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Ghost bikes: keeping alive the memory of bike-car crash victims

Just as crosses are often used to mark the places where motor vehicle passengers were killed in a car accident, so are bicyclists finding their own unique memorials. In Ohio and across the United States, modest memorials known as “ghost bikes” are being set up at bike-car crash sites to remember the riders who were killed in transit.

The exact design of these ghost bikes can vary. They may be as large as a full-size bicycle or be as small as two inches long. Some are intentionally smashed with a sledgehammer to indicate that the rider died in a bicycle-motor vehicle collision. In South America, it is common for the bikes to be lifted off the ground.

Currently, about 600 such memorials have been registered with an online tracking website, including more than 100 in New York City alone. According to proponents of the memorials, the ghost bikes serve two purposes: to remember those who have lost their lives and to also increase awareness of the ongoing struggle for cars and bikes to share the road.

The ghost bike memorials also remind bicyclists of the tangible dangers they face when riding their bicycles, emphasizing the need for defensive riding at all times. Even though bicyclists often have the right-of-way over motor vehicles, it’s not always a smart decision to jockey with vehicles to make sure that right is respected at all times.

Motor vehicle-bicycle crashes are a continuing problem on America’s roadways. In 2010 alone, 618 cyclists were killed in the United States; 52,000 were injured.

Source: Washington Post, “‘Ghost bikes’ rise at scenes of fatal bicycle-car crashes as tributes to those who died,” Aug. 7, 2012