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Guy On A Bike: Ghost Bikes

Whether you ride a bicycle or not, chances are you've noticed an all-white bicycle locked up near an intersection.

Often times they look neglected, as if they have been there for some time. They are known as Ghost Bikes and serve as a constant and somber reminder of a life lost while cycling.

According to MnDOT, cycling deaths are down in Minnesota in recent years. This is good news, considering that more people are choosing to ride bicycles for both recreation and commuting.

Sadly, any time one of us takes to the streets there is a risk, however slim, of serious injury or even death. When a death does occur it is not uncommon for a Ghost Bike to appear near the site of the tragedy a short time later.

Memorial Bike Ride Oct 4
(credit: Guy Still)

The phenomenon began in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003 and has spread throughout the world ever since. Today, Ghost Bikes are in nearly 30 countries and at least 40 states in the U.S. Since 2008, at least 11 Ghost Bikes have been erected in the Twin Cities, although some may now be gone, removed by city workers, scrappers or hooligans.

According to the organization's national website, these stark memorials, "serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, and as quiet statements in support of cyclists' right to safe travel."

Memorial Bike Ride Oct 4
(credit: Guy Still)

The white cenotaphs are not about assigning blame, and there are instances when both motorists and cyclists alike are culpable during tragic accidents that result in the loss of life. The hope is that riders, pedestrians and motorists will all take a moment, when passing by, to give pause and think about the tragedy that occurred; the mother, brother or co-worker tragically lost.

In 2008 I participated in a memorial bike ride, following the deaths of four cyclists in the metro area in fewer than three weeks. It was a somber procession from St. Paul to St. Louis Park and back to Minneapolis. At each site a Ghost Bike was placed and a moment was taken to remember our fellow riders whose final rides ended in calamity. That day left an indelible impression on me.

Memorial Bike Ride Oct 4
(credit: Guy Still)

Another memorial ride is planned for Sunday, Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. in Minneapolis, departing from Kenwood Park. The ride will serve to remember fallen cyclists, including Marcus Nalls, who was struck and killed on Franklin Avenue last February.

It will also be a positive awareness ride, in support of safe commuting for all, regardless of your mode of transport.

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