Issue May 27, 2008

Ghost bikes appear

The
Clark Memorial Bridge — Second Street Bridge to Louisvillians —
is also a thoroughfare for many cyclists in the area who bike to work
and ride for exercise. But one white bicycle on the bridge remains
unmanned and immobile. This “ghost bike” is a memorial for George
“Chips” Cronen, who was killed last summer while cycling across
the bridge.

The
bicycle is stark white, and stands out against the dark steel girder
to which it is chained. A wooden sign attached with black
hand-painted words simply reads, “Bicyclist George ‘Chips’
Cronen was struck & killed near this site 07.03.07,” and at the
bottom in white, “ghostbikes.org.”

Cronen’s
ghost bike is not the only one of its kind in Louisville; a memorial
was also placed at the intersection of Grinstead Drive and Lexington
Road in honor of Karola Stede, who was killed on her bike there in
2003. But less than 24 hours after it was placed, that bike vanished.

According
to cycling advocate Jackie Green of Bike Couriers Bike Shop,
“removing the ghost bikes is like vandalizing a grave.”

Many
believe the city removed the memorial, but according to Kerri
Richardson, a spokesperson for Mayor Abramson, the bike was simply
moved to another location because it was deemed a traffic hazard.

“People
were slowing down while driving and reading the sign,” said
Richardson, who explained that Sheriff John Aubrey had the bike moved
shortly after it was placed. Richardson said that as long as roadside
memorials don’t inhibit traffic flow in any way, the city would not
move or remove them. These memorials do not violate any city codes,
and no permit is needed to place them.

Ghost
bikes were first created in St. Louis in 2003, and are found in over
35 cities worldwide. A grassroots effort, ghostbikes.org gives a
complete “how-to” list for building one, and the process
typically costs less than $20.

“It
doesn’t matter who made (the ghost bikes),” Green said. “It’s
important that they’re there.” —Jane
Mattingly