On Roads Where They Fell, Bicyclists Are Remembered
New York Times
June 26th, 2005
By Colin Moynihan
The day after Andrew Ross Morgan was killed when his bicycle and
a furniture truck collided at a Manhattan intersection, a bouquet
of lilies stood nearby in a metal coffee can; a scrap of paper on
a lamppost bore his name and the abbreviation R.I.P. Soon, those
memorials were joined by another.
Just after 9 p.m. on Thursday, a group of people assembled at the
same intersection, Elizabeth and East Houston Streets. They unfolded a
cardboard stencil stained with orange and blue paint and placed it in
the street. A man shook a can of silver spray-paint and pointed the
nozzle at the cardboard. When he removed the cardboard moments later,
an outline of a human body remained on the macadam.
“There needs to be more visibility for cyclists,” said Matthew
Roth, 28, of Chelsea, gazing at the image that he had just created.
“This is an act of solidarity and tribute.”
Over the years, roadside memorials in New York City have become
a familiar sight. Their goal is to commemorate lives that came to
a sudden end in a landscape of asphalt, brick and concrete where
yesterday’s events can be quickly forgotten. The most common display
involves a milk crate or a cardboard box, tall candles in glass
sleeves bought at local bodegas and a snapshot of the deceased.
But in the last week, memorials of a more noticeable and lasting
nature have appeared in Manhattan and Brooklyn to designate the spots
where bicyclists have died. They have been created in response to a
recent spate of deaths on major thoroughfares and are intended to
recognize the dangers cyclists face. According to police records,
Mr. Morgan, 25, a food market manager from Brooklyn, was the 10th
bicyclists to die this year in a collision with a car or truck; there
were six by this time last year. In 2003, there were 16 fatalities,
and in 2004, there were 15, the police said.
“There’s a lack of education for drivers about sharing the road,”
said Mr. Roth, adding that many motorists endanger bicyclists by
abruptly swerving their cars or by swinging doors open. And bicyclists
sometimes bring danger upon themselves by riding in a risky fashion.
Mr. Roth, who is a member of a bicycling advocacy group called
Time’s Up!, said his organization had compiled a list of hundreds
bicyclists and pedestrians killed in the last 10 years in collisions
with motor vehicles. In the last week or so, he said, the group placed
seven stenciled images at spots where fatal accidents had occurred.
It is unlawful in New York City to place painted messages on public
streets. But Mr. Roth said that a desire to call attention to the
deaths made him and others decide to create the images.
The stenciled images are not the only new memorials for
bicyclists. Last week, a collective of artists called Visual
Resistance began using bicycles that have been spray-painted white,
called “ghost bikes,” to designate spots where bicyclists have died.
The first was on Fifth Avenue near Warren Street in Park Slope, where
a 28-year-old lawyer, Elizabeth Padilla, died after being struck by a
truck on June 9, said Kevin Caplicki, 26, of Fort Greene. Mr. Caplicki
is a member of the collective and said he happened by Fifth Avenue
moments after Ms. Padilla died. The experience motivated him and
others to introduce to New York this type of memorial, which has
appeared on the streets of St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
At 11:30 p.m. Friday, Derek Bobus, 21, an architect’s assistant
from the Lower East Side, stopped to gaze at a Raleigh 10-speed
painted white and chained to a signpost on East Houston Street near
Avenue A. He read a small white sign fixed to the post above the
bicycle; the sign bore the name Brandie Bailey, a 21-year-old who died
nearby after being struck by a garbage truck on May 8.
Mr. Bobus said the memorial moved him to reflect on Ms. Bailey.
“She woke up that morning, and she had no idea she was going to
die,” he said. “It proves how life is really fragile.”
Kareem Fahim and William K. Rashbaum contributed
reporting for this article.
Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company