If you, like me, have been out of the loop all day, yesterday's big story is that local artist Legba Carrefour erected 22 Ghost Bikes at R, Connecticut Avenue and 20th Street as a memorial to Alice Swanson (pictured below and here's a description of the police report for those who missed it) and as a protest to the removal of her previous Ghost Bike.
The bikes will be decorated with flowers throughout the day.
And the City Paper has a profile of Carrefour (which is French for Crossroads coincidentally).
WTOP adds more from the artist
"I don't think that grave robbing is OK," said Carrefour, standing at the intersection.
"I feel what the mayor's office did by taking away a public memorial was an act of grave robbing."
Only one of the bikes is locked - for all those worried about blocking sidewalks or illegally locked bikes - which is clear from some of the photos (Photos are easy to find - most of the links have some. why.i.hate.dc has some photos up as dose WeLoveDC) and so the bikes will likely disappear over time. I've heard that some of the bikes have already been removed. As far as removing them all, the DDPW stated:
After removing the ghost bike, DPW removed the flowers and sign that Alice Swanson's family placed there.
There's also news from another DC agency. GGW talked with DDOT's Jim Sebastian about the "yield to bikes" sign and he said that another sign will be going in farther back before R Street. In fact that is may already be there (I haven't been by to confirm it yet, but I'll go by today to look). Update: rode by today and there is a sign where the turn lane begins - it may been installed with the other sign for all I know. It's a little obscured by a tree. I only saw 17 bikes, so some may already have been removed - or maybe I'm bad at counting.
As near as I can tell, WABA is not responsible for this, but they're taking the opportunity to talk about safety. For example Eric Gilliland talked with the Post.
Since Swanson's death, [WABA] has been working with the city to make the intersection safer for cyclists.
Signs urging motorists to be alert for cyclists were installed recently, and dotted lines marking the bike lanes have been continued through the intersections. Gilliland said the group hoped for a couple of other improvements, and John Lisle of the D.C. Department of Transportation said the city was amenable to additional modifications.
The comments on blogs have been, unfortunately, mostly negative - but then they often are when cycling is the issue. Some believe that impromptu memorials on public land is wrong. Some worried about clogging sidewalks. Some questioned the legality (the ghost bike is technically illegal as it is parked more than 12 hours and to a light post). But not as much "cyclists always break the law" as usual. Perhaps that's progress.
Personally I think it's a very nice bit of street art. I've always been pleased with the aesthetics of the original Ghost bike and the way the basket and wheels allowed people to interact with and change the work by putting flowers or newspapers in the basket, or colored paper or streamers in the spokes. It was by no means an eyesore. If I were and artist I'd be a little bit jealous of the way the community embraced it and made it into such a dynamic and evolving work. It had life and that isn't something easy to give art. This new installation, by going with so many bikes, definitely grabs attention and, from the photos at least, creates an eerie sensation. It's better than the hack Party Animals or Pandas (or Airplanes or Orioles or Fish....) from a few years ago.
Politically I'm hopeful this will start a conversation about road safety, without making cycling scary (we don't want the only stories in the media to be about fatalities). There is still work to be done, and not just at this location. A cyclist was hit (in a hit and run reportedly) as recently as yesterday. I suspect the Mayor regrets the Baltimore-Colts style removal of the original bike and wishes he'd made it into a positive instead of a negative.
Finally, I'd looked for a while for an appropriate story for the 8th anniversary of 9/11 and I suppose one about a memorial to someone who died far too young fits the bill.
Top Photo by Eric Gilliland