Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ghost bike

a ghost bike is a bike that has been painted white and locked to a street sign near the site where someone was killed while riding his or her bike. a plaque mentions the name, as you can see above (i took this picture in january of this year). unfortunately, there are several such bikes in boston. and for that matter, all over the world. 
the above one is in cambridge, near MIT. on december 27, 2011, phyo was riding his bike around 8 in the evening. an oil tanker truck was turning from vassar street onto mass ave when it hit phyo. he was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. he was only 23, and had obtained a bachelors degree in chemical-biological engineering in 2010. he was originally from myanmar. within days after his death, over 15,000 dollars were collected for funeral arrangements and to return phyo and his belongings to myanmar. sadly, between 2007 and 2011, polica had to respond to 55 accidents at this very intersection, 18 of them involving bikes, and 4 involving pedestrians, making it one of the most dangerous intersections in cambridge. as far as i can find, the truck driver has not been charged.
even though more people start biking, it is still not "accepted" in the us. just this week time magazine had an interesting article about the rise of biking, which unfortunately goes together with motorists who think bikes dont belong on the road; bikers literally face aggression because car drivers think they dont belong on the road! the numbers are scary too; last year, 241 pedestrians/cyclists were killed in accidents with cars in new york city, yet only 17 drivers faced criminal charges. according to the article, most police departments (in the entire country) hardly investigate car-bike or car-pedestrian accidents, unless the victim dies or the driver was under influence....
as a dutch, i love biking, and it has been my main form of transportation until moving to the us (i never even felt the need for getting a drivers license, and now i have tim to drive me around.. ;)). here, i hardly do it, exactly for the reasons above. i am terrified of all the cars (which are much bigger here), the absence of separate bike lanes, and simply the aggression of motorists. we do bike, every now and then, but i do so with great caution (albeit without helmet; those are useless i think). according to tim i do it with far too much caution. but take july 4th. a national holiday, everyone free and happy. the weather was gorgeous and we were biking to the beach on cape cod. although there were no separate bike lanes, the path was designated as being for both cars AND bikes, and signs here and there reminded cars of that (share the road!). me and tim were happily biking, while suddenly a car passed me, and a girl screamed from the window: "you're gonna die!!!" thats what she said. can you believe it? it shocked me greatly. really. why on earth would you say something like that to someone, anyone, ever? i should have wished her a happy independence day, but my anger was faster and i wished her something else..... probably she long forgot what she said. but i didnt....

i think its good ghost bikes are placed when a biker got killed in traffic. if it only reminds one motorist to be more careful and to share the road....
this is my contribution to taphophile tragics, for more tragics, go here. im not done with the biking yet, so probably some more about that tomorrow...!

13 comments:

biebkriebels said...

The americans have a long way to go to come out of their cars unfortunately. It is terrible so many cyclists have an accident. I shouldn't dare to bike either there.

Stefan Jansson said...

We have the same tradition in Stockholm, although a few of the white bikes has disappeared recently. But they are soon back.

Julie said...

I am not aware of that tradition. We simply have a tradition for people who die in cars. Just flowers and candles near the spot. Sometimes for years.

I will check how many cyclist were killed on the roads in Sydney last year.

Hang on.

Julie said...

In my state, NSW, in 2009 there were 14 cyclists killed on the road. The data on pedestrians was collected separately. Remember that the entirety of Australia is 22 million people with NSW having about 6 million people.

Julie said...

Now where was I ... ?

That does seem to be a dangerous intersection, but maybe students swarm over the place. Not their fault the accident necessarily.

Myanmar is what is sometimes known as Burma, right?

We do not have a bike-riding culture here in Australia. Sydney is very hilly and very spread out. We have a major car culture, but not as bad as 'you're gonna die'. That is simply gross and degenerate.

I must remember to come back tomorrow for more.

Nellies said...

Like you I also loved riding my bike. But here in NYC I don't have the guts to do it. Even though the city is trying very hard to make it safer for bikers with bike lanes. But nobody is used to handle traffic situations where bikes, cars and pedestrians meet each other, like in HOlland. I'm thinking these bike/traffic lessons I had in school weren't that bad to begin with at all.

Antjas said...

I bike and drive a lot in the Sudbury, Concord area. Ten to fifteen years ago there were few of us on the road and the drivers and bikers were for the most part courteous to each other. Biking has exploded in this area so when I'm driving I truly detest the large groups of bikers who feel the road is all theirs - riding double on winding, narrow roads, giving all cyclists a bad rep. When I'm biking, I detest the drivers who don't slow down and make the hair rise on your arms because they get so close. Then there are the drivers who give you a wide berth and you feel they will crash into an oncoming car.

Please wear your helmet. They do work. A friend was hit by a car, her helmet was cracked but her head was intact. The girl in the car may have just been admonishing you for not wearing a helmet as would I.

Birdman said...

This is a great shot. We have one in our city too. Ghost bikes are fun to find.

CaT said...

@julie; yes, burma, indeed. i must say i had never heard of myanmar before. or not really.

@antjas; i agree and disagree with you! regarding helmets; they really are of no use. they are simply made out of styrofoam and designed for falling when standing still. if you have even a little speed, they are non-functional. i have been in an accident in the netherlands. and i fell very ahrd on my head. i have been extremely lucky. this was without helmet.
just because someone was wearing a helmet while in an accident doesnt mean the helmet prevented injury, although its ofcourse best to think so...
moreover; research has shown that motorists passed bikers waring helmets with less distance, and at greater speed, as they assumed "they were safe", bringing them actually in more danger than had they not worn helmets.
i think the only thing that will really make biking safer is a change in mentality. from BOTH the biker and the motorist. and most importantly; designated bike lanes...

CaT said...

actually, in the netherlands nobody ever wears a helmet. if you see someone with a helmet that person is either german or a tourist... :)

Antjas said...

One of my greatest fears is getting stuck in my toe clip while standing still, falling over attached to my bike, so, I think I'll keep wearing my helmet.

I had never thought about the fact that drivers will be more reckless around helmeted riders.

In our area there is a plan for a bike path that is to replace an abandoned railway. While many people do not want bikers roaming through their back yards, it would certainly get some of those bikes off the main roads.

Nicola Carpenter said...

What a fantastic thought provoking post. uch a sad and probably preventable lost of life.

Herding Cats & Beneath Thy Feet

PinkPanthress said...

I really like this informative yet sad post.
I didn't know about ghost bikes, though I am from West Germany and was even born in a city not far away from a VERY bike friendly city called M√ľnster.

Thank you for the interesting read!

P.S.: May he rest in Peace. :(