At the end of the 9th Annual Memorial Ride and Walk at the intersection of Meeker and Union in Brooklyn we installed a ghost bike and sign for all Cyclists and Pedestrians killed in 2013.
The sign reads:
In 2013 at least 12 bicyclists and 168 pedestrians were killed in New York City.
This is a memorial for all those whose deaths never made the news.
At that location we shared the following words:
We gather again to remember, to stand together in solidarity and ask changes on our streets, to get from here to there without injury or death, safe passage on the street for all users and justice in the names of the fallen. We hold onto our ten-year-old vision of zero deaths, no more families and communities forever altered by the violence of New York City Streets. We want to stop riding memorial rides and walking memorial walks; we never want to install another ghost bike again.
We say we want a change in culture; we're seeing some evidence that is happening. There’s a new initiative in this city called Vision Zero that has invited us all to step up, tell our stories, share our ideas, voice our complaints. Families have come together to form Families for Safe Streets, which has given platform to powerful voices, and has been supporting and listening to the needs of survivors of those killed and injured. Many others have been working hard to publically hold city and state agencies accountable for better data sharing, for enforcement and change of traffic laws, for physically changing our street-scapes and respecting family members’ needs. Perhaps we are nearing the change in culture we all want to see.
We are here together in the simple act of remembering, to name the names of those lost – to remember Mai, Marvin, Laura, Shui, Gary, Cesar, Walter, Christopher, Pedro, Pedro, Jelani and at least one person for whom we do not know a name – every year there are those that we never know anything about. This ghost bike is for them as well as to remember 168 pedestrians killed in 2013. In the first few months of 2014, 30 pedestrians have died.
One of them was named Marisol Martinez, she was a 21 year old Hunter College nursing school student who lived right near here. On March 1st of this year, the simple act of walking across the street with the light, to get pizza on a Saturday night, proved fatal. She died right there at that cross walk while her family and friends tried to help but could do nothing to save her. Marisol isn’t a statistic, she is a person who is loved and missed by her family and friends. Over there we installed a plaque in her honor.
I can’t describe to you a culture of safe streets and justice – it’s not a list we can all agree upon, and check off as we get there. We all have a different idea of what might make us feel we have safe passage. Individuals and communities are constantly creating and refining a vision of what might make us feel that we have gotten justice for those lost on the street. Some of us will never feel that they we have ‘gotten justice’ and never think closure was reached for our infinite grief and anger. You should step up and speak out for what this looks like to you, but please remember to also to step back and listen to what safety and justice looks like to others.
A can of white spray paint is a tool for creating a different culture. Ghost bikes are not anything special, anyone can make one, it’s just a piece of metal covered with a few of coats of paint and a sign pointing to a website. Each person has different thoughts and feelings when making, installing, encountering or putting a flower on a ghost bike. For some it is too painful to experience, for others it’s a sacred place of memory for beloved person lost, others think that they too could have been that person who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. There are 128 ghost bikes so far installed in New York City and 600 to 700 installed world-wide. Everyone connects with each one differently.
We hope that ghost bikes create an open space for a remembering and loss, for community and caring, a space for the individual development of your thoughts about what safety and justice looks like for you.
And by speaking up, caring, respecting, listening and sharing the streets with families, friends and strangers, we can collectively work for a culture in within which each of you feel safe walking and biking (and driving) in New York City.