Questioning Ghost Bike Barricades

Photo by maxedexposure

As a cyclist, I have two minds about the Alice Swanson Memorial that WABA organized.

On one hand, I do see it as a way to remind drivers and cyclists that we all need to share the road and respect each other a bit more, no matter our presumed importance or right of way.

On the other, doesn’t this memorial itself present a danger to cyclist and motorist alike? Pretty soon, this will become yet another obstruction on the sidewalk, no matter its good intentions, and by diverting pedestrians into the street, it will cause cyclist and driver alike to quickly swerve into each others’ path.

Might there be a better way to remind us of the dangers of metal vs. human? Maybe a painted chalk outline of a cyclist on pavement or a rumble strip shaped like a bike?

I for one, would rather have dedicated bike lanes instead of a dedicated ghost bikes.

Married, mortgaged, and soon to be a father, Wayan Vota is in the fast lane to mid-life respectability – until the day his brood finds his intimate journal of global traveling and curses him with the ever-eternal reply “I’m gonna be just like you, Dad!”

10 thoughts on “Questioning Ghost Bike Barricades

  1. Wayan, a couple of things.

    1) This ghost bike shown above isn’t in the path of any pedestrians so I see no danger in it. The only potential danger is for drivers “rubber necking” as they pass by.

    2) There is a dedicated bike lane on R street where Alice Swanson was killed.

  2. I second Max’s comments. The ghost bike is certainly not a “barricade” of any sort — it is not in any pedestrians’ way, but rather at the point of the large concrete triangle between 20th & Connecticut. There is also already a dedicated bike lane on R St, in which Alice was travelling.

    I would also remind you that in addition to being a reminder to passersby about the rights and safety of cyclists, the bike is also an important way for Alice’s friends and loved ones to commemorate her life and grieve her loss (like the flowers and crosses you see on the side of highways at crash sites). I hope you can see how a “painted chalk outline of a cyclist” or “rumble strip shaped like a bike” would not serve this purpose and would in fact be very hurtful to those of us who knew and loved her.

  3. Echoing those earlier comments, I think you’re creating a false choice between the memorial and bike lanes. Actually, the memorial will probably spur more people to want lanes.

  4. I went to see the Ghost Bike yesterday. It is a good tribute and doesn’t create a danger to cyclists or motorists. It was very moving to read the messages from her family and friends. I posted
    a video of the ghost bike
    on the bicyclespokesman blog (

  5. Look at this photo of the bike barricade – it does impede pedestrians crossing 20th Street. They’ll have to walk around the bike, either into Connecticut or farther into R than a driver expects.

    And those things you leave, L, what happens to them when they start to look disheveled? Just who will keep this memorial tidy a month or year from now?

    Most of all, I’d hope that Alice’s death could spur more, and longer lasting change. A Ghost Bike is good for those that knew her, but for the rest of the DC biking public, might she inspire us to think larger?

    What about the Alice Swanson Memorial Bike lane on Connecticut Ave from 20th to Chevy Chase Circle? That’s a memorial to inspire a whole city.

  6. I’m not usually one to comment on my fellow author’s posts, but the ghost bike memorial does not impede pedestrians in any way whatsoever. If you haven’t been there in person, please go check it out to see for yourself that you can walk by it without even coming close to Connecticut or R street. It’s really a non issue.

    As for how long the memorial will be there, that’s probably up to the WABA (, but I’m guessing it won’t be there for more than a month, definitely not a year.

    Lastly, a bike lane dedicated in her name is a fantastic idea.

  7. Have you been to the location? I think you may have your orientation a little wrong. There is no crosswalk over R Street at the location of the bike (where the man is standing in the picture is not a place where pedestrians cross. There is a crosswalk that passes across east-west across 20th, north of R, but no crosswalk between that pennisula and the island south of it.
    On the satellite view on GoogleMaps you can see that there is no crosswalk running north-south across R at the location of the bike. Pedestrians walking east-west across the pennisula would already have to walk north of the light pole to which the bike is affixed. As you can see in the picture, the bike is not impeding the curb cuts on either side of the pennisula.

    In regards to your larger question, yes, of course, the ghost bike is not permanent – it is not intended to be. I do not know at what point it will be taken down, or by whom (I assume her family will make that decision), but at this point it has been less than a week, and new people are still bringing things there everyday. Obviously I think a memorial bike lane for Alice or something similar would be great, but I think agree that you’ve set up a false choice between a short term memorial and a permanent one.

  8. I know that intersection very well. And I also know exactly how people cross it – directly from the peninsula, across R Street, and onto Conn Ave just in front of Cosi. No one takes the long loop over to 20th and then across R.

    The Ghost Bike now adds a few seconds to the crossing and makes the safety of the peninsula a little harder to reach from the south. Should people use the crosswalks instead? Sure, if crosswalks were on real path people took.

    And I know how long memorials stay up. Have you seen the teddy bear memorials where kids died? I have $5 that says this memorial will be there a year from now, with any talk of taking it down causing a whole other round of blog posts & comments.

  9. “maxedexposure”? Actually, he is pretty blinding sometimes, if the sun’s glinting off him just right.