Their first documented appearance was in 2003. It served as both a symbol and reminder of the dangers bicyclists face when sharing the road with more powerful forms of transport. Found in St. Louis, this “placeholder” served to document a tragic accident where a cyclist was struck.
While it did not commemorate the first cycling accident, what is now known as “ghost bikes” memorialize a deadly problem desperately in search of a solution.
More than 600 ghost bikes dot the country as de facto memorials, many with signs signifying that a biker was struck at that particular location, resulting in serious injuries or deaths. The message they send is simple.
Share the road.
The Risks Bicyclists Face
Cycling on less-than-friendly roads is a risky proposition. Far too many drivers see them as obstacles that prevent them from getting to their destinations in a timely fashion. Others who are driving distracted or under the influence only notice the bicycle after the accident has occurred. More militant drivers will threaten riders with words or dangerous actions in the form of swerves, sudden stops, and driving too close.
Simply put, bicyclists assuming good intentions can lead to a life-changing event.
Proactive Ways to Prevent Tragedies
Many longtime bike enthusiasts believe that their peers should be assertive and proactive while focusing on safety for every motorized and non-motorized vehicle on the road. Safety starts with reliable equipment and cycling skills. Traveling alongside much larger motor vehicles requires balance, a straight line while riding, and balance.
Additional suggestions include:
- Eye contact and hand signals
- Protective gear that includes bright and reflective clothing
- Front lights and back blinking signals (regardless of the time of day)
- Well-inflated tires
- Brake and shift tests before a ride
- Riding with the traffic, not against the traffic
One of the more safe bits of sage advice is to stay away from roads known for significant traffic and congestion. Far too many have their fair share of “ghost bikes,” whether they are commemorated or not.