Residents of the city of Pittsburgh may have seen the beautiful white bikes stationed around the city, but not all are aware of their significance.  These installations are Ghost Bikes, memorials honoring cyclists who lost their lives or were seriously injured in accidents.  A ghost bike is painted white, locked to a sign near the site of the crash, and accompanied by a small plaque describing its purpose.  These somber memorials serve as a statement by cyclists, calling for their right to share the road.  These monuments to tragedy on everyday street corners work to remind passersby of the dangers faced by those on bicycles.
The first ghost bikes were placed in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003 as a call for cycling reform. Since then, 630 ghost bikes have been installed in 210 locations around the world.  This global project states its mission as a quest to remind citizens that “we all travel the same unsafe streets and face the same risks; it could just as easily be any one of us.”  

 

Pittsburgh was the second city to feature the Ghost Bike project and it was here that the term “ghost bike” was coined.  Cycling activist Eric Boerer took up the cause from St. Louis and jumpstarted project both in Pittsburgh and New York City.  Now, there are nine locations of Ghost Bikes marked on ghostbikes.org.  Since the website depends only on submitted updates, the information is not always up to date.  

 

  • A bike set up at 5701 Penn Avenue memorializes James Price who died on July 25, 2012.  
  • In DuBois, Pennsylvania, a bike honoring Dr. Albert Varacallo’s passing on July 8, 2010 stands at Maple Avenue and Shaffer Street.  
  • Resident of Indiana Township, Pennsylvania, Donald Parker was struck and killed May 27th, 2010 and the ghost bike dedicated to him stands on Hart’s Run Road.  
  • Anthony Stephen Chianese, who died on April 7, 2010, is honored with a memorial south of Neidehiser Road on Route 981 on Mount Pleasant Boulevard.  
  • On August 3rd, 2009, Ruihui Lin lost his life and a ghost bike on Louisa Street and Meyran Avenue honors his memory.  
  • A memorial for an anonymous victim stands at Craig Street and Fifth Avenue in Oakland since September 3rd, 2007.  
  • Another anonymous bike indicates a tragedy at Halket Street and Forbes Avenue, created in August, 2007.  
  • Another memorial honors an unknown victim from January 2005 at Forbes and Morewood. 
  • Susan Hicks, a faculty member at University of Pittsburgh, lost her life on Forbes Avenue across from the music hall in October of 2015.  A bike dedicated to her memory is chained on Forbes, across the street from the music hall.  
  • Another ghost bike at Baum Boulevard and Liberty Avenue marks the site of an accident where cyclist Elijah Matheny was run off the road by a driver.  Matheny survived the incident with injuries to his wrist.  

 

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The names listed here are by no means a complete list of ghost bike locations or victims in cycling accidents.

 

Creating a ghost bike is a simple process.  In Pittsburgh, a DIY recycled bike collective located in Point Breeze called Free Ride, previously run by Eric Boerer, donates bikes to be used in the projects.  Bikes are stripped of essential parts, like the cables, grips, and pedals for greater ease while painting.  Painted bikes as well as an plaque are secured to street signs and utility poles.  More detailed instructions for creating a ghost bike can be found at http://ghostbikes.org/howto.

 

Cyclists in Pittsburgh faces an uphill battle against what is viewed as “lack of concern by city government and automobile drivers in general.”  The goal of the project is to promote coexistence between cyclists and drivers in the city and the memorials serve as a reminder that every life on the road matters and should not be overlooked.   

 

By Meg Cummings

Photo Credits: Ghost Bike Memorial for James Langergaard, New York City (ghostbikes.org), Susan Hicks Ghost Bike Memorial on Forbes

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