The Ghost Bike

There is a ghost bike on our corner. It is painted white and chained to a pole, and commemorates a young girl who was killed there on September 11, 2010. Her name was Jasmine Herron, she was 23, and she was bicycling along busy Atlantic Avenue. A woman who had just parked “doored” her, opening her car door without looking, and knocking her off the bike, into the path of a city bus which crushed her.


You can see these ghost bikes around the city, each commemorating the death of a rider, placed there by Sometimes there is a story on a placard, others just a name and date of death, some just say that a death occurred there. All are sad.

This bike looked forlorn, so I bought some artificial flowers and leaves to add to it. I hate artificial flowers, but real ones would dry up in a day. There is a ring of dried flowers near one of the pedals.

The project started in New York back in 2005, and in 2010 the Sanitation Department announced that it would be removing abandoned bikes found chained to poles and posts, including the ghost bikes. There was a community outcry, and the plan was abandoned.

So now there are 116 ghost bikes around the city, to commemorate the 166 fatalities since 2005.

There is mutual hostility between drivers and bike riders in New York, and maybe in most places. The complaint here is that “professional” riders, such as messengers, who put a premium on fast delivery, blow through stop signs, and even mow down pedestrians. A few years back, in fact, three pedestrians were killed by cyclists, though there have been no pedestrian deaths in the past four years. On the other hand, 21 cyclists were killed last year, with only two prosecutions of the drivers.

One of the positive results of Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure (along with the cool sitting plazas in Midtown) has been the increase in the number and ubiquity of bike lanes throughout the city. His last hurrah may be the arrival of rental Citibikes. We have three stations within a five minute walk of our place in Brooklyn. These are something of a mixed blessing, however, as novices who likely haven’t ridden in years go lurching out into traffic, helmetless. Amazingly, there have as yet been no fatalities. Perhaps the bright blue color and the erratic steering alerts the drivers, and that may be to the benefit of all cyclists.


I am still afraid to ride in the city, perhaps because of a longstanding memory of being doored in Boston and landing on the hood of a car, to the applause of some construction workers. But I think I may be back in the saddle in the near future, heading down a bike lane to Prospect Park, where the cars are few and the bikers many.


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