'Ghost bikes' are grim reminders

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They appeared late Monday around Allegheny County, 14 bicycles painted a ghostly white and chained to poles with a cryptic sign: "Cyclist Struck Here."

A bicycle is chained with a sign "Cyclist Struck Here, Ghostbike.Org" at the intersection of Wood Street and Boulevard of the Allies while Jon Reiland rides his bike back to his office during Downtown rush hour. (Lake Fong, Post-Gazette)

The roadside memorials are the work of Ghost Bike Pittsburgh, a loosely organized group of bicycle enthusiasts seeking to improve the lot of bicyclists in a sometimes hostile world.

"That's all we're going for, is for people to know that cyclists have been hit," group member Brad Quartuccio, 22, of Bloomfield, said yesterday. "Some people have lots of respect. The problem is, it only takes one motorist to have no respect."

Ghost Bike Pittsburgh is made up of 10 to 15 people, bicycle riders all. Quartuccio, for example, works for Dirt Rag magazine, a Pittsburgh-based bicycle publication.

They decided upon the project about a month ago, following publication of an article in February's edition of Dirt Rag about a St. Louis man who launched just such a campaign, Quartuccio said. The group has a common goal, but no leader.

"Nobody's really in charge," he said. "It's just a group of concerned cyclists who got together and decided to do it."

After getting the word out through conversations and the Internet, Ghost Bike Pittsburgh received as donations 14 broken bicycles destined for the scrap heap.

The group smashed the bikes, slathered them with white house paint and "deployed" them Monday between about 9:30 p.m. and midnight.

Quartuccio said the group compiled information about accident sites, coming up with more than 14. They allocated the bicycles first to places where fatal accidents had occurred -- such as the 4100 block of Irvine Street in Hazelwood, where Robert Hemelrick, 32, of Hazelwood, was struck and killed Jan. 27 -- and then to sites where their members had been hit.

They followed that with places thought to be the most visible. In the end, they left bikes Downtown and in the North Side, South Side, Braddock Hills and Penn Hills, chained and padlocked to street signs.

In a news release, the group described Pittsburgh as having "an uninviting transportation infrastructure, a government reluctant to accommodate their needs, and a set of laws that leans toward the rights of motorists and ignores unprotected bicyclists."

Its goal with the ghost bike project is simple: "to help Pittsburgh become a city where cyclists and motorists can coexist, to the benefit of both groups."

Lake Fong/Post-Gazette

A bicycle is chained with a sign "Cyclist Struck Here, Ghostbike.Org" at the intersection of Wood Street and Boulevard of the Allies while Jon Reiland rides his bike back to his office during Downtown rush hour.


Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962.


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