Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ghost Bikes

An interesting phenomenon is happening around the country as bicycles and cars get into more scrapes and the cyclists come out on the bottom - literally. Called "Ghost Bikes," they're similar to the little road-side crosses and flowers you see on major highways, where people have lost their lives.

In fact, they're similar in more ways than just calling attention to the fact that people have died there: they're testimonial to the idea that casualties are just par for the course in the American automobile experience. A few deaths on the highway or on the street are just "to be expected," and are seen as acceptable in order to make sure that everyone can get where they're going as fast as they want.

Um... how wrong is that? Is getting from A to B as quickly as possible so important that we accept the deaths of innocent people? And let me take this one step further (and a step that is likely to piss off lots of motorists): is the death of a bicyclist on the road acceptable simply because the bicyclist was "risking his own life" by riding on a road (which is just as much his as it was the car's)?

Our study of the Columbus traffic code regarding bikes shows that bikes BELONG on the street. And they have every right to be there, and every right to expect that motorists are going to look before they turn, and not speed up on cyclists, nor sideswipe them, nor try to outrun them, etc.

Here in Columbus, we haven't had many bicycle deaths. I can't recall hearing about any since I've moved here ten years ago. There probably have been a few, but I haven't noticed as I only started paying serious attention to cycling here recently. But I think that starting up a ghost bike project here in Columbus might get people to think a bit.

Paul Dorn, in his commentary on Critical Mass and the effect it has had on the city of San Francisco, said some great and poignant things about streets, which I'm going to quote here:
"What are streets for? Are streets places where kids play ball, where young adults play pickup soccer, where parents teach their children to ride bikes, where neighbors meet and talk? Are streets places where lovers stroll, shoppers browse, spontaneous human theatre and people watching flourishes? Are streets places for festivals, fairs, parades and block parties? Are streets places for rallies, marches, demonstrations? In short, are streets "public spaces" that nurture community? Or are they simply utilitarian corridors for automobile traffic?"
Simple, yet true. It's time to take the streets back for all of us, not just for the cars. I encourage every Columbus resident who values his streets and his right to ride bikes to do what he can to support the Ghost Bike movement. God forbid we start having large numbers of bicycle fatalities here in Columbus, that is.

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