Ghost bikes, a tribute to those who have disappeared from the road

For just over a month, motorists using the Capitaine-Jean roundabout in Saint-Jean-de-Braye (Loiret) cannot miss it. Attached to the traffic signal, the attention is immediately drawn to a beautiful white bicycle, the paint of which will eventually peel off over time, and a few flowers, which will also fade. The message attached to it will remain indelible: “Pierre-Thomas. August 17, 2008 – December 8, 2022“. In tribute to the teenager who lost his life on a bicycle here, aged just 13, mowed down by a van at a junction.

A phenomenon that appeared in the United States

This monument was installed six months after his death by local associations affected by the tragedy. ” We respected a period of mourning and then sent a letter to the family, to express our condolences and explain our initiative. “, explains Yann Pierens, director of Right Accessibility Mobility Métropole Orléans, to La Nouvelle République. They validated the speech, the bicycle. To salute the memory of Pierre-Thomas, the neighbors have opted for a strong symbol: a “ ghost bike “, where ” ghost bike as they are called in the United States.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the phenomenon emerged about twenty years ago. After witnessing an accident in Saint-Louis, Missouri in 2003, witness Patrick Van Der Tuin returned to the scene along Holly Hills Boulevard and placed a bicycle he had painted in white, adorned with “inscription”Overturned cyclist here“. Very quickly, he notices that local motorized users take note of the presence of this phantom motorcycle and begin to adapt their pace to this intersection. Helped by friends, he then decided to install others in the four corners of the city, after having identified the deadly clashes between cyclists.

Ten years of white bikes in France

The initiative was quickly imitated in several cities across the United States, from Pittsburgh to Seattle, where 40 bikes were installed in August 2005 alone. Thanks to word of mouth in cycling communities, he arrived a few months later abroad and especially in the French-speaking world: in Montreal, a collective ” ghost bike it was created in 2013. Still active today, it has placed 17 bikes in the city throughout its history.

In France, the first installation of a ghost bike took place in Lyon in 2012. Since then, cycling associations continue to leave them regularly, as soon as a tragedy occurs: in addition to that of Saint-Jean-de-Braye, So in October 2021 a white cycle was installed in the Montpellier region, in November 2021 near Toulouse or in March 2022 in Grenoble, after the death of a 38-year-old cyclist hit by a truck.

Cycling mortality is on the rise

With the ghost bikes, the associations obviously want to pay tribute to the deceased, often relatives or neighbors, but also convey a militant message. Before all their ceremonies in Quebec, ” Ghost Bike remember that it is a symbol erected by ” encourage reflection on the dangers of motor vehicles and poor infrastructure, while commemorating the life of the victim. »

The claim is topical: in France, cycling mortality on the roads continues to increase, as cycle lanes enter the territory. ” Two out of three (cyclists), especially in urban areas, are killed by other road usersexplains Geneviève Laferrère, president of the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB). We are worried. We are in a transition phase with a growing percentage of users, which undoubtedly explains this figure, but a place for cyclists that, structurally, is still not respected on the roads.“Proof of this is: in recent years, never has a month of May been as fatal for bicycle users as in 2022, with 22 deaths compared to only 9 in 2019, before Covid.

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