Ghost Bikes: Memorial, Raising Awareness Or Cycling Deterrent?

BethPH
By BethPH Last edited 77 months ago
Ghost Bikes: Memorial, Raising Awareness Or Cycling Deterrent?


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.

Last Updated 11 November 2011

jamesup

Great post.

I'm convinced people don't need to see these to know that cycling in London is badly provided for - if you're not a quick and confident rider, or without a sense of personal safety (like the Mayor) getting into cycling is really hard.

I'm very sad with the CTC's attitude to this, they are doing none of the heavy lifting on cycling safety and when they do intervene all they have to say is 'lets not talk about it'. Useless.

Mike Hewson

What really puts people off cycling is the perceived danger of riding in London's traffic. It's scary. Instead of squandering money on blue-painted cycle lanes and new Route Master buses we don't actually need, lets make the roads safer by reducing speed limits to 20mph, limiting the access of heavy goods vehicles, and designing road junctions that are pedestrian and cycle friendly (unlike the Blackfriars developement). I've been commuter cycling through the capital regularly for over 11 accident-free years, but I still find it scary out there.

Sanshomookie

I was run over by a skip lorry in 1996 with horrific injures. Back then, you took your own life in your hands as you left for the morning pedal to work. Though, it kind of work out beautifully (met my daughters mum...she was one of my nurses over a 3 month stay) i still have the pain..not great, but i get through..some how. What i'd really like is to chat/meet others who have been in..or real close the dangers we have to face on the roads..if only to feel like i'm not the only one who survives the massive changes in life that one faces after the collision . Please ride safe people  Jay x

tom wootton

jamesup & Mike Hewson otm. The ghost bikes don't put people off cycling, the heavy and often aggressive traffic does. I'm an experienced cyclist in London and I often feel intimidated. Cyclists trying out London's streets for the first time, or those thinking of doing so will be put off more than anything else by the thought of having to cycle in London motor traffic.

The ghost bikes are a thoughtful and attractive memorial to the victims of a far-too-common tragedy.

BethPH

Thank you all so far for your comments, it's really interesting to read. Sanshomookie - very sorry to hear about your terrible accident but wonderful that it turned out to be good news for your love life! 

Anyone who knows me on here will be aware that I'm pro-motoring but that doesn't make me anti-cycling and I'm keen to hear people's views. Personally, I don't think a blanket 20mph limit city-wide is the answer, like most things I feel there's more involved than simply cutting a speed limit and expecting it to solve everything. Mike has an excellent point about design of junctions and road planning and I really think this is key.

Aldhard

I believe that the view of Chris Beck from CTC is entirely wrong, Ghost bikes serve as memorials to riders killed at that spot and as a reminder that that spot is dangerous and other cyclist need to be made aware of it. They don't make sound that cycling is dangerous over all.
I cycled all over London in the Sixties, cycling to work on my own cycle, then cycling all over London, including through the City, delivering bundles of newspapers and magazines to companies without an accident or any mishaps with other vehicles.
Chris Becks viewpoint is entirely wrong.

Nigel Shoosmith

As you say, roadside memorials are a common sight. Do we see motoring organisations criticising memorials to car crash victims? So why does CTC have to even raise the subject of ghost bikes at all? 

Sam B

London just isn't designed for cycling. The small and narrow medieval roads leave just enough space for two horses and carts to pass each other. The reason why cycling works so well in cities such as Paris and Amsterdam is because of the wide lanes and real dedicated cycle lanes (not just bits of the road with blue on them that still constitute a portion of the drivable road). In order to see a decline in cycling deaths TFL has to make massive improvements to cycle routes, making them bike only and discouraging cars from travelling in certain areas of town. As someone who cycles over 100 miles a week in London I have seen my fair share of accidents and have had plenty of close calls. Something has to change if the government is really serious about convincing people to cycle.

The ghostbikes form a fitting reminder to drivers, cyclists and the government alike that a problem still exists with the eco friendly transport system in our capital, one thta needs to be addressed and not forgotten about.