I came across a ghost bike in Hackney last week. Ghost bikes are small and somber memorials for bicyclists who are killed or hit on the street. A bicycle is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the crash site, accompanied by a small plaque. They serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, and as quiet statements in support of cyclists’ right to safe travel.
The first ghost bikes were created in St. Louis, Missouri in 2003, and they have since appeared in over 80 cities throughout the world. For those who create and install the memorials, the death of a fellow bicyclist hits home. We all travel the same unsafe streets and face the same risks; it could just as easily be any one of us.
The ghost bike for Smudge was locked to the railings on the corner where he died by friends, who tend it with fresh flowers. A laminated order of service is attached to the frame, from which you learn that Smudge’s real name was Antony Smith, that he came from Clitheroe, Lancashire, and had a nice smile. They played Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ at his funeral. On the front of the order of service, it said: ‘You hold your child’s hand for a while, but you hold his heart for ever.’
Smudge – R.I.P.