughout the world.

And rightfully so, Gamboa and his producer Kat Jarvis through their production company ZKO felt that this phenomenon—particularly given the egregious spike in cyclist deaths in Southern California—deserved to be documented.

“I knew my friends were putting up Ghost Bikes—and I knew it was something that was near and dear to my heart,” Gamboa said. “You get close-calls every day just biking around and…” He trails off, silently indicating that, though it shouldn’t be, oftentimes mixing the worlds of bicycling and driving becomes a gamble. Read more…


After Oregon Woman Is Killed by Hit-and-Run Driver in Pasadena, a Ghost Bike Is Planted

There are few things more moving and powerful than a ghost bike planting.  Last night, the Eastside Bike Club, cooks from the Bike Oven and other cyclists made the somber ride to the spot where Jocelyn Young was struck by a hit and run driver in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Photo: Carlos Morales/Eastside Bike Club

Young’s tragic story was picked up by Bike Portland, because she graduated from University of Oregon and lived in Portland.  Bike Portland adds the life details to the story missed by the local press and shows how much the world has lost from Young’s passing.

Andrew Plambeck attended UO with Young and reacted to her death today. “We had a lot of close mutual friends. She was such an always-on wonderful presence. Always warm and cheerful. So, so sad. Another wonderful, unique person killed senselessly in the road.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas Avila, who was booked on suspicion of hit-and-run and driving under the influence and was released from the Pasadena Police Jail yesterday pending charges.  Unless charges are filed, the police cannot hold a suspect and the Pasadena Star-News reports that the police are making sure their case is airtight before presenting their case to the District Attorney’s office.  There’s no stated reason why Avilia isn’t charged with vehicular manslaughter.  The police are currently interviewing witnesses and collecting video information.

Young was riding with her boyfriend when she “fell off her bike” for unknown reasons.  Avila then allegedly ran over Young, causing injuries that would kill her in the hospital.  While Young lay dieing in the street, Avila fled to his house in Alhambra, where he was arrested after another driver followed him to his residence.

Last night, Young’s memory was memorialized with a ghost bike.  While the bikes are a powerful reminder that we still have a long way to go to make our roads safe for all road users, I think we can all agree it’s a type of traffic calming that we could do with less of.

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Hundreds of Cyclists Stage Die-In at Jesus Castillo’s Ghost Bike

4_27_09_die_in.jpgThere are lots of Flickr sets from Friday’s memorial at the Ghost Bike.  This picture is from Alex Thompson’s but you should also check out Ensie’s and Streetsblog’s.

Last Friday, participants in Los Angeles Critical Mass, members of the local community and other assorted transportation activists all gathered at Los Angeles’ newest Ghost Bike for a memorial for Jesus Castillo and rally for safer streets for cyclists.  Nearly 300 riders participated in the memorial which included a "die-in" where hundreds of cyclists laid down on the street in a similar manner to war protesters.  There to witness the act were a handful of LAPD officers and a representative of Eric Garcetti’s office.

Occurring less than 24 hours after the LAPD patted a hummer driver on the back for riding through a group of cyclists from behind, the mood when the Critical Massers rode up to the newly chained up Ghost Bike was a mixture of sadness and anger.  However, that anger didn’t break out in acts of violence or vandalism, excepting the one idiot who took a sharpie to a news van, and instead was a well-ordered example of civil disobedience.  Whether or not the LAPD would have been so restrained as to not step on the cyclists civil liberties without the television cameras is a different matter, especially since dozens of riders got tickets on their way Downtown for their next stop.

You can see CBS’ take on the die-in here.