Bicyclist placing flowers at Memorial for Fuen Bai in the LES photo: Bonnie Hulkower
Today, families, friends, residents and bicycle advocates participated in the 6th Annual Memorial Ride and Walk for New Yorkers who have been killed by cars while walking or biking on city streets. The event was organized by the Street Memorial Project. The bike tour wove through four boroughs visiting the 13 white-painted "Ghost Bikes" installed at the scene of the bicyclist fatalities. After the ride and walk, all participants gathered at Brooklyn Borough Hall to dedicate a memorial to all of the unknown victims of traffic crashes in 2010.
The first bike memorials were created in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003, and the idea has since spread to over 150 locations throughout the world. The first New York City ghost bikes appeared in June 2005. There were 24 cyclist deaths in 2005, 18 in 2006, 25 in 2007, 26 in 2008, 12 in 2009, and 18 in 2010 according to DOT and NYPD as quoted in the media. Two people have been killed thus far in 2011. By 2011, 80 ghost bikes will have been placed in New York City.
Volunteers from the Street Memorial Project spray-painted old bikes last Saturday in preparation for today's ride, which began at scattered locations throughout the city and converged at Borough Hall at 5 pm. One of the last stops along the ride was in the LES, by the newly erected ghost bike in memory of Fuen Bai at the corner of Ludlow and Delancey Streets.
About a year ago, one Sunday morning Fuen had been riding home from church, which she did every week. She hit a pothole and reportedly fell behind a bus. The driver of an empty school bus then unknowingly backed over her and killed her. She was 74 years old and lived on 13th Street in disabled housing. She was friendly to her neighbors and always greeted them with candy, so she became known as the candy lady.
Bike advocates want a Delancey Street bike lane and they believe if had there had been a bike lane on Delancey street, that there would not be a need for this ghost bike stop today and that Fuen Bai would not have been killed. After the brief memorial, the bicyclists lifted their bikes in tribute to Fuen and there was a moment of silence.
Bike Lift photo: Bonnie Hulkower
Hopefully these eerie, white ghost bikes can be a somber reminder that will cause people to pause and think, and be a place where family and friends can visit with the memory of their loved ones at the site of the tragedy on an otherwise anonymous street corner. For those who create and install the memorials, they are quiet statements in support of bicyclists' right to safe travel.