The recent spate of tragic cyclist deaths in central London have brought ghost bikes to the attention of many road users, but what effect they do they have on would-be cyclists?
For the uninitiated, ghost bikes are white-painted bicycles fixed near the scene of a road accident where a cyclist has been killed or injured. Recently, the death of Min Joo Lee was marked by a ghost bike in Kings Cross and led to an accusation of corporate manslaughter against TfL.
Roadside memorials are a common sight (albeit often temporary) and ghost bikes are particularly striking – their aim not just to mark where a rider was killed but to serve as a caution to motorists and cyclists.
But do people understand their purpose? Gill Ord of Mosquito Bikes says: ‘Personally, I’m not sure other riders pay much attention.’ Chris Peck of CTC, the UK’s main national cycling organisation says: ‘While ghost bikes may help ensure road users pay more attention to one another, they make give the impression that cycling is more dangerous than it actually is.’ The latter view has attracted criticism – the As Easy As Riding A Bike blog suggests the CTC’s concern is over the message ghost bikes are sending out rather than the wider issues of cycling safety.
We tend to think that the ghost bikes themselves are less likely to put people off cycling than other reasons, such as a general fear for one’s safety in heavy traffic, common-or-garden laziness or practical reasons such as lack of bike parking. A quick straw poll amongst Londonist’s colleagues revealed both keen competition cyclists who believe road cycling is too dangerous and public transport users who would love to cycle but fear being knocked off or don’t have anywhere at work to keep a bike securely. We also came across someone who had cycled to work in the City regularly for ten years and never had a single accident.
We’d like to hear from cyclists and motorists alike. Might ghost bikes deter you from cycling? Tell us in the comments.