James Foster, an Australian who had lived in London for several years, died after he was hit by a speeding car while wheeling his bike across Essex Road in north-east London. The driver had a previous drink-drive conviction and was over the limit. James, who worked at Mosquito Bikes on Essex Road, was a distinctive and popular figure, and the inspiration for the original Ghost Cycle website in the UK. His friend and colleague at Mosquito, Sarn Baggett, built and painted the ghost bike, which was installed on the fifth anniversary of his death. It has since been vandalised.
A memorial to James Foster in Essex Road, on the Hackney-Islington border in London, has recently been vandalised; it is now missing its front wheel, pedals and handlebars and hangs off its post looking battered and lost. James's friend Sarn Baggett, who built it out of spare parts at Mosquito Bikes, where he and James both worked, says all the components were unusable.
James, who was 37, was pushing his bike across the road when he was hit by a car driven by 24 year-old Sabrina Harman. She was over the drink-drive limit and speeding and had a previous conviction for drink-driving. She had been banned for a year and still had not regained her full license.
Foster was well-known and much loved among London cyclists. A tall Tasmanian, with long red dreadlocks, he shared a house with nine other Australians and New Zealanders. Baggett remembers him as 'a classic gentle giant with a massive smile', while his friend Therese Kilpatrick recalls 'a quiet, exceptional person who was incredibly generous with his time, who respected everyone'. He loved cycling and skateboarding and anything to do with adventure; he was also deeply concerned about the environment.
Steve Allen cites his death as one of the reasons why he wanted to set up the Ghost Cycle website. The idea of a ghost bike, though, was Sarn Baggett's. 'A group of us gets together for a drink every year to remember him and it seemed like a good way of marking the fifth anniversary of his death. At that stage, I'd only seen ghost bikes on websites. I built it, then painted it in a couple of afternoons.' The bike appeared on the street in July this year. When I last spoke to Baggett, he was still very annoyed at the vandalism, but thinking of rebuilding it.