24 Comment

  • RIP Alice, but perpetual memorials aren’t really a great idea for obvious reasons. It was there a year which seems more than enough to me.

  • “Obvious” reasons? You’re going to have to list them, because they aren’t obvious to everyone.

    The city persistently removed a couple of Ghost bikes in LA until someone started welding the bikes to the light and sign posts. Now they leave them alone.

  • Obviously, jmg, if memorials to deceased individuals were never removed, there would be no space on earth left for the living. In case you hadn’t noticed, the dead outnumber us, and we’re not getting the upper hand any time soon.

    I think it was a nice memorial, very evocative. And I think it’s fine for it to be removed after a year.

  • it’s public property, that’s why. i doesn’t matter how noble the cause, co-opting public property should never be allowed. period. i think the city showed a great deal of compassion by allowing the bike to sit there for a year. it’s time for it to go. if the bike association wants a permanent memorial then they should pursue that through the proper zoning channels. with a little effort im sure they could convince Fenty (an avid rider himself) to create a more formal/permanent memorial.

  • It was more than a memorial to one person who died. It was a reminder to everyone to stop and be careful and respect each other on the road. It was well maintained and was not causing any problems.

    CAHBF: Yes, please elaborate on these “obvious reasons” because I can’t think of any.

    WDC: Yes, everyone does die, this is very true. Not everyone dies by getting hit by a trash truck on their morning commute. If a memorial can serve as an important reminder surrounding tragic circumstances I see no problem.

  • Regardless of your feelings about the memorial, the removal isn’t going to make the city look good in the eyes of many cyclists.

  • @ro So are you volunteering to drive the regions highways and byways, removing roadside cross after roadside cross?

  • Many people die every day, every month, every year due to the unfortunate negligence of another. Many people die every day, every month, every year even though they were simply doing the innocent trappings of the day. If every one of those persons were to have a memorial on public space, you’d have very little public space left.

    The memorial was nicely done and was allowed up for a year, it’s time for it to be moved off public space. If the mourners of the victim and others want to erect a permanent memorial to killed bicyclists nothing is stopping them from going through proper channels to get one done the right way, not by squatting.

    This opinion isn’t meant to attack bicyclists (I am one), the victim, or the mourners. Public space is all of the public’s, there has to be a process where folks are accountable to erect permanent structures on public property.

  • I think this was a thoughtful and well done memorial and I also think it was time to come down after a year. I agree that if the community wants to seek a permanent memorial to Alice (and/or all tragic bike deaths), they should go through the proper channels to do so.

    I think Qbert said it best on DCist “What about pedestrians (should we start placing mannequins as “ghost pedestrians?”)”

    How about those killed in tragic gun deaths? Should there be perpetual memorials to each of them? If so, would the living be able to walk down Columbia Road?

  • Regardless of whether or not you believe that the memorial should stay in perpetuity, I think most would agree that the decision of the Mayor’s office to remove the bike without consulting Alice’s family or the biking community (via WABA) was callous and hurtful.

  • I pass the ghost bike regularly, and never notice much more than flowers in the basket. It’s a well tended memorial. It can have no more of an impact on businesses than newspaper boxes, or trash cans. Sure it’s public space that’s been “co-opted”, but the memorial hasn’t co-opted public space any more than the signs that business owners put on the sidewalks. I assume Ro will be taking care of those signs this afternoon.

  • taamoore, agreed. Mayor Fenty and some of his staff continually demonstrate that they don’t really give a shit about the people who live under their governance.

  • the same people crying for keeping the bike are probably the same ones who yell and complain that the stuffed animals taped to light posts should be taken down. After a year, if the memorial meant that much, someone should have contacted the city, or arranged for something more than an ad-hoc memorial. Yes, it’s touching and I’m grateful the city left it remain for so long, the stuffed animals and other temporary memorials get the same treatment. Just because it’s well tended doesn’t mean it should stay. Regarding roadside crosses, they disappear. On I-70 I’ve seen many appear and disappear over the years.

    Glover park: signs usually require a permit or are part of the businesses license.

  • I agree that this one seems more tasteful and well-tended than most, and its ostensible consciousness-raising function is admirable, but at the end of the day, let’s be honest: if this were a bunch of teddy bears, flowers, pictures, and malt liquor bottles for some kid who fell victim to crew violence in the same spot, there wouldn’t be so much as a peep out of anyone a year after the fact.

  • @taamoore Agreed, I did not know that was the case.

    Personally, I’m never in that area, so I’ve never seen the memorial. But, I think Alice’s memory would be better served by everyone, from the Fenty to motorists working to make DC more bike friendly.

  • I’m still surprised that after a year, no thugs tried to steal the tires.

  • should the memorial stay or should the memorial go?

    how long should it be there?

    all worth discussing

    just removing it?

