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Ghost Bike Memorials in Chicago (Memorials for Deceased Cyclists)

chicago-ghost-bike-memorials In the US alone, more than 32,000 cyclists are injured and killed each year. This means we see at least one ghost bike in Chicago every week because someone was hit by a car or truck.

It's heartbreaking to think about all those families who lost their loved ones for no reason other than trying to get from point A to B on two wheels instead of four.

Did you lose a loved one in a bicycle accident? Are you seeking financial compensation for your damages? At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our injury attorneys are legal advocates for injured cyclists harmed by another's negligence.

Contact a Chicago bicycle accident attorney at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone number) or use the contact form today for legal advice and schedule a free consultation. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through an attorney-client relationship.

The tragic death of any individual in a preventable bicycle accident always hits home to the people who loved that person most.

The best way to honor the people we've lost is to use our experiences to make others respect our loss so that others don't have to endure the same pain we have.

Chicago ghost bike memorials are an excellent way to honor those bicyclists who died in accidents resulting from a driver's careless or reckless behavior or failure to share the road respectfully.

A Brief History of Ghost Bikes

The first recorded ghost bike was recorded in St. Louis, which prompted the ghost bike movement originally started in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2003 by Patrick van der Tuin after witnessing a motorist striking a cyclist traveling in a protected bicycle lane.

Patrick's vision was to raise awareness in St. Louis and other cities worldwide to show prominent spots of the cyclist's death using a sign specifying the "Cyclist Struck Here."

The white-painted bicycle has a hand-painted sign reading "Cyclists Demand Respect," something the bicyclist community is still looking for on many Chicago roads. More than 100 people commemorated the cyclist's death and showed up to remember Patrick van der Tuin and honor his memory.

The very first ghost bicycle was a haunting reminder of the death of a bicyclist who was hit by a motorist strike. After that, other bikes began to appear in the area to memorialize other fallen cyclists.

Over 630 of these ghost bikes are placed across 28 countries, but this number is far too small by all accounts.

Each ghost bike is painted completely white to symbolize the end of the victim's life and accompanied by a plague that honors the individual.

It reminds those passing by of the fact that those harmed in bike accidents are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers to people whose lives are forever altered by their passing.

Chicago and other cities' ghost bikes also provide closure and a means of coping following tragic bicycle accidents and allow victims' families to remember their loved ones.

Ghost Bikes-Chicago Style

With the city's installation of numerous bike lane areas, the Chicago bike scene has reached new heights. Many cyclists enjoy cycling for recreation, and others commute to and from work, shopping, and school.

There are so many bicycles on the streets of Chicago. You might have to wait at a stoplight next to one or cross paths with one while walking down the street. Cyclists are everywhere, and they're easy to spot by their bright colors and helmet-clad heads.

It's almost impossible not to be excited by the sight of an orange city bike whizzing down one of Chicago's many busy streets. Chicago is a bicyclist's haven, and that's awesome! If everyone drove home safely after work or school every day, we'd not need ghost bikes to remember all those cyclists who did not make it home alive.

There are ghost bikes all over the country, in every state, but not all of them are in Chicago. And while some cities have to look up what a ghost bike is because they've never heard of this memorial to cyclists killed on the road, many Chicagoans know exactly why these ghost bikes are here.

The Ghost Bike Project and Chicago

The Ghost Bike Project is an independent local bicycling organization operated by volunteers without any dedicated staff or offices. This group is responsible for Chicago's ghost bikes.

They have been working hard in Cook County to place memorials for those killed while riding on the streets of their community. They work with other groups like Every Bike is a Gift, Active Transportation Alliance, and the West Town Bikes to get more ghost bikes placed around Chicago.

In Cook County, many volunteers have installed ghost bike memorial pieces in the location where the accident occurred, while others have placed the bicycle on streets that are hotspots for cyclists to memorialize bicyclists who were killed there.

The organization's ultimate goal is to see every ghost bicycle completely painted white-a sign of respect and honor of someone who lost their lives doing something they loved-but. But, they know this won't happen until roads are safer for cyclists.

A Rundown of Recent Ghost Bikes in Chicago

The Chicago Ghost Bike representing the death of David Zolkowski was installed near where he was killed on Clybourn Avenue and Larrabee Street, where motorist Anthony Scott has been charged with reckless homicide. His memorial service is a stark reminder of what can happen when a motorist loses their temper at cyclists on the road.

Another ghost bike memorial was placed where a truck driver killed Anastasia Kondrasheva in December 2013 to raise awareness for concerned citizens.

Her completely white ghost bicycle is located in Augusta near Huron. It offers pedestrians and cyclists a chance to pause and reflect on the life of this young Russian woman whose life was tragically cut short at age 22.

At least four other ghost bikes have been placed in Chicago in the past few years. These painted damaged bikes will remain there as long as they need to be given to passing motorists along the city's protected bike lanes.

