By Ellen Jean Hirst
10:23 p.m. CDT, June 6, 2013
Source : Chicago Tribune
Alternative to white ‘ghost bikes’ floated by Chicago personal injury attorney
Matt Willens, a Chicago personal injury lawyer, likes the idea of ghost bikes but doesn’t like what happens to them over time.
Painted white from their spokes to their handlebars and often decorated with flowers and a sign to memorialize killed cyclists, the bikes are sometimes defaced, stolen or removed.
As an alternative to ghost bikes, Willens’ law firm at 30 N. LaSalle St. is planning to donate a ghost bike rack for each cyclist who falls victim to a fatal accident and bolt it to the sidewalk. The white racks would serve as memorials to the deceased cyclists, placed near the sites where they were killed. They would also be functional, allowing cyclists to lock up their bikes.
Although he’d prefer not to install any, Willens said, he already received a call Thursday from a friend of Robert “Bobby” Cann, an avid Chicago cyclist who was struck and killed while riding in Old Town on May 29.
“There’s a sadness at my law firm when we get a call about someone who’s catastrophically injured or killed,” Willens said.
John Morrison, a Chicago photographer, lost one of his friends in a cycling accident in 2008. It was four days before Tyler Fabeck’s birthday, and he was up for a promotion when he was struck and killed underneath the interstate overpass on North Western Avenue.
A ghost bike has been at the site ever since.
“I think a ghost bike is a beautiful piece to (memorialize) someone who not only lived and loved cycling, but it’s also a piece to remind people to slow down, be aware,” Morrison said.
He thinks the visual impact of a ghost bike is greater than that of a bike rack — and suggested the two might be able to work together.
“I love the idea of the ghost bike rack,” Morrison said. “I think it’d be a great thing if there were a ghost bike on it.”
Willens plans to speak with Cann’s family to make sure members want a memorial before he purchases the bike rack and works with the city and nearby businesses to bolt it to the sidewalk near where Cann died, in the 1300 block of North Clybourn Avenue.
Julie Hochstadter, director of a Chicago cyclists’ online community called The Chainlink, said sometimes friends want the memorials but families think they’re too painful.
“There have been some issues sometimes with families … who don’t want it up,” said Hochstadter, who has helped coordinate ghost bike efforts in the past.
Hochstadter said some ghost bikes, which first appeared in 2003 in St. Louis, have been vandalized or had handlebars and other parts stolen. Sometimes they disappear.
Willens said it would be harder to steal a ghost bike rack, and that complaints about the memorials becoming eyesores and having no practical use would become null. The bike racks would serve a purpose, especially as the city pushes to get more two-wheel travelers on the streets.
“I don’t see many downsides to it,” Willens said.
Anyone who wants to inquire about the ghost bike racks can call Willens’ law firm at 312-957-4166 or use the online contact form at willenslaw.com.