A white-painted bicycle leans, locked to a post a few feet away from the spot where a car struck and killed a bicyclist. Flowers decorate the abandoned bike, a visible reminder that life is fragile.
This is a Ghost Bike, one of over 500 such memorials chained to fences, streetlights, and signposts across the United States. I discovered Ghost Bikes while shooting in New York in May 2010, and their symbolic power affected me profoundly
Each year, the US sees more than 600 bicyclist fatalities, and more than 50,000 bicyclists report injuries. Ghost Bikes symbolize this suffering and these lost lives and challenge us to be more aware of our surroundings.
I started The Ghost Bike Project because we can pass a memorial hundreds of times and eventually forget that it is there to commemorate a human life. I combine photos of Ghost Bikes with images of live people, shot in my studio and manipulated through Photoshop to look like ghosts. The resulting images remind us to keep each other safe and represent a spirit that is no longer with us.
Over time, many Ghost Bikes have been removed. I hope this project will help the memorials and their sentiment live on.
Here are my ghost bike chronicles-part 1
May 2010, New York
I was in Brooklyn when I saw my first ghost bike. The first one you see here. Over the course of the rest of this trip I saw a few more. I was moved and affected. The second bike you see here, for Dan Valle, is the subject of the first “ghost bike piece” that I did.
I returned to New York in December 2010 to seek out ghost bikes and to officially start The Ghost Bike Project. These are the bikes I found on that trip.
I went to San Diego, California for my cousin’s wedding. While I was there I tried to find the two ghost bikes that I had heard about, but they had been removed. As it turns out, San Diego is a city that does not allow them.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Last week I went to Portland, OR for a couple of reasons. One of these reasons was to do some shooting for my ghost bike project. According to GhostBikes.org there were supposed to be 20 ghost bikes installed in or around the Portland area. I expected that I would not find them all, because previous ghost bike hunting experience has taught me that often, the bikes are no longer where they are supposed to. So I went with the hopes of finding 10. My first day in Porland, I managed to find 3. One of which wasn’t even listed on the ghost bike site. We sought out 16 that day. Out of 16 bikes, 14 of them were missing. I found this incredibly disheartening, but also strange. Portland is supposed to be one of the most bicycle progressive cities in the country. Why would such a high percentage of ghost bikes be gone? Was the city removing them? What was going on? That night I did a little research and what I discovered broke my heart. People were stealing them!!!! I know that times are hard, but really? Stealing ghost bikes?
Through my research, I also discovered that a troupe of boy scouts took it upon themselves to install a bunch of ghost bikes in the Beaverton area. They did this in the middle of May 2011. Surely, some of them would still be there. In the morning, I tried to get in touch with the boy scout troupe, and some other bicycle organizations to try and find out the location of these bicycles. Nobody got back to me, but I was able to figure out where the one in the picture on the article should be. I set out to find that bike, and the bikes that were West of Portland. The Ghost bike that the boy scout troupe installed, after a month and a half, was gone. Some stupid thief couldn’t leave it there for a few months? What is the world coming to? I continued further west, hoping to find one of the other two bikes that were supposed to be out that way, but to no avail. One spot had numerous memorials put up. (It is obviously a dangerous intersection); but, no ghost bike.
I had all but given up, my mother’s boyfriend told me about one that was near where his brother lived. So the next morning, my last day in Portland, I decided to try and find the one that was way out East in Gresham, and the one down south in Millaukee. The one in Gresham was no longer there. Obviously, some one had stolen it. It had been replaced with a cross and a picture of the woman who died. The other one was still there. It was for a little girl that died on 10/10/10. Out of a total of 22 bikes that were once there, only 4 remained. Two of them were adorned with many decorations, perhaps discouraging the thieving community in Portland, and two of them were small children’s bikes, which would be way too small for the average thief. All in all, pretty sad. Here are the ghost bikes that I did find.
ghost bike for Nick Bucher, SE 26th at Stark, Portland, Oregon
ghost bike for Chris Robertson, on top of the Bike Hut, pier 40, San Francisco, CA
In August 2011, a friend told me about a ghost bike in Emeryville, Ca. I took the drive across the bay to photograph it.
In September 2011, I returned to Portland, and found 2 more ghost bikes!! One of which was moved inside and added to the Saint Stephens Episcopal Parish Bicycle Shrine.
ghost bike for Tracy Sparling at the St Stephens Episcopal Parish Bicycle Shrine, Portland, Oregon
ghost bike for Michael Vu, SE Mather Rd at SW Summers Lane, Clackamas, Oregon
I was making a quick trip to Austin, TX to see family, and asked my aunt is she could do some ghost bike scouting for me. She had found 4 on her initial scout. When I arrived one of them had been removed, but I knew of one she had not yet scouted; I was able to photograph 4 in Austin, Texas.
ghost bike for Royce Scott McCoy, Lady Bird Lake Trail, Auditorium Shores, Austin, TX
ghost bike for Krishna Walters, 1100 Block 1st St Austin, TX
ghost bike for Austin Weirup, E St Elmord at S Congress Ave, Austin, TX
ghost bike for Andrew Runciman, 3506 S Larmar, Austin, TX
In March of 2012, I took a short trip to Chicago. I tried to find the ghost bikes that were close to where I was staying. I found one.
In June of 2012, Robert Yegge was killed by a truck driver in San Francisco. His ghost bike was up for about 2 months before it was removed. He was the second bicyclist killed at this intersection in the last 10 years.
How am I to bring to light the impact of the ghost bike? How am I to get enough material to make this book in a timely manner?