The Woman Behind Chicago's Ghost Bikes

Kristen Green, a Chicago area resident, began the ghost bike movement here in 2011 with her first memorial for Clarence "Bud" Meeks.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Green is responsible for painting and placing dozens of Chicago Ghost Bikes all around Chicagoland and continues to do so today.

She is also responsible for installing six white bicycles near six bridges across the Chicago River to honor 11 individuals who died in the same accident.

Despite her good intentions, some people find it disrespectful to memorialize victims of accidents because each ghost bike is placed next to the scene where the cyclist was killed. Some landlords remove them as well.

She wishes to make the ghost bike group unnecessary as Chicagoans drive safer on city streets, avoiding too many bicycle accidents. Currently, Chicago has more ghost bikes than any other city in America.

Take Action to Help the Ghost Bikes Movement

If you would like to help Green keep the movement going, there are several ways you can do this.

One of these ways is by sponsoring a ghost bike for $300 or donating that amount to one of the many GoFundMe accounts Green has established.

Another way to help is by buying a ghost bike T-shirt. One hundred percent of the proceeds go toward supporting the project.

Finally, you can contact Kristen Green at ghostbikechi.org if you are interested in learning more about getting involved because there are several ways people can assist.

How to Make Ghost Bikes to Honor the Fallen

When you create your ghost bike, it is important to protect it from theft and the possibility of removal, so the materials used and the memorial's location must be chosen carefully.

Many bike shops will be happy to donate junk bicycles, especially when you explain the purpose. However, thieves usually only target functional bikes, so once you've acquired your bike, be sure to remove the cables, grips, brakes, and any other part that you will not need for the memorial.

Once you've acquired your bicycle, it is pretty easy to turn it into a ghost bike:

  • The first step is to degrease and thoroughly clean the bike. Dirt and grime will harm the finish of the paint, so this step is important.
  • Use primer paint just as you would if you were painting a wall in your home. The only difference is that you should use a spray primer and paint as it will be much easier to create an even coat. The tires, seat, and any part of the bike that bears visible rust should receive two coats of primer, and a single coat should suffice for the rest.
  • Use flat white spray paint and apply the same number of coats as a primer. Don't disturb the bike for a day while it dries.
  • Rather than riding the ghost bike, carry it because riding it will remove some paint, especially tires.

Making the Honorary Plaque

You have numerous options to consider when making the plaque to place on your ghost bike. Most of the plaques contain a message written on paper and then laminated, but you can contact artists who can stencil, silkscreen, or hand paint the plaque.

The choice is completely up to you—don't hesitate to explain what you are doing to the people you ask to assist you because they may offer to contribute for free.

Choosing a Location and Placing the Memorial

Secure ghost bikes in the same manner, you would secure your own because thieves or those unsympathetic to your cause may try to remove them otherwise. Lock both wheels and choose a post or sign that is sturdy and securely in place.

Avoiding locations that could interfere with traffic or the ability of pedestrians to pass is also advisable as this decreases the chances that people will challenge your right to place and keep the monument.

One effective method of securing the bike and making it difficult for others to tamper with it is to secure it with bolts and nuts and then strip the threading or bend the ends of the bolts. It makes it much more difficult for people to pry the bolts away if they intend to remove the memorial.

Once you've determined the location, use chalk to identify your cycling path. It will help motorists and pedestrians understand what is happening at the memorial site.

Combating Political Challenges to Ghost Bikes

It is legal for anyone to construct a memorial to honor a fallen loved one, and it is for this reason we often see memorials at corners where people have been killed in car accidents. Honoring fallen cyclists is no different, but there have been political hurdles to overcome for people wishing to honor their loved ones with ghost bikes.

Most of the time, the challenge is issued by a local group and can be solved locally with the public's assistance or a legal representative.

If you place a ghost bike and someone threatens to remove it, contact the media and the public to draw attention to the intent to remove your memorial. In addition, ask a lawyer who supports your right to place and maintain the memorial to write a letter to the conflicting individuals or agencies.

Vandalism of Ghost Bikes

While it is a sad truth that ghost bikes are often subject to vandalism or theft, it is a reality that can be minimized. You should always use the best locks when securing your bike from tampering, and you should avoid painting the bike in bright colors because this makes it easier to identify.

Regarding vandalism, consider stenciling your name on the bike with chalk so that people caught damaging the memorial can be identified.

You may also want to tag or label your ghost bike with stickers bearing a web address of this website because some thieves will steal them in the hopes of finding information about how to get rid of the memorial.

Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC fully supports the right of everyone to honor bicyclists who have been killed in this manner and would be willing to assist through a contingency fee agreement.

Submit a Photo of Your Ghost Bike

We want to help you honor your loved ones through the creation and placement of Chicago ghost bikes and will be happy to help you spread the word to others.

If you submit a photo of your ghost bike to us, we will place it on our website and include any additional information you would like us to include about the person you wish to honor and the circumstances of their passing.

We hope that creating more memorials like yours will alert others to the dangers all bicyclists must be aware of and remind them of their responsibility to prevent bicycle accidents.

Ghost Bike Memorials in Chicago Resources:

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