Ghost Bikes Memorial Ride Marks Another Year of Loss

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Grief, solidarity and resolve brought out two hundred New York cyclists yesterday for the third annual Ghost Bikes Memorial Ride, to commemorate cyclists killed by motor vehicle drivers last year.

At the Canal Street & Bowery triangle by the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge bike path, Steve Hindy raised his empty arms in a pantomime of a bike lift in honor of his son Sam, age 27, who died on Nov. 16 when he struck a barrier and fell to the bridge's lower roadway, where he was hit by a car.

"Sam died because he could not find his way," Steve told the throng, which had converged from separate feeder rides in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx and was squinting in the late-afternoon sun. "Look around and you'll see this area was designed for cars." Cars and nothing but cars, Steve might have said. And he might have said the same for every street the riders visited en route to 14 known sites of cycle fatalities in 2007. (Another 9 fatalities were consecrated at an "unknown cyclist" ghost bike installation on the Park Row sidewalk outside City Hall.)

The Brooklyn contingent alighted in mid-morning on Bay Parkway in Bensonhurst, at the ghost bike created for 18-year-old Mark Grichevsky, a senior at City-As-School and a veteran intern at Recycle-A-Bicycle. On May 29, Mark, who lived in Bensonhurst, was struck by a car while cycling. He was thrown from his bike and suffered fatal head injuries, despite wearing a helmet. He died four days later.

Several hours later, we were in Bushwick at the corner of Central & Palmetto Avenues, at a shrine marked with flowers, a cross and a kid-sized ghost bike. Last April 29, Anthony Delgado, age 13, was bike-riding with a friend when one SUV passing another went into Anthony's lane and killed him before speeding off. The family's own black GMC Envoy, a luxury SUV with license plate ANT94 marking Anthony's year of birth, was double-parked just up the block. "He wanted to be a car mechanic when he got older," said his mother. The Envoy's back windows were inscribed with tributes from Anthony's parents, his brother and three sisters.

Earlier, as we wended through Flatbush, Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy, two drivers had cursed at cyclists who were briefly "corking" -- crossing traffic so the riders could stay together. During this long stretch through the sprawling heart of Brooklyn, the family of 47-year-old Jeffrey Moore was waiting to meet us at Chauncey St. & Rockaway Ave. in Ocean Hill. Moore's sister Jade Oliver thanked the crowd for remembering Jeffrey, a construction worker and former amateur boxer, who was run over on his bike on May 29. Shaqwana Oliver, his niece, added: "I just want to thank you all for coming out and showing love to my uncle. We really appreciate you because we miss him so much.This just brings a lot of comfort to us. When people say you don’t care, you all just proved that people do care, so thank you."

Early in the morning of Oct. 18, 26-year-old Craig Murphey was killed by a turning fuel oil truck in East Williamsburg. The only witness, the truck driver himself, claimed that Murphey was racing the truck to the intersection. As Streetsblog previously reported, Murphey's friends say this would have been unlike Murphey, an experienced cyclist who rode daily from Brooklyn to his job in Harlem. It would also have required him to be riding away from his home in the wee hours of the morning.

Murphey was a social worker with the West Harlem Action Network Against Poverty and a member of Right Rides, a group that provides late-night rides and walks home to GLBT populations vulnerable to assault. The leader of the Brooklyn ride and a key Ghost Bikes organizer, Ryan Kuonen, fought back tears as she spoke at Craig's site: "This is someone I happened to know, though not well, mostly from passing him on the streets and on the bridge. Every ghost bike is made with a lot of love, and this one is especially so. Every time a biker is hit I wonder if it's someone I know. This time it was."

Ryan, who rallied the riders at every stop during the long day, was one of dozens who researched the crashes, installed the ghost bikes, designed the routes, got the word out, reached out to families and attended to countless details. For this writer, who helped start the Street Memorial Project over a dozen years ago, yesterday's ride, with hundreds of cyclists fanning out across the city in a perfectly choreographed ensemble, was a dream come true, despite the nightmarish context.

The final stop was City Hall. Consistent with its marginalization of cyclists in death as in life, the NYPD provided only a single "security check" line for cyclists to enter the sanctum of City Hall plaza. Judging the wait to be at least a half-hour, emotionally spent from the ride, and contemplating my own precious family, I got on my bike and pedaled home.

Photo: darko666/Flickr