“What’s with all the white bicycles in Dupont Circle?”
On July 8, 2008, a 22-year-old woman named Alice Swanson was struck and killed by a truck while riding her bicycle in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. Shortly after, the Washington Area Bicycle Association installed an all-white bicycle (a “ghost bike”) in the place where Alice was struck as a memorial to her life and a reminder of the dangers posed to cyclists every day by automobile drivers who refuse to share the road. The ghost bike has since become a much loved and elegant display of public mourning.
On August 31, 2009, the Department of Public Works, under the direction of the office of DC Mayor Adrian Fenty removed the ghost bike. This was done without warning or notice given to the friends or family. Allegedly, the removal came after local business owners complained that the ghost bike had become an eyesore, although no business has yet come forward to identify itself as the source of the complaint. Family, friends and the general community have been outraged by what they see as a callous disregard for Alice’s memory.
On September 10, 2009, the ghost bike returned. With friends.
Twenty-two bicycles have been placed around the intersection of Connecticut Avenue, 20th Street, and R Street (the original site of the ghost bike), one for each year of Alice’s life. Hopefully, this will get Mayor Fenty’s attention.
We assume the ghost bike’s removal was some sort of simple error on the part of the Mayor’s office. Possibly, they mistook the bike for an escaped white lion. In that event, we salute the Mayor’s office for its continued vigilance in the fight against rare albino predators. But whatever the reason, we’ve decided to fix the problem and put the bike back in its rightful place.
We hope this brings a little warmth to the family and friends of Alice Swanson. We hope this will help work towards safer streets for cyclists. We hope this forces the city government to see public space as something for public use. But the one thing we’re not hoping for is for the Mayor’s office to put the bike back. We put it back. And if it leaves again, we’ll put it back again. And again. And again.
And this time, the ghost bike stays.
(please note: the above photo is of the original ghost bike and credit for the photo goes to Darrow Montgomery of the Washington City Paper. Photos of the new bike and its friends will be put up soon!)