What’s a ghost bike?

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Ghost bikes are white-painted junker bikes used as memorials to mark where a cyclist was killed. They highlight road safety issues and can be found worldwide. The first ghost bike was installed in Saint Louis in 2003, and they are stripped down and have signs attached with information about the incident. They are quickly removed by officials but can be left for a set amount of time. Ghost bikes remind motorists to watch out for cyclists.

A ghost bike is a junker bike that is used as a memorial to mark the place where a cyclist was shot and killed. Traditionally, ghost bikes are painted white, to enhance the ethereal look and make them more clearly visible. Ghost bikes are used to mark the passing of beloved cyclists and at the same time highlight the issue of road safety for cyclists, and can be found all over the world, especially in big cities, where cycling accidents are sadly common.

The first known ghost bike was installed in Saint Louis in 2003, by someone who witnessed a cyclist being hit by a motorist. The witness realized that the event would be erased from the city landscape once the victim and bicycle were removed, and that thousands of passers-by would pass through the area without realizing anything had happened. With the aim of creating something of a lasting memorial, the first ghost bicycle was created, which proved successful enough for the trend to spread to other cities.

Typically, a ghost bike is stripped down to its most stripped-down components, so it’s more like a shadowy outline of a bike. After a ghost bike has been painted white, the effect is quite stark and often very moving. After the bike is set up, a sign is attached to the bike with information about the incident. Some signs only include the phrase “cyclist hit here,” while others list details or provide a web address people can go to for more information. In some cities, a database of ghost bikes is maintained by a cycling safety organization, which also maintains crash statistics to highlight dangerous areas of the road.

As a general rule, ghost bikes are quickly removed by transportation officials, as they are usually set up on city properties. Ghost bikes are not removed out of spite, but out of concern that they may threaten public safety, including the safety of cyclists, and because moldy bikes could become an eyesore if left in place. In some regions, city officials have an unspoken policy of leaving ghost bikes for a set amount of time before removing them or asking cyclist advocacy organizations to take them away.

A ghost bike, as ghost bikes are sometimes called, can be a riveting sight, especially for cyclists who knew the victim. For motorists, the ghost bike is designed to send a clear reminder that road sharing matters and that motorists need to watch out for cyclists, especially on busy roads.

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