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“Ghost bikes” arrive in L.A. to commemorate cyclists

Bicycle accidents have deprived Southern California of loved ones: mothers, neighbors, sons, coworkers, cousins, friends – young and old. Many L.A. residents now have a missing piece in their life where their loved one once was.

One man sought to honor lost cyclists when he began Ghost Bikes in 2003. Whenever a cyclist suffers a fatal accident, Danny Gamboa takes a bicycle and a can of white spray paint to create a public memorial. Gamboa locks the bikes to street signs nearby the crash and invites their friends and family to place candles and flowers around the wheels. The all-white bikes remind both passerby and the cyclist’s loved ones of their life.

Although the Los Angeles government seeks to eliminate traffic accidents altogether, initiatives aren’t helping as much or as quickly as lawmakers expected. L.A. Weekly reports that, on average, a life is lost on the road every 40 hours. Despite the government’s promises and goals to improve bicycle safety, Gamboa and his fellow bicycle safety advocates are not satisfied with ongoing efforts. He is skeptical of the notion that more tickets and fines will change enough to prevent collisions.

No family wants a ghost bike in place of their beloved cyclist. Tragic bicycle accidents have severe emotional consequences and can sometimes also bring financial hardship to a household. These empty-seated memorials are bittersweet, reminding residents of persistent dangers that contribute to fatal accidents. However, they also celebrate the life of those who loved cycling as well as raise awareness to protect bike riders in the future.