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A ghost bike off of Gray's Inn Road in London

A ghost bike or ghostcycle is a bicycle set up in a place where a cyclist has been hurt or killed by a motor vehicle, as a roadside memorial and as a reminder to passing motorists to share the road. Ghost bikes are usually junk bicycles painted white, with a placard attached, and locked to a suitable object close to the scene of the accident. Many of these memorials are political statements erected by pro-cycling organizations who aim to make a wider point beyond personal loss regarding general road cyclist awareness.[1]


The ghost bike idea seems to have originated with a project by San Francisco artist Jo Slota. Slota began the original ghost bike project in April 2002. This was a distinct, purely artistic endeavor.[2] Slota was intrigued by the abandoned bicycles that he found around the city, locked up but stripped of useful parts. He began painting them white, and posted photographs on his website,[3] As the idea was taken up for different purposes, Slota faced a dilemma. San Francisco is one of the safer U.S. cities for bicyclists, but memorial ghost bikes sprang up there as elsewhere, changing perceptions of his project.[4]

The first ghost bike memorial project was in St. Louis, Missouri, United States in October 2003. After observing a motorist strike a bicyclist in a bike lane on Holly Hills Boulevard, Patrick Van Der Tuin placed a white-painted bicycle on the spot with a hand-painted sign reading "Cyclist Struck Here". Noticing the effect that this had on motorists in the area, Van Der Tuin then enlisted the help of friends to place 15 more "ghost bikes" in prominent spots in the St. Louis area where cyclists had recently been hit by automobiles.[5] They used damaged bikes, in some cases deliberately damaged to create the desired mangled effect.[6]

Similar projects began in Pittsburgh in 2004,[7] New York City,[8] Seattle in 2005,[1] and Chicago in 2006.[9] London Ghostcycle was active in 2005 and 2006.[10] There have been similar projects in dozens of other cities worldwide.[11]

In August 2005, the project in Seattle included the placing of almost 40 ghost bikes throughout the city to draw awareness to locations of accidents, near-misses, and poor road conditions.[1]

A ghost bike in Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C., commemorating a rider killed by a garbage truck in 2008, remained for a full year. When it was removed by city employees, friends of the rider replaced it with 22 ghost bikes, one on every lamppost.[12]

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