Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ghost Bikes

Spread throughout the city are bikes painted white and left chained to street signs. Some have placards, some have flowers in a handlebar basket. Every single one of them is placed at the site of a biker's death. Every single one is a ghost bike serving as a reminder and memorial to a biker's life and the pursuit of safe streets for all.

Ghost bikes are an international phenomenon that began in New York City in 2005. 67 bikes are placed around the city. Between 1996 and 2005, 225 bicyclists were killed in NYC. Between 1996 and 2003, 3,462 bicyclists were seriously injured.

Now that NYC is finally beginning a large-scale bike-share program and cyclist numbers in general are rising, it is more important than ever that Mayor Bloomberg and all of NYC commit to making the streets safer for bikers and pedestrians. The plazas at Times Square and Union Square help, and so do the dedicated bike and bus lanes along the East Side. The next steps should be eliminating free parking for cars, installing speed bumps on more city streets, and lowering the speed limit throughout the city by 5 mph. The first would raise revenue that could be used to help fund the MTA or pay for bike lane upgrades and the last two would make the streets safer by forcing drivers to slow down.

As a biker myself, I am often struck at how fast many drivers will go when there is a single block of free pavement ahead of them while being fully aware of the red light ahead of them. Every time they have to stop hard on their brakes to make the light or pause for a pedestrian finishing to cross the street, that hurts their brakes and shortens the length of their car's life. It also uses more gasoline than needed. It also kills pedestrians and cyclists. The ghost bikes remind us all that we need safer streets. Our lives depend on it.

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