Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ghost Bikes for Survivors

Last week I received a powerful note from Linda, the surviving spouse of William Laramie, who was killed by a drunk driver on Burnside Avenue.  The loss is still fresh for Linda, who said that William had been "my partner in life, my reason for getting up each morning."  She hadn't been to see the crash site and was prompted to do so when a friend told her about the installation.  Linda was moved and thankful for the memorial, and glad that it doubled as a poignant reminder to drivers that the lives of others are in their hands.  Linda's note meant a lot to me, and literally brought me to tears.

As well as being a bicycle commuter William was an accomplished musician and music teacher.  Linda and her family are planning a benefit in his memory to support music education, and Linda has invited the bicycling community to additionally utilize the event to raise awareness that drunk driving kills, and is most dangerous for the road's vulnerable users.  We'll keep folks up to date on plans as we get them.

Linda visited the ghost bike memorial this morning, adorning the bike with flowers and a bow to "sparkle like angel dust."  Previously another unknown person had added flowers to the handlebars.  These additions add to the impact and make the memorial a living, dynamic message to passersby.  As Linda works through her grief she amplifies and personalizes the ghost bike.

Who would have thought that an afternoon of action could have such an impact on bicycle advocacy and hopeful survivors?  I want to thank all those that were able to help create and install these four simple memorials, and encourage others in Hartford and beyond to install their own ghost bike memorials.  Remembering our pedestrians lost to cars, 'Ghost Shoes' could serve a similar purpose, albeit the sign would need to be more prominent to be seen by passing drivers.

Deadly Burnside Avenue -

Ghost Riders -


Tony C said...

Special thanks to Linda, who supplied the photo for this post.

Tony C said...

The plan is to unlock the bikes before the first big snow storm, since they are in the ROW and would be clobbered by the plows / drifts, and could fall into the street. Trying to contact survivors so they have the opportunity to keep the memorial bikes, if they would find them comforting. So far one of the bikes is spoken for, and I left my number at the grocery of the other recent death on Burnside.

Stopped by the Burnside GB's this evening on my way home. The one in front of the grocery has a multitude of tributes in black Sharpie to the fallen riders. I didn't expect that the white paint would serve as a canvas. Yet another aspect of how a ghost bike can serve a community and grieving survivors.

I'm considering writing an article (more formal than these blogs) for the Courant. Supposed to call Tom Condon, who's interested, which I should do tomorrow. Thanks for the suggestion Sandy. Maybe I should have Ken K edit or co-write, since he's the ex-journalist and all?

Interstatement said...

I've partially primed a 20" girls bike for a young rider, but the small bike looks especially not right without the tires. White 20" tires are common enough to find in the trash, so I would appreciate you all keeping an eye out for some white tires.

I was wondering about the potential for snowplow damage: sounds like a good strategy.

Tony C said...

Will keep an eye out for tires.

Was contacted on Friday while at work by the girlfriend of the late Danny Schultz, who was most recently lost on Burnside. She wants to meet and thank folks, as it meant a lot. I will let folks know what gets arranged.

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Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting post! I write a blog about spontaneous shrines and public memorialization ( and am fascinated by the global ghost bike movement. I'm curious if the bikes will be put up again in the spring--once the snow/snowplows are gone? I look forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I am being told that the Ghost Bike has now been hit by a car!

Tony C said...

Another spin off article on sharing the road, and responsibility for safety. This one from the Hartford Courant.,0,4846117.story

Tony C said...


All the ghost bikes are down. Some to survivors (others to the DOT?).

The Glastonbury Citizen had an article on the bike on Hebron Ave this past week. I don't know if it published before the bike was taken down.

Hope these bikes did some good while up, and started some discussions and momentum for improving safety, particularly for vulnerable non-motorized users. Will keep Beat Bike Blog readers up to date with any news on Burnside safety events and DOT studies.

Stay safe and visible out there!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to reach out to the bicycle community and let them know about a kickstarter that I am launching to fund a month long road trip to finish the shooting for my ghost bike project. Hopefully, you forward and repost this link and maybe even become a backer (every dollar helps). I greatly appreciate you taking the time to look at this link and pass it along.
Check out the project here:

Thank you!!