    I wonder what the intended time of placement is thought to be respectable by those that created this GHOST BIKE MEMORIAL ritual?

    maybe a year
    with a memorial and removal on the anniversary of the tragic event?

    I do not know
    but to remove it without discussing this with the public is wrong


  • so the city should have consulted with Ms. Swanson’s friends and family before removing the bike but the friends and family don’t have to consult the city before putting it there? did the friends of Ms. Swanson get permission from the city to put the bike there? if not, then why should the city have any obligation to do the same before removing it? im not against having a memorial for Swanson, i just don’t see why the bicycle association doesn’t just petition the city for a formal permit of some sort to honor their friend? instead you get a situation like this where a couple DPW workers haul away your memorial and everybody gets steamed.

  • The fact that dead people outnumber the living is not an argument for removing the memorial. No one is suggesting that everyone who dies get a memorial. Regardless, the city really should have at least gone about removing the bike in a more sensitive manner. That’s not asking much.

  • This is DC…if everyone were allowed to go attaching things to public property to “remind” everyone of their cause, then the city would be overrun with junk. I’m not unsympathetic to the idea behind the memorial, but I think the city was more than generous in allowing it to stay there for over a year.

  • Glad they finally moved it. A year is more than enough. I bet a lot of the people complaining about moving the bike also complain about the memorials with teddy bears and liquor bottles.

    I can’t believe people are whining about this.

  • The bike, which was well tended, is not the same as a memorial with the teddy-bears.

    1) The teddy bears start rotting within a week.
    2) The Bike did not rot, and the flowers were replaced regularly.
    3) No one was dumping empty booze bottles on the bike
    4) The Bike was really not interrupting traffic (pedestrian) from it’s location. The teddy bear memorials often do, especially after they start moldering and spreading at the base.

    perhaps the bike should be elevated 12′ and welded to the pole….

  • There are two functions that a ghost bike can perform: firstly, it is a memorial for a specific event (or events), and commemorates a person who was tragically struck by a vehicle. Many people merely ascribe ‘memorial’ status to the ghost bike, and ignore completely the proactive aspect of a white, memorialized bicycle.

    I argue that it is the second function which is the most important. A ghost bike is a visual cue for motorists (particularly of the local community, as they are the most likely to speed and be lenient on certain traffic laws due to familiarity of the roads) that there is a real, tangible reason to slow down and be cautious. You can educate in driving schools, send out pamphlets, and put up yellow signs- but until you understand the very real, very horrible consequences of little, daily, careless actions, people will still be killed senselessly. This is where the ghost bike is most effective: a driver’s response to a ghost bike memorial is emotional, tangible, and therefore, evocative. I argue that the ghost bike acts as a better cue to abide by speed and road laws than any signage, because it leaves the realm of the mundane (which is easy to ignore at times) and provides an example of tragedy, where normal measures merely provide a warning.

    As a childhood friend of Alice’s, I want to state that I do not see the removal of the memorial as a loss of a place to grieve for Alice. I have my own places to grieve for her: when I pass her family’s home, when I open my old diary and see her handwriting spelling my name in Korean characters, a restaurant visited between our two nearby universities. Rather, I see the removal as the bike as the loss of one very poignant means of prevention of another senseless tragedy, and I am fairly sure that the outrage felt by her family and her friends in DC is probably shared with mine. This is an act of the trivialization of her death by clearly affirming that the businesses nearby and the City do not support active measures to make the road safe for bicyclists. I hope, for all of your sakes, that you never become so closely acquainted with this sort of situation as I have. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, even if you call me naive, self centered, downright stupid, etc. for believing that my friend’s memorial should not be taken down.

  • I sympathize for the cause and the reason people attribute to the bike being there, but a proper memorial goes through the correct channels. It is unfair for any type of memorial to be created on public space permanently without proper planning and care.

    There is a sign on M St. in Georgetown near WI Ave for Officer Joe Pozell who was hit and killed while directing traffic in May 2005. His memorial is a yellow diamond sign that says “Drive with Care” and a sign underneath it that says “In memory of Officer Joe Pozell”. I’ve noticed it a few times while walking in that area (I don’t drive) and I think that something like that would be very suitable for Alice’s memory if a group decided to take the proper initiative and find out what needs to be done to do something like that. Another possibility I saw on DCist was a plaque put in on the sidewalk.

    It is tacky for the city to take down the memorial without trying to contact the family, but that type of thing can’t always be done, and it was attached to public property, which they have a right to remove if there is no permit or consent given to leave it there.

    A lot of people die tragically in these types of circumstances, and many times temporary memorials of candles, flowers, teddy bears, signs are put up by family and friends. I support people doing that. But as a city we need to move on and let the memories last in our hearts and minds.

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