A ghost bike is also known as a ghost cycle, and they are commonly used to commemorate the loss of a cyclist who was hit and killed by a car. These bikes are typically junk bikes that have been spray painted white and then locked to a sign post or some other permanent structure at the scene of the accident. In some cases, they are given placards that denote their purpose or some information about the cyclist that was struck, and in other cases, they are left entirely blank.
The purpose of a ghost bike is two fold. In the first place,it marks a loss in the cycling community. A ghost bike may be put up by close friends, family members or other cyclists who knew the person who was killed. The second purpose of a ghost bike is that it is meant to serve as a reminder to passing motorists. The stark white paint job of the bike makes it very noticeable, and it is a reminder for motorists to share the road with people who are not in cars.
The history of ghost bikes goes back about ten years, and it is surprisingly murky. Some report that the ghost bikes first appeared in St. Louis around 2000, while others state that the origin was actually in San Francisco two years later. Still others claim that the placement of a ghost bike hearkens back to an anarchist tradition that began somewhere in Europe, though these origins are disputed.
Because the ghost bikes are so easily seen, they are visible to motorists who are passing by. Those who know what they are will slow down simply out of respect for the dead and sorrow, while others might stop to look at the bike and learn more about the purpose. The issue is that in many collisions, the motorist was not looking for a cyclist the way that they would look for another car. There is also the fact that motorists who are not familiar with driving on roads with cyclists often end up crowding them. The rule of thumb states that a motorist should give a cyclist just as much space as they would give another car, which is something that does not happen as often as it should.
Today, cities like Seattle, St. Louis, Chicago and Pittsburgh have organizations that are dedicated to creating ghost bikes and leaving them at relevant locations.There is typically no zoning or licensing that needs to be secured before they are placed, and they serve as an important reminder of the presence of cyclists on the road as well as a memorial for those who have passed on in tragic circumstances.