How To

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Ghost Bike memorials are very easy to create and require only simple supplies available at any hardware store. 

Anyone can make and install a ghost bike, you don't need permission from anyone to do so. Groups, families, friends and individuals in different cities use many different techniques, so you should certainly feel free to adapt to your own needs, skills, and situation. If you need help with making a ghost bike you might want to contact groups listed on our location pages, a bike shop or local advocacy or community group. 

Here is some advice on how make, install and maintain a ghost bike from the NYC Street Memorial Project.

We try to salvage as much material as possible, paying only for paint, a lock, and a chain, with a total cost of maybe $25-$50 per memorial.

How to Obtain and Prepare a Bike: We usually get free “junk” bike donations from bike repair shops or local supporters. We strip each bike of non-essential parts (cables, grips, brakes) and recycle them; this makes it easier to paint and also less attractive to thieves. You should probably use a bike that does not have sentimental value because it could be removed.

If you have bikes to donate to a ghost bike project, please check the locations page to find a group making ghost bikes in your area.

How to Paint a Ghost Bike: There is a very detailed guide to painting bikes at WikiHow, but the basics are:

  • Degrease & clean the bike before painting;
  • Apply 1 coat of primer (2 coats on tires, seat, and any rusty areas);
  • Apply 1 to 2 coats of flat white spray paint evenly from all angles;
  • Let dry for 24 hours before handling or installing.

One or two ghost bikes have been painted in colors other than white.

In NYC we hold ghost bike workdays inviting everyone to help with making and installing ghost bikes. This is a great way to get new volunteers involved in a ghost bike project and to connect with the friends and family of cyclists killed. 

Safety note: spray paint is toxic. Wear a mask and gloves and never use spray paint indoors. Always use name-brand, waterproof, rustproof paint.

How to Make and Install a Plaque: Many ghost bike plaques are simply laminated computer printouts. Painting by hand, stenciling, silkscreening, and other techniques can be time intensive but produce beautiful results.  In NYC we partnered with a local artist collective who we paid to silkscreen an image and text onto metal street signs.  You could also have signs made by commercial sign makers.

In New York City, street sign posts are on nearly every corner and make a perfect location for installing plaques. Signage varies from city to city, so you may need to alter the following for your particular circumstances. Standard-issue sign poles have pre-drilled 3/8” holes spaced 1 inch apart. We bolt the plaques into place using ¼” bolts and nuts, then bend the bolts or mar the threading with vice grips. Bending or otherwise damaging the bolts makes them harder to remove.

How to Install a Ghost Bike: In NYC, it is our experience that a ghost bike has the best chance of staying installed is if it is locked well, try to lock both wheels. We lock the bike in place just as if it was a functioning bike. It is also a good idea to be sure it is not blocking pedestrian, bike or car passage or nor locked to any public works (ie: street lights), trees, parks or private property (unless you get permission).  A street sign is usually the best choice even if it isn't exactly where the crash took place.  Some groups have placed ghost bikes above street signs and encased the wheels in cement. Keep in mind that if you ride or wheel the bike to its destination you are likely to wear the paint of its tires (if you choose to leave them on); it’s better to carry it or bring it on a bike trailer, car or public transport.

If you want to volunteer to install ghost bikes, first check our locations to see if there is already a group working in your area. If you want to start a ghost bike project in your area try checking Every Bicyclist Counts for locations of fatal crashes in your area. If you need help with making and installing ghost bikes, you could contact a local bike group in your area for support and help. Installing one ghost bike does obligate you to install more in your area.

How to Maintain a Ghost Bike: Permission is not normally needed to touch up a ghost bike, it is a great activity for group rides and a good way to remember the fallen in your area.  Find the location of a ghost bike in your area on our site and/or by searching the web. Remove dead flowers, trash, tattered decorations. Use cardboard or plastic sheeting to protect adjacent cars, plantings, sidewalks and signposts. Replace or reattach parts as necessary. Use name brand matte white spray paint to cover the entire ghost bike with a new coat of paint. Replace decorations and perhaps install a new sign (if needed) and flowers. A well maintained ghost bike is the best way to show that people care about it remaining installed in its location.

How to Advocate for Ghost Bike Memorials: Sometimes individuals, politicians, or local agencies want to or do remove ghost bikes.  However there are also a lot of people that support ghost bikes and think they should remain installed. In NYC we have found it important to have the family's support that a ghost bike should remain.  We have had success asking legal friends to write a letter to the agency and/or contacting the media and the public to let them know that ghost bike(s) have been threatened with removal.

When the NYC Dept. of Sanitation wanted to include ghost bikes in their rules for derelict bike removals, our public advocacy resulted in over 300 people sending comments that led DSNY to remove mention of ghost bikes from the final rules. Some locations have tried to get official permission or follow state or local laws regarding memorials, with mixed results.  In Albuquerque, the law was changed to legalize the installation of ghost bikes. This is a local challenge that requires local solutions.

How to Have a Memorial Ride: Anyone can organize a memorial ride which can range from an informal get together of family and friends to remember one person to a big organized ride to remember everyone in an area killed on the streets in past year(s).

Over 10 years the NYC Street Memorial Project organizd a full day of coinciding rides every year to visit all the locations where cyclists (and some pedestrians) were killed the year before. We scheduled our Memorial Ride in the Spring and invited family and friends to speak at each ghost bike and everyone in the cycling community was invited to ride with us. The rides eventually converged and ended at a dedication for unnamed cyclists and pedestrians killed the year before.  In 2015 we rode our last memorial ride - deciding afterward that much of the advocacy and awareness that drove this event had been taken up by other better organized and funded local groups.

Now our small group focuses our efforts on ghost bike making and installation workdays which are posted on our facebook page to which everyone is invited.  

Some locations have a memorial ride after each death and install the ghost bike together at the end of the ride. In some instances this ride coincides with a local Critical Mass ride. Other locations visit ghost bikes during the worldwide Ride of Silence in May.

How to Post a Ghost Bike on the Web: This site is no longer being updated beyond NYC.  In the meantime, we suggest that your local ghost
bike group create a FaceBook page or blog, and/or that you share information on
ghost bikes and cyclists killed on: Flickr, Waymarking, Ride of Silence in Memorium, Messenger Memorial or Every Cyclist Counts amongst
other places.

We can update your location page to provide your local ghost bike project as a contact for people in your area. Get in touch by contacting us with the information.