Ghost bikes on a mission to keep cycling safe in cities

Ghost bikes on a mission to keep cycling safe in cities

It happens in Munich, Madrid, Houston and many other cities around the world. White bikes pop up in cities as memorials for cyclists who are killed or hit on the street. They are called Ghost bikes and they are on a mission to keep cycling safe in cities.

It was Patrick van der Tuin who first placed a Ghost bike in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2003 after witnessing an accident which killed a cyclist. The action by this citizen had such an impact on drivers as well as cyclists that many more bikes sprang up around the city and the initiative spread virally worldwide.

Ghost Bike memorials are very easy to create. A bicycle is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the crash site, accompanied by a small plaque. Anyone can make and install a Ghost bike; you don’t need permission from anyone to do so.

This symbolic action is making citizens reconsider their safety and think twice if they are cycling or driving carefully enough.

It is the power of art that stimulate citizens to think a little. The truth is that the ghost bike idea in the United States may have been inspired by a purely artistic endeavour by San Francisco artist Jo Slota. In April 2002 he started painting abandoned bikes white. When he found out that white bikes were spreading along the US, he had mixed feelings about it. However, isn’t it great if an urban art project inspired a form of creative activism to keep cycling safe in cities?

In Munich once a year cyclists organize a “Ride of Silence”. Dressed in white they place Ghost bikes to remember the victims and raise awareness about safe cycling.

Due to high levels of air pollution provoked by cars, cities are hungry for projects to become bike-friendly cities. Safety is turning citizens off cycling. For instance in Munich, a bike-friendly city, five to ten cyclists lose their lives due to car accidents yearly. Bike lanes are not enough to make cycling safe in cities. It is more about changing driving and cycling habits.

In the meantime, is cycling in cities worth the risk? Not only does cycling provide a healthier lifestyle, it gives citizens the kind of freedom that is essential to the future vitality of cities.

You can help create a global map of ghost bikes to portray the global impact of the project.

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