If you see a bike that’s been painted white and left by the side of the road, you’ll probably also see flowers and other tokens of support and sorrow nearby. Those “ghost bikes” are memorials to riders who have been killed in crashes with other vehicles. They’re far too common in both California and other areas of the country.
Ghost bikes serve two important functions: They serve as outlets for grief for the lost riders’ loved ones and they serve as important reminders to drivers that they need to be alert, focused and willing to share the road with cyclists.
It would be wonderful if the entire ghost bike memorial project could end, but that’s going to require some work.
What can communities do to make the streets safer for cyclists?
Cyclists can take all kinds of steps to try to improve their safety, but ghost bikes aren’t going to stop appearing until there’s systemic change. Here’s what can make the difference:
- There need to be more car-free zones for bikes that connect to important spots, like housing, places to shop, eat or find entertainment.
- “Bicycle boulevards,” where cars are permitted but the area is designed with limited speeds and wide streets to promote safety for cyclists above all, need to be part of each community’s infrastructure.
- Barriers need to be erected in busier areas where the other solutions are impractical to put physical protections between cyclists and vehicles.
Systemic change is challenging and slow to come about – which is why it’s so important that ghost bikes keep bearing witness to the tragedies that keep happening on our streets when cyclists are killed. If you’ve lost a loved one or been injured while cycling through a driver’s negligence, find out more about your right to compensation.