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 St. Louis, Missouri 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…