22 Jun 2008 8:00 am   //   Filed under: Art, Bicycles, Planet earth, Transit

Haunted by ghost bikes

Ghost Bike

You’ve heard of ghost bikes? They’re the work of a street art collective that collects scrap bikes, paints them white, and chains them up on city streets where cyclists have died in traffic accidents. They’re comparable to the wooden crosses you sometimes see by highways. Usually, ghost bikes are accompanied by a sign with the cyclist’s name and some other basic facts (“Killed by SUV”). I’m a longtime bike commuter and support almost any activity that makes the streets safer. Do I have an opinion about ghost bikes? You bet.

  1. Doesn’t work for me as art. Too literal.
  2. Ghost bikes clog our sidewalks with mechanical junk. It’s an ugly way to memorialize someone.
  3. This is not a politically smart way to support cycling. The people installing these bikes are portraying biking as some kind of underdog subculture fraught with danger. The use of street art reinforces the stereotype that the “bike community” is an insular group of self-righteous freegan hipsters.
  4. In fact, bike transportation is and should be mainstream. As one example, around Sunset Park I’ve noticed a lot of new immigrants have begun using bikes to get around. These guys on their Huffy’s work harder than anybody, keep our city running, consume zero gasoline, and don’t give a crap about ghost bikes.

I am a safe biker and have no plans to challenge any bigger vehicles any time soon. However, if one day I get smooshed by a sanitation truck, do not put up a ghost bike for me! I swear, my real ghost will torment you!