Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ghost Bikes

We've all seen roadside shrines. They mark the place where a fatal accident has taken place. These makeshift memorials have their roots in a pioneer tradition - when someone died on the trail, the family would be forced to bury them on site, mark their grave, and sadly move on.

This "death on the road" tradition's latest incarnation is the Ghost Bike. It began when San Francisco artist Jo Slota spray-painted junked bikes. Cyclists soon appropriated this idea to mark the place where a cyclist was killed in an accident - a haunting warning to both motorists and cyclists.

Memorials make the invisible visible, and Ghost BIkes remind us of those who are no longer here. But these streetside memorials also make the dangers of everyday life visible. Be mindful, they seem to say. A modern day memento mori.

Click here to see the New York Times photo essay on Ghost Bikes.


theresa said...

my brother has a ghost bike memorial marker in austin, TX where he was killed by a drunken driver. It's a wierd claim to fame when all is said and done as that is what he will be remembered by to some people. I'm glad to see it there as a reminder but it's hard not being able to tend to it as I don't live in the area. The violence of the act is a harsh remembrance of the reality of his death so it doesn't evoke the same type of feelings that as a grave site would.

Sister Shirley said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your brother! Your note made me realize that for every public memorial, there is a personal story. As you said, it must be surreal to see how most people view your brother as someone who was killed by a drunk driver while on a bike. They don't know who he is, what he's like, etc. He becomes an emblem.