Some who have visited such cities as Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore., where bicycles are common as a means of transport, may have seen junk bicycles painted completely white and chained to lampposts or sign stanchions. They’re called “ghost bicycles,” memorials to cyclists who were hurt or killed at or near that spot.
They’re also somber reminders to cyclists and motorists to share the road.
Serious injury or death of cyclists in encounters with motorized vehicles have been a sad fact of life since May 30, 1896, when New York City motorist Henry Wells struck a bicyclist with his new Duryea Motor Wagon and broke the cyclist’s leg.
In 2007, the latest year for which data are available, 698 cyclists were killed and an additional 44,000 were injured in traffic crashes, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly 44,000 cyclists have died in traffic crashes in the United States since 1932, the first year in which estimates of cyclist fatalities were recorded.
The phenomenon of placing “ghost cycles” at the sites of bicycle-vehicle collisions is said to have begun in St. Louis in 2003. Since then cycling groups in some 30 cities have started the practice to raise awareness among motorists that two-wheeled vehicles also use the streets and roads.
The Ghostcycle project in Seattle, for example, uses its Web site to collect data from cyclists who have been involved in or know of someone hurt or killed in a cycling accident in the Seattle area. Ghost cycles are placed at each of those sites and photos of the ghost cycles and information about each accident are posted on the Web site.
Another site worth a look is GhostBikes.org, which began in New York City as the Street Memorial Project and collects data on bicycle accidents around the world.
A bicycle and an adult rider weigh around 200 pounds; a pickup truck or an SUV may weigh about two tons. It’s no contest if the two collide. So be careful out there.