Ghost bikes have been appearing in Austin since 2005. They are installed by anonymous individuals. A few articles, such as the two below, document the project, but no one knows who is behind it.
Ghostly markers of cyclists' last rides
Bikes painted white mysteriously popping up at sites in Austin where riders hit by cars, killed.
By Isadora Vail
Saturday, September 02, 2006
In a city where bicycling is practiced as fervently as a religion, it seems only natural that ghost bikes would haunt the scenes of fatal accidents.
Ghost bikes — bicycles painted white and placed as memorials along roadways where cyclists were killed — have popped up across Austin. They are reminders that not everyone makes it home.
The strangest part is, it's a mystery who puts up the ghost bikes. Local bike shops are familiar with the bikes but don't know, or won't say, where they come from. Few in the biking community think it matters.
"I think it is supposed to be a mystery," said Scott Korcz, president of the Austin Cycling Association.
Some of the ghost bikes are those of The Austin Yellow Bike Project, which refurbishes bikes and leaves them on city streets for people to ride, but others appear days after bicycle-automobile crashes with no indication of where they came from.
Ghost bikes are popping up all over the country. Various Web sites document the phenomenon in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; New York City; and St. Louis.
"It is very interesting that no one knows where these bikes come from, but personally I think it is a good reminder of situations that have been a tragic loss of life on a bicycle," Korcz said.
He has seen two ghost bikes. One is chained to a stop sign at West Sixth Street and Highland Avenue for John Smythe, who was 35 when he was struck by a car Aug. 15, 2005. Smythe had just taken up cycling but already had fallen in love with the sport, his family said.
Neal Graham, who works at Benson Investments on Sixth Street, said he has never seen anybody arranging the wreaths and stuffed animals clustered around the stop sign.
"I would hope the city wouldn't try to eliminate them for a safety reason. It would be silly," Graham said.
The other ghost bike is along Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) near the Bee Cave Road exit.
It commemorates the death of Gay Simmons-Posey, 40, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in April, while she was training for a charity bike ride. Police said last week they had not found the driver of the car.
Simmons-Posey's death raised questions among Austin cyclists about whether riding on Loop 360, one of the city's premier training routes, is safe.
Ron Posey said the ghost bike appeared two days after his wife was killed.
"I think it is a wonderful thing and a good gesture. I wish I knew the person who did it so I can thank them. It is a good way to remember a tragic incident," Posey said.
Posey said he called the Texas Department of Transportation to make sure the bike could remain in its spot. He and a couple of Simmons-Posey's co-workers went to the site Monday and bound the bike to the ground further away from the highway to comply with Transportation Department regulations. They poured concrete over the tire to secure the bike to the ground.
The department allows roadside memorials but says they must not be in the right of way or create a driving hazard, spokesman Chris Bishop said. He suggested that people wanting to erect memorials talk to the agency beforehand because memorials that do not comply will be removed.
The City of Austin has more lenient rules that say memorials are allowed on city streets as long as they don't interfere with traffic and are not on sidewalks.
In 2005, at least three cyclists were killed in Austin.
Just this year, two cyclists have been killed on Loop 360.
Arjun Khanna, 43, was killed Aug. 26 when a pickup struck him as he rode on the shoulder of Loop 360 near Spicewood Springs Road. The driver was arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter.
Bike organizations and cyclists wonder if they will get a peek of the ghost bike creator or creators if one is put up near that accident site.
"I think it is a beautiful thing and a wonderful way to show respect," Posey said.
Ghostbikes serve as grim reminder
10:31 PM CST on Monday, November 19, 2007
By SHELTON GREEN
Thousands of Austin drivers past them multiple times a day and have no clue as to what they are.
The bicycles painted white which are chained to telephone poles and street signs are called ghostbikes.
They mark the spot where a cyclist was killed in an accident by a car.
The concept began in Seattle in 2003 and has since spread to 15 cities across the U.S. including Austin.
There are a total of four ghostbikes in the Austin area stretching from the Capitol City to Dripping Springs.
The most prominent perhaps is the ghostbike at West 6th and Highland.
It was put up 2-years ago when 35-year old John Smythe was hit and killed by a drunk driver in August of 2005.
"It's a reminder to people that we deserve to live, we are somebody's husband, somebody's son, somebody's Dad, somebody's girlfriend, boyfriend" says Al Bastidas, the co-founder of a group called "Please be kind to cyclists". Bastidas himself almost became a candidate for a ghostbike in 2002 when a driver turned in front of him striking him with such severity that he was in a coma for 2-days. His doctors didn't expect for him to live.
Unlike other cities, there's no organized group putting up ghostbikes in Austin. Who puts them is is a mystery. It is believed that in most cases it's a family member or a friend of the victim.
Bastidas says the point of ghostbikes is to remind drivers and cyclists alike to share the road so that no more of the ghostly road-side memorials will have to go up next to a roadside ever again.
(Ed. note: The project actually began in St. Louis in 2003, not Seattle. Also, we now count at least 35 cities with ghost bikes both within the US and internationally.)