The Ghost Bikes of NYC

07/27/2010 at 3:41 am

Since I accidentally started a trend of finding real and ghost planes in Google Maps last week, I figured I would follow that up with a post on ghost bikes. These bikes are real (although upon investigation, many ARE missing). The bikes, painted white and chained to street furniture, serve as a memorial to those that have died in cycling accidents in those locations. In June, the city’s Sanitation Department announced a plan to remove bikes deemed “derelict” (with missing parts), and even went as far to call them “eyesores.” This led to an expected public outcry, causing the city to back out of its plan, relieving countless family members and the community group,  Street Memorial Project, that installs the bikes.

I pass the ghost bike on the cross-park section of 66th street several times a week and it never fails to strike a chord. When I heard of the city’s removal plan, I sent photographer Christoffer Delsinger (responsible for the tip on the Bushwick plane) and writer Amanda Chatel to investigate the ghost bike situation. Armed with the map from ghostbikes.org (which has ghostbike maps of not only NYC but all over the world), they went on a mission. If the city hadn’t conceded to public outcry, I was going to do a photographic documentation of all the bikes remaining. Amanda reported that she “found it quite sad that most of them are no longer up” (at least around Soho). Here are some additional snapshots that Amanda got:

New York City’s transportation commissioner, Janet Sadik-Khan proclaimed this year that New York City is the “bicycling capital of the United States.” There has been some debate as to the validity of that claim, and I would personally like to see a public bike system like Paris’s Velib (already in  Denver, and now Chicago!) and streets that are more friendly towards mass transportation and cyclists. It IS possible and here’s a great recent article on how Paris has reclaimed its streets, regardless of width. “The street is ours,” goes a French saying.

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    • Lauren says:


      Every day I pass the ghost bike of 8 year old Alexander Tolouse (Livingston & Boerum Pl.) who was killed by a postal truck in 2008, and I feel a pang of sadness. Not only are these bikes a beautiful and creative way to remember a life lost, but they’re a reminder to practice utmost safety, whether on bike or foot.

      I’m still interested in seeing your artistic photographic interpretation of all the ghost bikes throughout New York City so please keep us updated.

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