Tony Cherolis, an avid bicyclist and bike blogger
(beatbikeblog.blogspot.com) who lives in East Hartford, was appalled and
upset last month when the third cyclist in 18 months was killed by a
car on Burnside Avenue. He and some friends, including longtime activist
Ken Krayeske, hit upon an unusual gesture that serves as both a
memorial and a warning.
They created what they call "ghost bicycles" by painting old bicycles
completely white, added signs reading "Cyclist Killed Here" and placed
them at the site of the fatalities. Mr. Cherolis added a fourth ghost
bike on Hebron Avenue in Glastonbury, where another cyclist was killed.
Mr. Cherolis, an engineer at Pratt & Whitney, said he hears varying
interpretations of the ghost bikes. He said they have been well received
by the families of the victims, and said one or two of the bikes will
be donated to the families after they are removed for the winter. Some
people have added flowers or written messages on the bikes.
The ghost bikes also serve as a warning. Both Burnside and Hebron
avenues are relatively fast-moving four-lane roads without much shoulder
space, thus dangerous for bicyclists. They are state roads, Routes 44
and 94, and the state Department of Transportation historically hasn't
been interested in bicycling. But that may be changing, at long last.
In the first 11 months of this year, 10 bicyclists were killed in
Connecticut, an increase from previous years. If national statistics
bear out here, more people are riding (and still more would ride if it
were safer). State and local officials as well as advocates such as Bike
Walk Connecticut need to educate bicyclists and car drivers about
proper protocol (put it on the driver's test!). Government also needs to
make roads safer and build many more off-road multi-use paths.
The state Department of Transportation has invited the Capitol Region
Council of Governments, the region's transportation planning agency, to
apply for a grant for a "light the night" program to give bicyclists
lights and instruction for night riding (two of the Burnside deaths were
at night). The department is also considering a redesign of Burnside
Avenue that would make walking and cycling safer. That should happen on
all such state roads.
Until it does, it might be appropriate to put a ghost bike at the Capitol.