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City of Lawrence supports ghost bike memorial to encourage cycli

Lawrence JournaL World & News: City of Lawrence supports ghost bike memorial to encourage cycling safety

By Mark Fagan
December 2, 2009

A temporary, two-wheel memorial to a fallen cyclist will be the first of perhaps dozens to spread out across Lawrence this spring.

The initial “ghost bike,” which will be an old bicycle painted white, will be the city’s first temporary memorial designed to raise awareness of cyclist safety. The bike will be displayed for three months at the edge of downtown Lawrence in honor of both Rachel Leek, who died after being struck on her own bike Oct. 16, and others who have been injured or killed while riding.

The movement also is spawning an even wider awareness effort. The city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee has endorsed plans to dispatch a larger array of ghost bikes at various locations throughout Lawrence during May, which is Bicycle Safety Month.

The goal is to draw attention to an important safety issue for both cyclists and drivers of motor vehicles alike, City Manager David Corliss said. While the city already posts “Share the Road” signs in town and distributes safety information on maps and other written communications, the ghost bikes will be expected to reach and affect people using an alternate approach.

“Sometimes it’s appropriate to not just have a sign, but to do something different,” Corliss said. “We just want to talk about what we can do, public-relations and educationwise, to encourage drivers to be more cognizant of bicyclists — and bicyclists to be more cognizant of their surroundings.”

Corliss and Lawrence city commissioners learned of the “ghost bike” movement from Dylan Medlock, a friend of Leek’s who suggested that the city accommodate his plans to honor the fallen KU student by painting a bike white, adding an awareness plaque and placing the memorial at the corner of Ninth and Tennessee streets, which would be less than two blocks north of where Leek died after a hit-and-run accident.

City officials soon agreed to allow a memorial to go up for three months along the east side of Tennessee, about 100 feet north of Eighth Street. Medlock is still working on the bike, and the city’s coordinator on the project has given him suggested wording for the plaque:

In memory of Lawrence’s community members who have been injured or lost their lives while cycling. Share the Road — Be cautious, compassionate and respectful.

The memorial will join dozens of other ghost bikes that already have appeared in more than 100 communities in the U.S. and abroad. Elsewhere, such stark displays have been chained to street signs and designed to recall both the memory of fallen riders while spurring others to recognize the rights of all cyclists to safe travel.

As Lawrence’s first bike is installed — expected sometime this month — officials will continue to work on securing bikes, gathering supplies and identifying sites for the larger “ghost bike” deployment in May, said Megan Gilliland, the city’s communications coordinator.

“It’s a unique visual to create awareness,” said Gilliland, who is coordinating the municipal effort. “It’s something the community does not have now, and it will create interest.”