These are reactions that we have received about Ghost Bikes.
When I placed the first ghost bike in Tucson little did I know the wrenching reactions it would cause, all over the spectrum. I also didn't realize the cascading effect it would have, as several other bikes have gone up since. The power of this urban symbol is clear.
I will continue to ride my bicycle in NYC and everywhere else, and do so with the understanding that I am mortal. It is a pleasure and a necessity for me. And I hope that we, as creatures with incredible ingenuity, can create a safer environment for all pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, preferably in that order.
The Ghost Bike Project is not intended to frighten those that ride or wish to; it's making visible the cost of a city dominated by car culture.
We're not yelling for bike lanes. What we're looking for is a little more intangible. We're hoping that the culture changes.
The Ghost Bike Project is a very unique and symbolic way to memorialize fallen cyclists. I think it is the perfect way to pay tribute to cyclists killed on the street. It reflects the loss of a precious life and the passion of the person killed. It should serve as a vivid reminder to everyone who travels that route that the most precious gift anyone could have, the gift of life, was lost because of the carelessness and recklessness of another person. We hope that it sends a very clear and strong message to the driving public to be extra careful when sharing the road with others.
The Ghost Bikes memorialize people who deserve to be remembered for their bravery, both physical and cultural (subverting the dominant paradigm). They are an antidote to the sad, ordinary fate of deaths by automobile -- to "flicker briefly across the city's consciousness and then flutter away, leaving in their wake only grieving families and friends," as we wrote in Killed By Automobile.
The Ghost Bikes are authentic, artistic and poetic. They are perfectly proportioned to the story they seek to tell. They grew organically out of a specific instance and need rather than from some grand design. Their vernacular expression is an implicit rebuke of standard, corporatized "art."
The Ghost Bikes and Memorial Ride create an opportunity for victims' families and friends to engage publicly and politically. The Memorial Ride promotes cyclist solidarity. Sunday's ride reached further across the multiple tendencies and factions in our movement than I've ever seen, including the magnificent 1987 bike ban protests.
I've been a full-fledged cycle activist for 21 years now (including a long stint as TA president). Most of the time I've let myself be guided by an existential sense of struggle - What Would Camus Do? In "The Plague," Camus' alter ego, Dr. Rieux, led the resistance against the deadly virus, not for strategic reasons but in order to remain human. The virus we face now is the destruction of the environment and the dehumanization of life via automobiles. The Ghost Bikes simultaneously memorialize and resist. They are our way of being human.
Your placement of a bike at the site of my husband's (Dr. Carl Henry Nacht) fatal accident was an extremely meaningful act. For myself, my children, our family and friends, it has provided solace at the place of great tragedy. I have visited the bike often and use it to meditate about my husband of thirty three years...I have seen people stop, read the plaque and think about its simple but poignant message. I will be sending out hundreds of thank you letters in the next week to people who have been supportive of us throughout these difficult months. I wanted you to know that in my letter to them, I will be acknowledging your contribution to our healing. My husband's 83 year old aunt comes into Manhattan from Queens on public transportation to visit the bike.
Last night I took a cab, and the driver was talking about the challenges of life as a cabbie. He was complaining about bike messengers and then suddenly shifted gears, lowered his tone, and said, "Do you ever see those bikes painted white, hanging up? That means someone died there. When I see them it reminds me to be careful for the bikers." In other words, people notice.
While checking your site for news on Elizabeth Padilla, I learned that yet another cyclist has been killed by a truck in New York in the days following Liz's death - Andrew Morgan. I am Sara Padilla, Liz's older sister. I am devastated, angry and hurt and so is my family: Liz's younger sister Rebecca, my parents, my husband Andrew and Liz's husband Tim. This past weekend we traveled to Brooklyn to collect Liz's things and mourn, again, together, at the site of the Ghost Bike memorial for Liz. What a beautiful and heartbreaking tribute to my sister. While words cannot adequately convey the depth of our loss, I believe the Ghost Bike Project makes a difference by providing a powerful visual image of a life taken from us senselessly and also by revealing our sadness publicly; in the hope that others - cyclists, pedestrians, and most importantly, drivers, will help prevent these accidents from happening again. I watched as strangers walked slowly by Liz's ghost bike, stopping to read my sister's name, and reflect upon a life that they did not know. Flowers and notes were left by those who knew Liz and others who did not. Thank you so much for taking such care and demonstrating this kindness to a woman, and countless others, that you did not know. It is shameful that the authorities in New York, including the Mayor, have responded to these tragedies in such a heartless way. We will never get over these losses. They represent not only loss to their families but to all who knew them.
I started making ghost bikes for strangers in June 2005. A year and a half later, my friend Eric Ng was killed by a drunk driver while riding on the West Side bike path. Eric was 22 and had just started teaching math in a Brooklyn high school. He was the kind of person that made you want to live a little more. A year later I still expect to see him when I show up somewhere. His death ripped a hole in my heart.
When we make ghost bikes we tap into the hurt of the world. Each person is part of the soul of their city. These stories can make headlines one day and are forgotten the next – we try to make the city remember. We choose to honor that stranger we know could just as easily be our friend, our sister, our own self. That choice makes us whole.