I have long been fascinated with the white spray-painted bicycles located along roadways not only in Houston, but across the nation. It brings attention to the lives that have been affected by loss. The bikes are somber and meaningful memorials to the loss of cyclists killed or hit on the street. The first of the now 630 “ghost bikes” around the world was created in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003. Usually, there is a plaque that signifies the loss that occurred.
For example, this specific location is in memory of Cruz Riojas who lost his life on November 22, 2011. That’s two days before Thanksgiving that year. Cruz was a Port Lavaca native who came to call Houston his home. His obituary published by his family in the local paper advises that Riojas had a love of nature and the small wildlife that included. Each bike is decorated with mementos and symbols of the party that they represent.
I used to bike quite frequently, though never as a commuter. However, there is no less than a few major intersections that would be required in my weekend rides. If the weather was nice, I was even known to make that trek directly after work. At the right time of year, there were snakes from the local trails near the bike path that would rush to the deep, black asphalt and collect heat from the day’s sunshine. There also happen to be quite a few trees lining the bike path, so at times there were branches and tree limbs that scattered across the path. Jokingly, I began to play a game I called “snake or stick”, posting infrequently for friends to guess on social media.
Maybe because I was just out and about more, a neighbor asked if I ever wanted to join him on a bike ride. I wasn’t so sure, in that I had my usual path, but after repeated requests and the fact that I wasn’t the most inconspicuous person to spot when I did ride, I finally said yes.
So, we each had our respective bikes ready to roll one Saturday morning, and we took the path that I was used to. Then we persisted on to hit the area that I would usually call it a day. Because, if biking had taught me anything, it is that you have to bike back to where you started. As we stopped on that corner, this neighbor slightly taunted me and I let pride get in the way of my logic. What proceeded to happen next is damn near miraculous that I didn’t end up with a ghost bike of my own. We started to ride in the slow lane moving north on Barker Cypress, one of 4 lanes. I was bustin’ my chops to keep a steady pace, but there is only so much I could do to make that happen.
The neighbor then started to change lanes further left. I signaled for myself and we finally moved to a calmer road, though you would have to be convinced by something other than my heart rate. I eventually made it home that day, with no less than a few choice words under my breath for my neighbor and being frustrated with my own poor decision.
While I never decided to take on that roadway again, it was eye opening to the realties of what cyclists deal with just trying to ride. So, if you see somebody just trying to bike, stay aware of their right to be on the road, slow down a bit and just don’t be a “Race Car Ya-Ya”, as aptly explained by Cake in this posts’ soundtrack.
For more information on the ghostbikes, you can find their web presence here.