Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Saving the Ghost Bikes

Today a hearing is being held before the public by the City's Department of Sanitation to decide how to dispense of bicycles that have been abandoned on the streets--including ghost bikes.

The proposed regulation would allow the New York Department of Sanitation to remove any and all bicycles if they are affixed to public property and are clearly damaged, either with parts missing or 75 percent rusted, after 30 days.  Ghost bikes would also be removed, though bikes attached to bike racks or with seats and wheels missing --are not included.

Owners would be given five days to remove the derelict bike after the Department of Sanitation affixes a notice to the property.

Bikes that have been left attached to a lamppost, tree or any other street fixture and have been subsequently vandalized to the point of no longer being useful, should be removed after 30 days, agreed Irit Kafkafi, who started a movement to remove the damaged bikes from her neighborhood on the Lower East Side. She said that the number of abandoned bikes have multiplied and invite vandalism to newer bikes that are actually in use.

She doesn't however agree that Ghost Bikes, the bikes that are painted white, and are intentionally left in the spot to memorialize where a cyclist has been hit and killed, should be removed--ever.

"Those bike are intentionally rendered unusable and should remain standing as a memorial and a reminder," said Kafkafi, the founder of Rack and Roll.  Listening to the accounts by family members today at the hearing brought her to tears, she said.
As a reminder of who has been left behind, see the video of Ellen Foote, mother of 27-year old Sam Hindy who was killed on the Manhattan Bridge on November 16, 200, published by GhostBikes.org.

Kafkaki rides a bike wherever she goes and totes three locks with her to make sure her bike is not vandalized. She has two grown children and one of them is currently in China providing bike tours there.

EB Belcher who helps run GhostBikes.org for New York was similarly adamant that the white painted bikes should not be removed. Like the flowers, crosses and other memorabilia that are placed on a roadside after car accidents, ghost bikes memorialize the lives --and senseless deaths--of bike riders.

The organization now has movements in 21 countries, and it is astounding to see how many people around the world have been killed by drivers while riding their bikes.

The reality is that the city has long had the right to remove bicycles and other vehicles  under Title 16:125 of the city administrative code, that refers to automobiles and other movable property.  The Department of Sanitation also has the right to make its own rules without consulting the public if they deem it necessary for the safety and cleanliness of New York City.

EB Belcher who is a champion for Ghost Bikes in New York said there are several deficiencies in the language of the regulation, making it too vague and likely to include bicycles that have not been abandoned, but have been vandalized or have slow leaks or other issues.

Many bikes are also often crushed by car drivers who back into them, and then leave the scene. Belcher said the city should also create a notification process that tracks bikes and allows owners and interest groups to respond.

"We suggest that this could take the form of a public database, website, or email list. The rules as proposed do not include an appeals process if any person wishes to challenge a bike's designation as derelict," she said.

However, the Bloomberg administration in unlikely to promulgate a regulation that strikes at the heart of cyclists who are one of the "favorite" causes of the administration.

So far no similar legislation has been proposed across the river in New Jersey: a ghost bike for Camille Savoy who was struck and killed in November 2008 on Route 9W, a popular bike route from New York City to Nyack, NY, has not been removed since it was affixed in December 2008.  Flowers appear regularly at the site.

For that ceremony which brought 100 cyclists to the location where he was struck on a snowy day, the Closter Police dept attended and stood guard on the roadside.

Savoy's family was not as lucky: the driver was acquitted of any wrongdoing even though police showed that she had traveled more than one and a half feet over the white line into the road's shoulder, hitting Savoy with such force that she broke his bicycle in half and crushed his skull. Savoy was wearing a helmet.

1 comment:

genea barnes said...

I wanted to reach out to the bicycle community and let them know about a kickstarter that I am launching to fund a month long road trip to finish the shooting for my ghost bike project. Hopefully, you forward and repost this link and maybe even become a backer (every dollar helps). I greatly appreciate you taking the time to look at this link and pass it along.

Check out the project here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1004330446/the-ghost-bike-project

Thank you!!