How long should Ghost Bikes stay up on public property?
A year ago today, prominent architect Roger du Toit was killed while riding his bike. A week later this ghost bike was installed; you can see my coverage of the event here. I was really surprised last week riding through the neighbourhood to see that his memorial bike was still there; I would have thought that in the ritzy Rosedale neighbourhood of Toronto, it would have been gone in a very short time. In Toronto, "Current City Policy is that memorials are left in public right-of-ways for 30 days. There are no special provisions legislated for ghost bike memorials."
Joe Mavec's Ghost Bike/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
I while ago I noticed that Joe Mavec's bike is still in place in another nice part of town, four years after his death in 2012, also covered on TreeHugger here. It is slowly rotting away, the wheels on the verge of collapse. But it is still there, which I think is appropriate. The rules vary across North America; In Ottawa, Canada, the city imposed a six-month limit on ghost bikes. They recently removed one and the friends of the victim were shocked; one told the CBC "I came Wednesday morning before work to water the plants, only to turn the corner and see that the bike and everything was gone. My heart just sank, my stomach was sick and there was just such an emptiness." I was shocked too; it seemed that the ink was barely dry on that post, but it was actually 2013.
in Durham, North Carolina, City policy is that the bikes must be removed if a citizen complains. One person is quoted in the local news:
We should give people time to mourn; after that get rid of the bike. If people keep getting hit you're going to see these bikes on every corner.
Yes, that would be a terrible thing, to see bikes on every corner, showing how many people get killed, reminding us how bad our infrastructure is for cyclists and pedestrians. Perhaps if they were on every corner than something might actually be done about it.
Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0
Shortly after Roger was killed, the stop signs that had been approved for this blind intersection months before were finally installed. We really need constant reminders that infrastructure is inadequate and that things have to be fixed. Joe Mavec lost control, hitting streetcar tracks where no streetcar had run for thirty years, and which should have been removed.
In Ottawa, Meg Dussault's Ghost bike was a constant reminder that the intersection is terrible and that cement trucks need side guards and better mirrors. No wonder the authorities wanted it removed; it spoke loudly of the city's failure to provide a safe environment for cycling, and the Federal Government in Ottawa's responsibility to make trucks safer.
I think there should be an international policy on Ghost Bikes: that they stay there until the fundamental problem that caused the death is solved.
And as for Roger du Toit, on his first yahrzeit (the Jewish recognition of the anniversary of a death), may his memory be a blessing.