THE GHOST BIKE IS BACK. THIS TIME IT STAYS.

Alice Swanson Ghost Bike. Swiped from the Washington City Paper, mea culpa

“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!)

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32 Responses to “THE GHOST BIKE IS BACK. THIS TIME IT STAYS.”

  1. Sue Says:

    Thank you for doing this.

  2. steve Says:

    called the Washington Post and let them know.

  3. bikertoo Says:

    I was very moved by Alice’s death. I have biked in DC for many years, including along the path where she lost her life. The ghost bike was a wonderful memorial to her life and death but it’s time for it to go. These bikes are on public land and permanently using public land in this way requires a lengthy public process – that I support. I understand the pain and agony of loss but I strongly believe that the public space is not the place for unauthorized and unvetted permanent memorials, or any kind of statements for that matter. How are these bikes different than any other forms of speech? What if I put advertisements for my business all over town with the expectation that they remain there permanently? What if I put memorials for MY dead relatives and loved ones on public land? This ghost bike thing is starting to get annoying. Don’t sully it further.

  4. Tommaso Boggia Says:

    This is fantastic, way to go! I can’t wait to see it. Hope they will still there by the time I leave work!

    BTW, if you haven’t heard about The Bike House you should check it out! We are a new bike coop in D.C. We are trying to build a place where all people can learn about, work on, and enjoy bikes. You can find us behind Qualia Coffee at 3917 Georgia Ave., NW every Saturday between 12 and 3 (www.thebikehouse.org, @thebikehouse).

  5. Diana Says:

    I am a friend of Alice’s, and a frequent cycler in DC. The ghost bike has been an important place of rememberance and mourning for all her friends and family. I recently moved away from DC so wasn’t aware it had been removed until I got an email about the 22 bikes that were put up around the area in its place. What a beautiful gesture. I agree that public space should be for public use, and thank you for taking it back.

  6. Alice's Mom Says:

    This brings “warmth” and a smile to Alice’s family.
    Peace and love,

  7. white lion Says:

    people die all the time. where are their memorials. was this a tragic loss of life? yes? she should be remembered. but this is a little ridiculous. are we going to memorialize every person who dies on a bike in this city? if you, her friends and family, want a memorial, put one on your property. this is public property, not your personal space

    • Light Whion Says:

      “are we going to memorialize every person who dies on a bike in this city?” — I sincerely hope so. That would be outstanding.

    • ohsoquiet Says:

      Hmm. Your right. I guess the city should start tearing down all the flowers and other memorials for individuals that were killed in car accidents or were hit by a car.

  8. PJay Says:

    Thank you for this tribute and the promise of persistence. Am alerting friends to your blog.

  9. Genevieve Says:

    As a childhood friend of Alice’s, I want to sincerely thank whomever is responsible for this. You’re all kinds of awesome! She’s definitely sharing a good laugh over this with the rest of us. 😀

  10. Conor Says:

    Nice work.

    DDR: Thanks for illustrating the irrational hatred that motorists have for bikers, which is not infrequently the cause of biker deaths. I’m not too worried though. You’re probably just another internet macho man who talks big when he knows there aren’t any consequences.

  11. Kristin Says:

    Let me know if you need any help keeping these there. Or anything else. I work right by, and commute past the area on bike daily.

  12. glademade Says:

    Hi! I live in Austin, TX, and ghost bikes are all around town for each person who has lost a life on a bicycle. It is important for the public to be aware of bikers and especially in this case the city workers! Good Job! It sounds like DC needs more ghost bikes!

  13. Rachel Says:

    I never knew Alice, but I bought my bike and began commuting to work within a few weeks before her death. I think of her often. And I’m outraged every time.

  14. Kristin Says:

    I just put peach roses on all of the bikes that are left. FOX and ABC were there.

  15. ash. Says:

    awesome work!

  16. ohsoquiet Says:

    This is wonderful and an absolutely beautiful memorial.

  17. Stlpatrick Says:

    Wow, the city left it up for a year. You could have put those bikes at twenty accident sites? Ghost bikes have never been a long term memorial. Can you imagine good or bad what any intersection in any major city would look like if everyone who died had a long term memorial? Please be carefull

  18. Anonymous Says:

    I don’t agree with the fight to keep the ghost bike in place. The city was right to remove it and it should have been removed long ago if they have a policy of sidewalk memorials only lasting for 30 days.

    It is tragic that a young woman lost her life. I am not disputing that and the memorial to her is tasteful and appropriate but it is unapproved by the city for display.

    There is a process for getting a permanent memorial erected in the city and this approval should be sought before any more time and expense is expended in a battle of wills over whether the ghost bike stays or goes.

    Loss of life is tragic and always causes someone to grieve. Public memorials have a place in our culture but there must be an oversight or we will be tripping over memorials each and every day and they will all lose the meaning that they were intended to convey. I hope that this issue is resolved.

  19. Emmalie Says:

    It’ll be her birthday on Tuesday. What a lovely gift.

    Thank you.

  20. P. Stover Says:

    To the Mother of Allison: Please give me a call, I have some info on the case and would like to pass it onto you.
    540-314-2346

  21. Steve H Says:

    An amazing gesture. The city was wrong to take down the original ghost bike without notifying the family and public first. It should have been a positive message and not taken down in a negative fashion. I hope this generates the attention that it deserves and leads to increased awareness for cyclists’ rights.

  22. Matt Says:

    I disagree with Anonymous about the bike’s removal but s/he has a point. I think many of us would support a permanent public memorial and would love for this blog to be a sort of central point towards legally making that happen. I think that we should try to work WITH the city in recognizing the tragedy of Alice’s loss, the beauty of the bike itself, and the love shown by friends, family, and total strangers in the daily gifts left in its basket. Most importantly, the memorial serves as a permanent reminder to motorists and cyclists in one of the city’s most congested areas, that cyclists share the road and safety saves lives.

    If anyone has knowledge as to which office we should be in touch with, I would be happy to reach out and start the process.

  23. Tom Says:

    i rode by that bike every day for years and was sad to see it go the way of an unnoticeable, bureaucratic street sign. thanks.

  24. chiggins Says:

    understand the pain and agony of loss but I strongly believe that the public space is not the place for unauthorized and unvetted permanent memorials, or any kind of statements for that matter.

    What a horribly Beltway perspective. Pick up your gray unitard at central processing, citizen.

  25. dc cyclist Says:

    i’m glad it’s back–good for you all for taking the initiative.

  26. Matthew Says:

    Thank you. I’ve been a bicyclist commuter in DC for twenty years. Bicyclists get little respect from motorists and merchants alike. When the City redesigned Georgetown’s M Street — removing all the street sign poles and parking meter — it left nary a place to lock a bicycle. I guess Georgetown merchants don’t want our money.

    If you need more bikes, please contact me.

  27. DancesWithCars Says:

    Before the last CritMass, I went by and noticed the ghost bike was missing, and asked people about it. Glad to see some action was done in restoring the memorial. Alice rode on the CritMass a few days before the accident, and she is missed, even by people who just met her that one time. We lose so many people on the roads, maybe more than 22 ghost bikes are appropriate, but for her birthday…

  28. wideningthei Says:

    love it. beautiful and moving work. thank you.

  29. Anna Says:

    Thank you for this. Her family & friends appreciate your work beyond words.

  30. Rachel Says:

    I’m a friend of Alice’s from high school… So lovely to hear about this on her birthday. Thank you.

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