The Ghosts of Cyclists That Haunt City Streets
Jan 10, 2018
What if, rather than in cemeteries, tombstones were placed at the exact location of the deceased’s final moments? That’s the premise of the ghost bike: a white bicycle, often covered with flowers and a plaque, that is chained to a fence or a street sign as a memorial of a life lost in a cycling accident there. Since the first ghost bike was anointed by a bike mechanic who witnessed an accident in 2003 in St. Louis, Missouri, the project has spread to over 200 major cities around the world. But nowhere are ghost bikes more common than in New York City, where a dedicated team of volunteers builds and maintains the city’s hundreds of memorials. According to the project’s website, the white bikes “serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, and as quiet statements in support of cyclists' right to safe travel.”
Brooklyn resident Mirza Molberg began volunteering with the local ghost bike project in 2011. In 2016, his girlfriend, Lauren Davis, was fatally struck by a car on her bicycle en route to work. Hours after the accident, Molberg stopped at the site of Davis’s death. “There was no evidence [of the accident],” he said. “I created Lauren’s ghost bike the following week.”
Ethan Brooks’s short documentary, Ghost Bike, tells Molberg’s story. Much like the spectral bikes themselves, the film renders a personal tragedy universal.
“When you pass a ghost bike, there's always this moment of introspection,” Brooks told The Atlantic. “No matter how comfortable you are on the road, or absorbed in your own thoughts, a ghost bike snaps you back to reality. The placement of each bike, in the very spot where a cyclist was killed, makes the memorial personal, especially if you pass it often.”
Or, as Molberg says in the film, “it’s a reminder that I could end up as a ghost bike in just a second.”
Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.